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Educational Vistas, Inc.

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc

MTSS functions as a framework to help educators identify students with various needs and provide academic and behavioral strategies to address the needs. It is an outgrowth of Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). The key to its effectiveness is its systemic and integrated operation of solutions to support its overall purpose. The framework provides immediate and real-time access to student data and information.

EdVistas MTSS Critical Elements

MTSS Elements

• Screening

• Data and Information

• Progress Monitoring

• Prevention and Improvement Strategies

• Decision-Making

• Continuous Feedback & Intervention

EdVistas MTSS Support Solutions

• DataMate Assessment & Reporting System

• Curriculum Developer (CD)

• Academic Intervention Management System

• StaffTrac

• Social Emotional Learning System™

• SafeSchools

MTSS Service Structure

• Tier I: Screening and Service for All Students

• Tier II: Small Group Screening and Service

• Tier III: Individual Student Screening and Service

Components for Implementation

• Establish MTSS Team(s)

• Goal Setting

• Access to Student Data and Information

• Data-Based Decision Making

• Match Instructional Intervention Strategies to Supports

Overall Benefits of EdVistas MTSS

The value of the EdVistas MTSS approach is the fact that all of its education solutions for student improvement are systemic and integrated. It is a one-stop system that holds the process together for a smooth, uninhibited shift from data to supports. In addition, EdVistas has a Climate Survey and Forms solutions to access additional data and information from students, parents, staff, and community.

The EdVistas MTSS framework has the power not only to address academic and behavioral needs of students, but also provide insight and verification of the effectiveness of district and/or school programs. Of particular importance is the effectiveness of instructional practices and the curriculum.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc

To engage in curriculum and implementation in a simple, real-time manner is the surest way to have a curriculum in use and in continual modification. This is a major role for principals working with staff to build a curriculum that delivers equity and excellence. It starts with a commitment to create a local curriculum emanating from current and best of practice.

Getting staff on board requires clarity regarding what needs to be done. Simply stated, the goal is to build a curriculum that is common to ensure equity. This is the most effective way to inform teachers working with special needs students of what is being taught in each subject and grade. Begin with bread-and-butter courses at the elementary and middle school levels: English/Reading and Mathematics. At the secondary level address each subject area.

Active Building of a Curriculum

  1. Each teacher for each subject for each grade lays out a sequenced listing of what is being taught. In generating the listing, associate each chunk of instruction with a topic that represents what is being learned. If not already existing, this chunking is in reality displaying instructional units. Now relate an approximate timeline to each unit. Most effective unit instructions run from two to four weeks to allow for appropriate closure. With your unit and timeline for instruction, write a brief description of what is happening from a student’s perspective.
  2. Working in grade/subject teams, the principal sets up a sharing and review session(s) to achieve a common curricula structure. The key is to get teachers to agree on a basic curriculum of common instruction without inhibiting teacher creativity. There is much to gain when the principal and teachers are aware of what their peers of teaching and when. This is not only true of a specific grade, but also knowing what was taught at a previous grade and what is to be taught in a subsequent grade.
  3. From an agreed-upon common curriculum with a basic description of learning identify the primary content used at each grade/subject.
  4. Learning is doing, and, therefore, content and State learning standards provide the basis for student performance. The nature of the content learned is the foundation for drafting student performances with particular emphasis on what may be construed as super standards. Each unit should bear significant performances that require reasoning and explanation in both short and extended formats.
  5. Create common unit assessments that are administered at common times. This may be in a CBT format with immediate feedback through a system like EdVistas’ DataMate. Data-based decision making will help in informing curricular and instructional modification.

The process of actively building a curriculum actually takes on its own manner of operation once initiated. Once engaged, principal and teachers are working a system they control.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc

If not already in place, the need to put in place a Multi-Tiered Support System (MTSS) is not only wise, but essential if all students are to be served timely and effectively. EdVistas has created MTSS solutions that are proactive with a preventative framework integrating data and instruction to maximize student achievement and support students’ social-emotional and behavioral needs. It provides educators with the power to engage in data-based decision making for program improvement, quality instruction, and appropriate interventions.

