Schenectady County

School district seeks better results

Six new reading coaches at the elementary and middle schools are part of $4.8 million in initiatives
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Six new reading coaches at the elementary and middle schools are part of $4.8 million in initiatives the Schenectady City School District is planning to improve student performance and teacher quality.

The money is part of almost $7 million coming to the district in state Contract for Excellence money, which is extra state aid sent to high-needs schools for objectives like decreasing class size and adding instructional time.

Superintendent Eric Ely told the Board of Education last week that the district is using its money this year to focus on instructional time, teacher and principal quality, class size reduction and literacy and curriculum reform.

The literacy coaches — three at the elementary level and three at the middle school, as well as one new special education instructional coach — will focus on incorporating reading across all curriculum areas. Ely said this includes subjects not typically associated with reading such as physical education.

The district is also testing out a half-dozen reading programs this school year, Ely said, and seeing which is the best one to use. “There hasn’t been a uniformity to what we’re doing in reading,” he said.

The schools are also creating eight “book rooms” at various schools. These are rooms that are separate from the school library and contain instructional material to support literacy programs. The district is adding another high school librarian. Right now, it has only two librarians in a school of 2,700 students.

Also, the district plans to hire additional remedial math and reading teachers. The district wants to give more instruction every day to students who have scored a 1 or 2 — the two lowest scores — on the state English Language Arts and math tests.

Ely said it is a two-pronged approach to reading — catch up the students that are behind at the secondary level and prevent them from falling behind at the elementary level.

In addition, classes are going to stress writing.

Board member Lisa Russo said she believes there needs to be consistency from school to school. She said in some schools it seems like there are a lot of writing assignments and homework, and others not as much.

On the other end of the spectrum, the district plans to hire additional foreign language teachers to start instruction in seventh grade for students who have scored a 3 or 4 on the state tests.

Another objective is improving teacher quality. The district plans a summer workshop in late August for teachers to learn about the best ways to teach students with different learning styles.

The district has submitted these proposals to the state Education Department for final approval.

The district has already announced another change this fall — extending the school day by 30 minutes at all grade levels. The new elementary school hours are from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; middle school and high school will be from 8 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.

Ely said students in the district have been improving their academic performance. The number of students achieving a 3 or 4 on the state English tests, which is considered proficient, has risen from 40 percent to 47 percent during the past three years.

However, the district did not meet federal standards for achieving progress with students with disabilities and limited English proficiency.

Categories: Schenectady County

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