Wednesday, July 31, 2013

UR study reveals concerns about new Common Core curriculum

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 4:11 PM

New York is among 45 states that signed on to teaching a new, more rigorous curriculum called the Common Core. The general idea is two-fold: raise the standard of information that students must know, and create consistency across the public education landscape to help the US remain competitive in a global economy.

Seventh-grade students learning math in Chicago’s schools, for example, should be able to come to the Greece schools with the same level of understanding because they've been taught the same curriculum.

But many educators have concerns about whether the Common Core is being implemented properly, and if it is being implemented too soon.

A recent study by the University of Rochester, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, and Washington State University Tri-Cities indicates that some of those concerns are warranted.

The researchers found that more support and resources are needed in order for educators to put the state standards for the math portion of the core curriculum into practice. After surveying 403 middle school math teachers in 43 states, the researchers found that while the teachers are familiar with the new math curriculum and they perceived it to be more rigorous than the state standards it replaces, the teachers needed more help and preparation to teach it to their students.

Many of the teachers are still using textbooks and other materials created before the new curriculum was developed. Many teachers, according to the research, also would benefit from more professional development so they can be more effective in the classroom.

The research is especially important to educators, since teachers and principals in many states — including New York— will receive professional evaluations linked to test results.

Educators and their unions say that it’s too early to begin evaluating teachers when the Common Core curriculum is still being implemented, and some have sought delays in the evaluations.

“The teachers are feeling this is a big deal and it’s going to be hard to do, and they haven’t been fully prepared,” says Jeffrey Choppin, associate professor at the UR’s Warner School of Education.


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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lej committee votes down animal abuser registry

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 11:14 AM

The Monroe County Legislature will not take up a proposal to establish a countywide animal abuser registry. Instead, a Republican legislator will submit a memorializing referral -- essentially an official letter in support of state or federal legislation -- calling on the state to create a registry.

Democratic Legislator Willie Joe Lightfoot submitted the proposal to create a local registry. Under that legislation, people convicted of any of a list of animal abuse crimes would have to register for 10 years, and most shelters and pet sellers wouldn't be able to transfer or sell an animal to anyone listed. Existing state laws are inadequate when it comes to keeping convicted abusers from acquiring new pets, Lightfoot said. He pitched the proposal as a way for the county to progressively and proactively address the issue.

Democrats asked Republicans not to vote down the proposal if they had concerns, but to work with them to revise the legislation. Lightfoot said that four other New York counties have passed similar laws. But Republicans voted it down anyway during last night's Agenda/Charter Committee meeting -- a typical fate for Democratic proposals in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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Dyce Faucette resigns from Syracuse post

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Kim Dyce Faucette, a former top administrator with the Rochester school district, has resigned as superintendent of the North Syracuse Central School District, according to a report on the Syracuse Post-Standard’s website.

The district’s school board voted 9-0 in favor of accepting Dyce Faucette’s resignation. Her resignation follows a tough budget fight for the 2013-2014 school year that reduced athletic and extracurricular activities.

The budget called for Dyce Faucette to receive a $182,000 annual salary, according to the report, and her three-year contract was scheduled to end next summer.

The report mentions several controversial events that occurred under Dyce Faucette's supervision, but there are few details of her direct involvement. The decision to leave the Syracuse position was mutual, according to statements made by Dyce Faucette.

Dyce Faucette left the RCSD in 2011. She was chief of staff and a long-time employee.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Gillibrand pushes for brownfields bill

Posted By on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 4:20 PM

DePaul's Carriage Factory Apartments development is a brownfield redevelopment project. - PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
  • PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
  • DePaul's Carriage Factory Apartments development is a brownfield redevelopment project.
For more than 25 years, the Cunningham Carriage Factory building at 33 Litchfield Street in the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood sat vacant. That changed when DePaul, a nonprofit housing and social services organization, bought the property and began developing it into housing.

Now, construction crews are stripping the sturdy brick building down to its bones. From there, they'll convert the former factory into 71 lofts that DePaul will rent to income-eligible tenants.

But environmental cleanup work is also part of the current construction activity at the site. According to a state Department of Environmental Conservation database, the site is contaminated with several industrial solvents and is currently participating in the Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
This afternoon, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood in front of the Carriage Factory Apartments project to advocate for the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act. The legislation would give local governments and nonprofits better access to federal brownfields programs and funding. The legislation includes provisions that would allow for larger grants, permit nonprofits to receive brownfield grants they currently cannot, and encourage waterfront brownfield redevelopment.