EdVistas’ MTSS is based on four major components: screening, progress monitory, multi-level prevention supported with data-based decision making. Therefore, schools acquire power, enabling them to screen students at any point in the school year to evaluate their level of risk and respond to that data to ensure each student receives an appropriate level of support. Most importantly, support provided with targeted interventions may be monitored to determine effectiveness.

MTSS Implementation Component:

MTSS Implementation Component:

Component 1: Screening

● Screen all students to determine extent of academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs. Confirm students’ risk status with at least two sources of data

EdVistas Interventions:

DataMate Assessment & Reporting System Academic Intervention Management System data SafeSchools

Component 2: Responding

● Initiate instruction through modification to address  risk factors to improve academic, social-emotional,  and behavioral needs. Determine appropriate interventions, including resource and assessment  data for decision-making.                                              

Curriculum Developer (CD)
DataMate Assessment & Reporting Sytem
Social Emotional Learning System
SafeSchools

Component 3: Monitoring

● Evaluate both instruction and intervention(s) to improve student status. Determine where progress is evident and where additional support may be needed. While monitoring all students on a quarterly basis takes place, those students being served may need more timely monitoring.                                         

StaffTrac
Curriculum Developer (CD)
Social Emotional Learning System
SafeSchools

Component 4: Improving

● Reflect on progress of all students and adjust for the next screening period. Determine the extent screening and risk verification is accurate and what may be done to improve system effectiveness for the next screening process.                                     

Curriculum Developer (CD)
Academic Intervention Management System
Social Emotional Learning System
SafeSchools

The quality of MTSS is determined by the degree to which the system is able to acquire and provide the necessary data and information for it to work with fidelity. Educational Vistas is the best companies to provide schools with its solutions and technical support that not only meet, but exceed MTSS requirements.  

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc

Reading power relates to reading opportunity. Powerful readers may arrive on their own; but it is rare. Schooled readers may become powerful readers when given the opportunity and tools while connecting with rich topics and related texts. Remember, Common Core recommended that students read all types of literature in all subjects, as well as complex texts. It stressed the need for students to engage in texts that provide facts and background knowledge with rich content and context for critical- thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills.

Content and Context

Selection of literature is absolutely critical at each grade. Ideally, it should be tied to unit topics with the intent of providing an expansive reading of the topic. The content of any literature, no matter the genre, is everything authors include in their texts. On the other hand, context carries the message of a literary text to make sense. The manner in which a text is interpreted depends on contextual factors whether internal such as setting, backstory, and character, or external context such as a time period in which a text is published.

Working a Text

The idea of working a text is tied to teachers’ preparedness to teach a topic in the curriculum for which selected texts are used to introduce a topic and expand on it. In all probability topical texts would be staged in a manner to provide baseline information and application. Here is where the State reading standards provide a fundamental focus to address both content and context. However, the skill necessary for working text is recognizing concepts (i.e., big ideas) and devising guiding questions that move the student into the content while working the context for meaning and understanding. Each question builds on the next with periodic pauses for definitions and explanations. Students may predict, imagine, project, interpret, and substantiate what they are experiencing literarily.

Reading Comprehension Assessment (RCA)

An RCA is a simple device which I designed in the past to be used in conjunction with working a text. It is used typically once a text has been introduced and read by students. The RCA lists statements about the text at each level of comprehension: literal, interpretive, and applied. In drafting the statements, the teacher purposely makes some of the them false. Also, there is a 2:1 ratio governing the number of statements at each level, beginning at the literal level: e.g., L12, I6, and A3. Students respond to all the statements; then, the teacher asks for the responses and evidence in the text to support each response. The process reveals which statements are true and which are false.

Guiding questions and RCA with questioning are powerful methods to have students work a text to a deeper level of understanding without which it would not happen.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

Of all the challenges schools and districts face the adoption or development of a curriculum is one of the greatest. Think simplicity, rich content, and student performance! In the past the quest was easier with the selection of textbooks which led the teacher through a course of study. However, with the advent of state learning standards, textbook companies face awesome challenges to produce texts to meet the breadth of current expectations. Keep in mind that state learning standards are not curriculum; they support it.

