Districts pool $1.3 million to improve achievement

Nineteen school districts from Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties pooled together $1.3 million in funding from the Race to the Top to improve student achievement.

While districts had the option of forming their own in-house network team equivalent, these districts chose to join together with Questar III to meet requirements associated with Race to the Top. Districts range from large urban districts to small rural districts.

In August 2010, New York State was notified that it had received nearly $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds. A major component of the state’s application was to build teams for every school in the state.

How experts are supporting schools

Questar III’s School Improvement Office, which features experts in data analysis, staff development, curriculum and evaluation, is now:

  • Assisting schools in implementing common core standards and aligning curriculum and instruction to the new standards.
  • Supporting schools in implementing the state's assessment program and adapting to more rigorous performance-based assessments.
  • Supporting school-based inquiry teams to analyze student performance data and make adjustments to instructional practices.
  • Assisting schools in interpreting and using/designing formative assessments closely tied to the curriculum.
  • Working closely with principals and key faculty leaders to provide school-based and network-level intensive, ongoing, real-time coaching and professional development, according to the needs of each school.
  • Helping principals find outside service providers based on the needs of each school's faculty and students.

How collaboration benefits the region

Jack Costello, Questar III’s director of school improvement and professional development, said districts can do more by pooling together their resources. “By joining together, these districts are able to maximize funding they received and tap into expertise that may have been cost prohibitive otherwise.”

Costello said districts, depending on the amount of funding they received, have access to a wide range of services through the BOCES, including a curriculum review that would cost $20,000-$100,000 per district if done by an outside vendor.

Questar III’s School Improvement Office was uniquely positioned to help districts meet requirements associated with Race to the Top. The organization already had a structure in place to provide these kinds of services.

In 2010, School Improvement provided workshops on Common Core Standards for English language arts (ELA) and math and organized curriculum mapping for K-2 math at no charge to the 19 districts that partnered with Questar III. Questar III also worked with each district on preparing the scope of work associated with Race to the Top.

In the fall 2011, Questar III began training district and school teams on curriculum models, data reporting and performance review of teachers and principals. The organization is also preparing a DVD training video to the 19 districts at no charge. It will be available to those outside the network for an additional charge – revenue will be used to cover the cost of production and to further support student achievement in the region.

Wynantskill UFSD Superintendent Christine Hamill, whose district received only $4,424 in funding, said her school system benefits from this collaboration.

“This BOCES has been very proactive in pulling people together. This helps our school district economically and allows us to build bridges with other schools to improve what we all do,” Hamill said.

Hamill said this partnership broadens their work on K-2 curriculum mapping, allowing her staff to not only share what they’ve learned, but also learn from their peers through collaboration.