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[UPDATED] Week Ahead: Animal abuser registry, fixing Monroe Avenue, school board meeting

Posted By on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 9:37 AM

This post has been corrected.

When the Monroe County Legislature’s Agenda/Charter Committee meets today, it’ll take up legislation that would create an animal abuser registry.

The committee meets at 6 p.m. in the County Office Building, 39 West Main Street.

Democratic Legislator Willie Joe Lightfoot submitted the proposal, which would require people convicted of animal abuse to register within 10 days of their conviction or their release from jail or prison. Animal shelters and larger pet sellers in most cases would be prohibited from selling or transferring animals to anyone on the list.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office would develop the registry’s rules, and the county would contract with the Humane Society of Greater Rochester to maintain it.

The Legislature has committee meetings today through Wednesday, but for the most part members will be discussing routine legislation. The Recreation and Education Committee and the Ways and Means Committee will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss Monroe Community College’s $124.3 million 2013-2014 operating budget. Under the proposal, the county would contribute $18.9 million to the college.


Most drivers have gripes with the stretch of Monroe Avenue between I-590 and Clover Street. The layout isn’t working, and the state Department of Transportation plans to make changes.

Those plans will be the subject of a public meeting Tuesday Wednesday at Brighton Town Hall, 2300 Elmwood Avenue. DOT staff will be available beginning at 5 p.m. for questions and comments. At 7 p.m., staff will give a presentation on the plans.

The department identified two frequent accident types along the corridor, and the project will address them. One scenario involves rear-end collisions in westbound traffic approaching the I-590 on-ramp. The other scenario involves right-angle collisions when westbound vehicles try to turn into driveways on Monroe Avenue’s south side. Collisions with vehicles in the far eastbound lane are a particular problem, according to the DOT.

The DOT says it expects construction to start in spring 2014.

The summary below, which is from the DOT’s press release announcing Wednesday’s meeting, lays out the proposed changes:

“The proposed project calls to address safety concerns on Monroe Avenue west of Clover Street with the following measures:
  • Constructing a westbound right-turn-only lane for westbound traffic approaching the I-590 northbound on-ramp;
  • Eliminate the eastbound right lane on Monroe Avenue serving traffic from the I-590 southbound off ramp toward Clover Street. This would leave two through lanes for eastbound traffic.
  • Retain the eastbound, dedicated right turn lane closer to the Clover Street intersection;
  • Reconfigure the intersection of Monroe Avenue and the I-590 northbound off ramps to tie into upgraded Monroe Avenue to serve exiting traffic;
  • Reconfigure the intersection of Monroe Avenue and the I-590 southbound on/off ramps west of the I-590 bridges with a new traffic signal. Introduce a new left turn access from Monroe Avenue westbound to I-590 southbound to ease congestion;
  • Provide sidewalk on south side of the roadway;
  • Provide sidewalk on the north side of the roadway under a future contract;
  • Provide 5-foot wide bike lane or improved shared use lanes where possible;
  • The project will also include resurfacing of the existing pavement, new curbs, upgrading drainage and signals, and installing new landscaping, signs, and pavement markings.”
 By Jeremy Moule


The Rochester school board will hold its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m., on Monday July 29. Last week’s meeting was cancelled.
Board members are expected to discuss whether Superintendent Bolgen Vargas can accept a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Some board members say that grants from foundations often open public school doors to private businesses. Vargas says the money is needed to improve management and to reduce costs. By Tim Louis Macaluso

Friday, July 26, 2013

House caucus introduces Great Lakes legislation

Posted By on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 12:56 PM

A bipartisan group of House representatives has introduced legislation that, in simple terms, would provide significant funding for improving water quality in the Great Lakes.

The legislation, introduced by the House Great Lakes Caucus, is called the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2013; the name may sound familiar since Senator Charles Schumer was in town earlier this month to push for the legislation's passage. The bill would reauthorize and fund a few programs: the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Great Lakes Legacy Act, and the Great Lakes National Program Office. It would also create the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, a group of White House cabinet secretaries and federal agency heads that coordinate Great Lakes restoration efforts.

House Representative Louise Slaughter co-chairs the Great Lakes Caucus and her office sent out a press release yesterday announcing the legislation.