In opting into or developing a curriculum, how does this initiative square with the guidelines states below:

1. While curricula belong to the community, it needs to be developed within the school or district and by instructional staff with assistance, as needed.

2. Think SYSTEM in developing a COMMON CURRICULUM.

3. Begin with RICH CONTENT, PERFORMANCE, and STANDARDS.

4. Settle upon a UNCOMPLICTED, COMPUTERIZED FORMAT.

5. Work with INSTRUCTIONAL UNITS as the DELIVERY SYSTEM.

6. Stick to an essential element, LESSONS, to avoid confusion.

7. Assure or build in an emphasis on HIGHER ORDER LEARNING SKILLS for all students.

8. Highlight STUDENT PERFORMANCE/DOING as the check for understanding.

9. Leave room for teacher creativity which may be shared in improving student learning.

10. Monitor implementation and adjust as necessary.

11. Always be prepared to share with individuals and community.

Attempts in having a curriculum that is weighty or complex in attempting to cover every aspect of learning is doomed. A working curriculum only needs to capture essentials that guarantee equity and excellence. A simple definition of curriculum is clearly captured in the following statement:

Curriculum is the integration of teaching, learning, and assessment within an integrated web.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

The National Reading Panel (NRP) in its review of reading research within the realm of what is being labeled science of reading, which includes broad categories: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, found how important it is to support young children’s understanding of morphology. It is easy to overlook how root words and suffixes work and syntax: the way words can be arranged in different ways into different kinds of sentences. While it is important to understand what words mean, it is just as important to understand their nuances, whether a word has a positive or a negative connotation depending on who is using it and in what context.

While students might be able to decode text well by the time they get to third or fourth grade, there is more to follow. Rigorous experimental studies in which students were given systemic phonics instruction and also taught context clues to help them when struggling to sound out words found that the combined method helps make them better readers. While phonics instruction may well appear to be at the center of scientific reading, clearly it is not enough to strengthen students reading as they move encounter continuous challenges at middle level instruction.

The relationship between words, context, and meaning is essential for growth in reading power. However, it is just as important to monitor student comprehension once the student demonstrates an ability to understand and exhibit phonemic and phonological competence. Here is where Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) can assist teachers in assessing a student’s overall ability to comprehend textual information. Keeping in mind that DRP was developed for New York State for this purpose. DRP reports provide timely and critical insights to assist teachers to tailor individual improvement plans, interventions, and strategies to monitor and support a student’s continuous reading success throughout the year.

As one of the best reading assessments, DRP provides the evidence of a student’s readiness to comprehend text as it requires appropriate challenges in using context clues and syntactic understanding so important in gauging a student’s reading level. Without the help of DRP to inform a student’s reading comprehension status, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to keep a continuous reading process aimed at progress on course.

Those interested in learning more about DRP should contact Pete Cooper at 518-925-6021 or pcooper@edvistas.com.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

Learning any area or subject from phonics to science rests squarely on process and performance. A Latin expression “in medias res” captures the essence of the meaning of process and performance. Students need to be plunged into learning situations with process leading to performance. While talking about it does contribute somewhat to learning anything, doing it is the foundation for enhancing understanding and skill.

However, a resultant expectation regarding the learning associated with academic subjects is the acquisition of content knowledge. The classical question a parent may ask her child: What did you learn in school today. is a powerful statement that may have lost its provenance. We learn things all the time without spending much time dwelling on them. With academic subjects, the learning has to result in something that is important now and in the future.

Imagine learning about the universe and not understanding that the Earth rotates on its axis to produce a 24 hour-day while revolving or orbiting the Sun to produce a year. Capturing the meaning of key terms within a topic of study or course needs to be played out in situations that reinforce its essence. It’s similar to expecting students to be able to write without writing opportunities to experience the process of writing from investigating to pre-writing, drafting, revising, and editing.

