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New school year begins with reforms benefiting students

WBFO News file photo

A new school year begins this week across New York with several new initiatives benefiting students.  WBFO and AM 970's Mark Scott talked with an official who represents local school boards about the changes.

Tuesday is the first day of school for many students.  Others will begin the new year Wednesday.  All students in grades three through eight are coming back to new Common Core Learning Standards in math and English.  Tim Kremer is executive director of the State Schools Board Association.  He says 45 percent of the local school boards he polled this summer believe this single change will benefit students the most.

"The curriculum that has been taught in elementary schools has been an inch deep and a mile wide," Kremer said.  "And what we need to do is redesign it in such a way where it is more focused and more in-depth and kids come out of it more proficient."

Also being implemented this year are teacher and principal evaluations.  Kremer says teachers he's talked with understand the need for evaluations.  But he does admit there are concerns about the fairness of the process.  Kremer says teachers and principals will receive one of four grades.

"Each teacher or principal will be given a composite score of highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective," Kremer said.  "If you're in the developing or ineffective category, there will be an improvement plan that will be prescribed.  If you're a tenured teacher showing a pattern of being ineffective, then they could be charged with incompetence.  There could be an expedited termination process.  That's new."

Kremer does say the local school boards he represents are very concerned about the fiscal impact of these changes on their already strapped budgets.