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RCSD Superintendent Vargas won't concede to charters

Posted By on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM

If the Rochester school district doesn’t start improving soon, charter schools will become the dominant force in the district, city schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said in a recent interview.

Bolgen Vargas.

“We can no longer continue to say that we are the district of choice if we’re not being chosen,” he said.

The district lost about 1,000 students in the last school year, Vargas said — most of them to charter schools.

“We have to prove that their kids can do better here,” he said. While charters have some momentum, he said, the district is responding.

“We have better teachers, better buildings, and better resources,” Vargas said. “I have the most highly educated work force in the county. There are 4,000 people here, most with advanced degrees. If we fail to provide parents with a better choice than charter schools, it’s not because of a lack of resources.”

Instead of meeting his goal of having 10 schools open with expanded hours in the coming school year, Vargas said he is aiming for 14. He cites insufficient instruction time as the biggest hindrance to improving student outcomes in city schools.

But he said he's also working on improving management and the overall operation of the school district.

“We continue to do some irrational things,” he said. And he said that the district’s culture has to change, so parents and families are treated as welcomed customers. He recently reserved parking spaces up close to the central office building for families.

“These are simple things, but they’re not simplistic,” Vargas said. “Just look at how Wegmans treats their customers.”

But Vargas is banking on conversion charters as a game-changer for the district. He has proposed creating charter schools within the district. The conversion requires a majority agreement among teachers, but Vargas says he wants parents in the schools selected to have a voice, too.

“The type of school I’m proposing has never been done successfully in New York State,” he said. “It would be a first.” Vargas says he wants the schools to operate fully autonomously from the district’s central office. There would be a two-year grace period, he said, and during that time, if parents feel they've made a mistake, they can transfer their children out of the schools. The schools would have five years, similar to most charters, to prove their viability.

“We have advantages over the charters," Vargas said. "I have building space available and I can give them administrative support if they want it. I believe this could save the district.”

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Rochester is ground zero of abortion debate this week

Posted By on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

The national anti-abortion-rights group Operation Save America, formerly Operation Rescue, is in Rochester this week. The city was chosen for the group's 2013 national profile event. 

The group, which is often characterized as a Christian fundamentalist organization that also opposes gay rights and Islam, has been holding events throughout the city. Today, members are expected to be at Ontario Beach Park, Planned Parenthood, and at Bethel Christian Fellowship at 321 East Avenue at 6:30 tonight. 

So far, attendance at OSA's Rochester events has been low, says a spokesperson for the Rochester Police Department. The RPD is keeping a close eye on the situation, the spokesperson says, and is in daily contact with leaders of the OSA. 

"They assure us they're going to be careful and peaceful," says Sgt. Elena Correia, the RPD's public information officer. "We are keeping an eye on that and making sure everybody's safe." 

Police have a strategic plan ready to go if things get out of hand, Correia says, but there have been no incidents so far. Anyone experiencing problems should call 911, she says. 

An OSA opposition group is also in Rochester this week. Women's Equality, Liberation & Defense is holding events through July 31. (See a full list below) 

WELD formed in May "to support women's right and to protect women in the Rochester area and New York State from defamation and harassment." 

WELD's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RochesterWELD



  WELD Flyer Final Final Edition




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Commissioner King comes down on Buffalo schools

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Nearly a year ago, Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas ended his comments in a public meeting with an ominous statement. “We’re running out of time,” he said, referring to the need to improve student performance.

In an interview earlier today, Vargas said that all the community has to do is look west at the Buffalo school system to better understand his warning.

State Education Commissioner John King recently sent a letter to the superintendent of Buffalo’s schools requiring students from two high schools—East and Lafayette—to take classes outside of the district. In a highly unprecedented move, King put Erie 1 BOCES in charge of the reform of the administration of the schools and denied the district millions of dollars in support.

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COMIDA approves Xerox benefits

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 1:19 PM

This morning, the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency's board approved a package of property and sales tax incentives for Xerox.

Xerox sought the incentive for a potential expansion of its Webster toner production plant. Under the package, Xerox would get approximately $441,500 worth of tax breaks over a 10-year period. The company says it'll create 25 positions if it expands the toner plant.

But Xerox hasn't yet decided whether it will expand the facility. The company needs to increase its global toner production, but it's also considering expansions at facilities in Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands, COMIDA executive director Judy Seil said during this morning's meeting.

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