Content Knowledge as a Capstone of Learning

When the philosopher and stateman, Sir Francis Bacon, wrote: knowledge itself is power, he intended to promote the idea that possessing knowledge was the basis for a person’s reputation and influence. So true then, as it is today. From an academic perspective, there is particular knowledge within any area or subject crucial for an understanding of it. The ability to possess that knowledge and share it is at the heart of learning. For a person, forget the age, to strive to continuously learn is a most admirable quality. For an older person it may be driven by an interest; for a young person, a student, it is a necessity for achievement. We learn how and what we are taught. This may be the time to revisit both ideas.

Finally, an important step in preparing our students to acquire important knowledge requires the clear and precise identification of what that knowledge is. This may be done in a universal manner or more realistically from a topical unit approach. Please note: Common Core provided the basis for performance standards with only a hint of content standards. We must be able to fill that void for our students to value knowledge through process and performance.  

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

Possessing a clearly written, core curriculum for a school or school district is a strong indicator of its commitment to equity and excellence. Such a curriculum need not contain all the bells and whistles that tended to drag curriculum writing in the past onto a road of new return. Curriculum writing today should be tight, to the point without demanding a prescriptive approach to delivery to inhibit creativity. So, what elements need to be represented in this curriculum model?

First of all, an overall statement highlighting the major, learning focus of a particular grade and subject is essential. Next, there needs to be a listing of all key topics in a sequence that makes sense with a reasonable timeline for teaching each topic. Experience makes it clear that topics should run from two to four weeks to bring about effective closure. This results in a simple mapping of the curriculum with topics representing instructional units with timelines that fit into a semester or full year. A course timeline should represent learning for approximately 34-36 weeks to allow for the inclusion of other events.

Content Knowledge

The most essential curricular element is the selection and arrangement of text and other important reading materials for each topic (i.e., unit). A listing of key concepts is helpful. Then, draft the learning objectives associated with each topic in an order in which they will be addressed. Think in terms of the best way to begin the unit to build interest or check for prior learning. Unit objectives become the basis for arranging learning activities. Once prior steps are completed, a description of the topic/unit from the students’ learning perspective is drafted.

Once instructional units are set up and described as they would be delivered over the semester or school year, each unit objective, activity, is developed to show related student performances in a learning sequence. Each student performance in an activity is then related to appropriate State learning standard(s).

Assessment of Knowledge

When the curriculum is in a draft frame, it would be prudent to develop an assessment approach which includes various modes from launching the initial unit to the last. Writing an end-of-course assessment is an excellent way to inform all learning which precedes it.

Finally, note that the major focus of this curriculum model is knowledge. This focus represents the most recent research detailing the loss of reading compression in the nation at this time. We must get our students in important areas of knowledge at all grades driven by the best of reading materials to build in depth of understanding of concepts and how they apply to what is learned. Skills and strategies are essential but not sufficient to develop strong readers. 

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

There are words students need to know related to topics they study and knowledge they will acquire. In addition, it is expected that students learn new words through reading. Direct vocabulary instruction is effective in increasing knowledge of words that are taught. However, direct vocabulary instruction limits coverage to key few words relative to the size of the challenge of acquiring a large vocabulary.

A powerful way to increase vocabulary is through associative learning. When words show up in a particular context, such as the learning of a specific topic, an association is strengthened. All concepts, simple or complex, concrete or abstract, are learned based on similarities, differences and relationships with other concepts. For example, when we read about a topic such as simple machines, we acquire knowledge of the types, amount of work or energy needed to get a task accomplished, experiments related to efficiency, and using them in combination. Inherent are subtopics such as energy and force.

When told the meaning of new words, students’ prior vocabulary strength predicts the likelihood they will retain them. This relates to Matthew effects referring to the ideas that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The effects indicate the probability that these students will correctly infer a new word’s meaning from context, as well as be able to explain how they do so. Therefore, as a student’s linguistic and conceptual knowledge grows in richness and complexity, it increasingly supports the meanings of many new words.

However, inference and comprehension strategies appear to do little to compensate for weak domain knowledge. Research supports the notion that prior domain knowledge is a stronger predictor of students’ ability to comprehend and learn from advanced texts, granted they possess basic reading skills such as decoding and fluency. Capacity to understand and learn from any text depends on the importance of language, knowledge, and reasoning skills.

