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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,  November 19, 2007

For More Information Contact:
Jonathan Burman, Tom Dunn or Alan Ray at (518) 474-1201
Internet:  http://www.nysed.gov

CONTRACTS FOR EXCELLENCE APPROVED FOR 55 SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Contracts for Excellence between the State and 55 school districts, including the Big Five, have been approved. The announcement was made today at an event featuring Governor Eliot Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents Robert M. Bennett, Vice Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl H. Tisch, and State Education Commissioner Richard Mills.

All of these districts have schools in need of improvement and received enough State Foundation Aid to be eligible to enter into a Contract by which they pledge to improve the achievement of their students.

These districts distributed their $428 million in Contract funds to 1,547 schools that have an enrollment of almost 1.1 million students.

“The Regents have made closing the achievement gap our highest priority,” Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett said. “More money than ever is now going to help the students in greatest need, and these Contracts tie some of that funding to student achievement and accountability. Now schools must implement what they have promised to do.” 

“These Contracts are commitments to a million students in more than 1500 schools,” State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said. “New York has promised them a better education.”

In the approved Contracts, the 55 districts committed to:

The initial drafts of the Contracts were submitted by the school districts to the State Education Department by July 31. SED reviewed the Contracts by August 15 and requested changes as needed. Many of the Contracts have improved since they were first submitted:

            Examples of programs that school districts chose:

Class Size Reduction

Research has shown that reductions in class size, particularly in the early grades can improve student academic achievement.  More than three-quarters of Contract for Excellence districts are using at least part of their fund allocations to support these efforts. 

Increased Time on Task

Middle and High School Restructuring
 

Teacher and Principal Quality Initiatives

Full-day Pre-K and Kindergarten

In addition, there are several innovative activities for English Language Learners that the Contract is supporting.  For example, Yonkers has created a new bilingual component in an existing International Baccalaureate High School in order to increase the graduation rate as well as instructional opportunities and college preparatory curriculum for bilingual students.  In addition, Dunkirk will hire a bilingual aide in the elementary grades for Spanish speaking pupils. 

Several school districts - Buffalo and South Colonie among them - are using Contract funds to support response-to-intervention (RTI) approach programs to improve academic achievement among students with disabilities.  In such programs, one or more research-validated interventions are introduced to students and those students’ academic progress is monitored frequently to see if the interventions are sufficient or require changes to help the student to catch up with his or her peers.         
                 
Other Initiatives

Technology and data analysis is an important and inherent part of a number of districts’ Contract for Excellence plans.  For example, Hyde Park is creating a research and development committee which will conduct action research projects and share their results with staff in order to drive instructional practices based on their effectiveness in the classroom. 

Fulton will create the position of district data administrator with C4E funds, to provide data analysis, evaluation and professional development so that data-based decision making supports learning and instruction.

Finally some of the more innovative uses of C4E funds relate to making those investments which will treat the social, behavioral and emotional growth of pupils. For example, in Rochester, an on-campus intervention program in a number of schools intends to reduce suspensions by referring students to an academic and counseling program to help address their educational, social and emotional needs. 

New York City

New York City received $258 million in Contract funds.

The New York City Department of Education made several important improvements in the Contract they initially submitted. They:

In addition the NYCDOE made a commitment to amend and extend the class size reduction plan. Commissioner Mills announced he will appoint a panel that will “thoughtfully consider and recommend targets and procedures” to establish a comprehensive class size reduction plan for the City. The panel will examine the research, hear from experts on class size and its effect on achievement, and seek the advice of parents, teachers, and school  leaders.

Commissioner Mills said he will review their work and make a decision, as the law requires, so that New York City's current plan can and will be amended in time for the next school year.

Next Steps

The State Education Department will take a number of major actions during this next year. Throughout the next year, the Department will work with all 56 districts receiving Contracts for Excellence funds. The Department will pay close attention to:

If schools do not meet their performance targets, then school quality review teams, school intervention teams, or Distinguished Educators will be appointed to review their use of the funds.  Those teams will make recommendations about improving the use of the funding.

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