When assigning materials for students to learn, it needs to be accessible in language and concept for students to read and understand, or students must guidance as they read it. The ability to draw forth concepts from texts derives from careful reading paragraph by paragraph while identifying key ideas and explaining how they work.

Vocabulary strength is directly associated with the careful selection of texts, varied and similar contexts within them, identification of key words related to each, and a process for addressing concepts. This needs to be represented within core curriculum to assess its effectiveness to support vocabulary development. 

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

While the pandemic inhibited student reading performance, reading scores were in decline before that. Researchers strive to understand the problem with much of the cause relating to curricular issues that center on the nature and quality of selected texts. What this calls for is a judicious selection of topics and the reading materials comprising them for each instructional unit. These materials need to be well written and appropriate to strengthen reading comprehension. Typically, this core would fill about two-thirds of students’ instructional time with alternative sets of readings to nurture interest and support choice. Such a well-structured reading and learning program prepares students to read other materials with competence and thoughtful understanding.

So, we’re back to curriculum development and implementation now from a core perspective that is critical; otherwise, there is no central binding factor to make it work systemically for all students and support significant guarantees to raise all students’ reading performance. It is important to note that the acquisition of knowledge is the most powerful determinant of reading comprehension. Therefore, instructional unit development with a focus on presenting and extending a particular body of knowledge takes precedence.

A simple strategy for teachers to follow would begin with the selection of topics which serve as the body of knowledge to be learned and the basis for instructional unit development. If students are reading below level, a unit begins with shorter and simpler texts. Identifying key words and concepts associated with each topic to engage students in using and discussing them is a way to well-anchor them. By acquiring and understanding of core vocabulary, basic concepts (i.e., central and main ideas), and schematic overview of a topic, students are prepared to explore deeper elements of the topic.

Building a core curriculum takes time and thought, as evidenced by the experience and writings of E. D. Hirsch, Jr. But, it is all doable, and it can begin with the selection of topics which is a mapping of the curriculum, thereby informing everyone within an education system what is being taught vertically and nonzonally in terms of alignment and articulation. Such a system ensures continuity and coherence for both teachers and students.

Aside from the safety and welfare of students and staff, the principal’s responsibility for student acquisition of learning, particularly knowledge, is paramount.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

A student’s reading level is a set marker at the moment of testing for understanding what may be possible for the student to read and comprehend at that time. Establishing a student’s reading level is the baseline for continuous monitoring of that student’s growth.

Next Gen ELA Standards were important expectations to sharpen instructional focus across all academic areas, particularly in student acquisition of content knowledge. In doing so, the assumption is that a student has to be able to read at an appropriate level to be in sync with grade level expectations reflected in the standards. The importance of preparing students to acquire and apply the standards is the gold standard of education in this era of higher expectations. However, a deeper need for learning rests squarely on the knowledge of how well the student can read.

For teachers, the importance of integrating both reading skills and acquisition of standards is where they need to be for serious and effective interventions to be applied. An examination of current status of reading performance finds large percentages of students at the emerging and transitioning levels, and these percentages have held from the beginning of implementation of State reading standards and related testing. Therefore, it is time to reexamine the manner of instruction and intervention strategies to strengthen student comprehension.

As long as reading skill development is not examined and measured in terms of a reading level, it behooves teachers to have access to student reading levels as the basis to monitor those levels as a validation of instructional effectiveness and student growth. Currently, the situation is comparable to fighting with one hand tied behind your back. The situation can and must change, especially with the negative impact COVID has had on our students.

You may recall that in the not too distant past, NYS used Degrees of Reading Power, DRP, as its key determiner in assessing reading levels of students in grades 4 and 8. You may also remember that the DRP was developed for NYS. However, with the SED’s move to reading performance, a new and critical dimension of reading was established. Now we are at an important juncture, based on time and performance, when a student’s reading level and performance need to relate. The timely measure of a student’s reading level in association with a teacher’s instruction and interventions may now be validated in medias res.

Schools interested in pursuing this important and innovative approach should contact Pete Cooper at pcooper@edvistas.com or 518-925-6021 to discuss questions and potential costs. 

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

I don’t even have to say writing! My experience is primarily based on scoring student assessments from various grades including Regents exams which require students to write both short and extended responses. Simply said, students print their response in varied forms with some So small you could misplace a line on the page for a response. What’s also interesting is to find that I have grandchildren who cannot read cursive. With many documents, particularly those of a historic nature in cursive, what a loss this creates.

Benefits

We all should be aware that a program to foster cursive writing has significant benefits for all students. Reading students responses on NYS assessments shows that students who respond clearly in cursive writing tend to score higher due to clarity of their expressions which result in complete sentences/thoughts, containing deeper insight and depth of understanding texts.

Neuroscience studies contend there is a growing body of evidence regarding brain benefits of cursive handwriting. The research supports the claim that forming letters with the hand by using a pen or pencil is cognitively different than pushing a physical or virtual key on a keyboard. Learning to form letters by hand creates a connection with the movement of the hand to the visual response of seeing the letter on the page. Multiple processes coexist simultaneously: movement of the hand, thought of the letter, and visual cue of the letter. The result is reading and writing concurrently, a necessary skill.

Understanding Language

In learning cursive students fully understand the English language and connect words to motor memory. It supports spelling skills by enabling students to recognize words when they read. Cursive can make students more intelligent because it helps train the brain to integrate various forms of information at once. There is the benefit of visual and tactile inputs while applying fine motor skills. This may be similar to learning to play an instrument.  

While cursive may be demanding to learn, it teaches organization skills and assists students in composing their own thoughts and ideas. Students struggling with dyslexia can acquire important benefit from learning cursive to help hand-eye coordination, memory, vision-related difficulties, and other brain activities. Cursive needs to a part of a curriculum to support acquisition of language and application.

Limitation of Typing

Everyone needs to learn to type in the world we live in today. However, typing doesn’t have the same effect on the brain as cursive because it doesn’t require the same fine motor skills and simultaneous activity. In addition, typing does not help the brain learn and remember better. Cursive primes the brain for learning.

Finally, current learning challenges tied to new standards and academic expectations rest solidly on the importance of language. Schools would be well advised to consider implementing cursive handwriting, if they have not already done so. There are a number of handwriting programs that may be called upon such as Zaner-Bloser to the old, out of copyright Palmer Method. Cursive is a skill that will sustain students throughout their lives.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

This spring NYS grade 8 science testing concludes with the form used for many years. A new grade 8 science test will be implemented in the spring of 2024 which will contain multiple-choice and short-(written) responses. In addition, intermediate-grade science INTERVENTIONS prepared by SED are designed to be embedded into instruction and can be offered any time during the school year, dependent on when teachers cover the particular Learning Standards assessed. Prior to taking the new science test, eighth grades must show evidence that they completed all of the four investigations. While rubrics are prepared for scoring the investigations, these scores will not be used in calculating student scores for the new science tests.

Review of Challenges Based on 2022 Science Results

In examining the 2022 results of the NYS grade 8 science testing, there were numerous areas of challenge identified on each of the three parts of the test. Student performance on the multiple-choice portion of the test showed immense challenges with living environment and physical setting. There was greater student challenge with the written (short-response) section of the test in which students scored were challenged in the following: living environment (addressing variables, equations, and diagrams) and physical setting (addressing map plotting). In the third part of the test which focused on student performance in three stations, student faired better while having difficulty with determining values, extrapolating, and comparing calculations. This being said; there is a great deal to do in implementing the new P-12 Science Standards and grade 8 science test.  

Science Curriculum

Intermediate grades are now faced with developing a science curriculum in sync with the new science standards and testing which is guided by a new emphasis; PERFORMANCE. Not only will the investigations have to be fitted into a curriculum, but also additional instructional units will need to be created to address the standards in a fulsome manner.

Investigations

The four required Investigations for Intermediate-level Science and the primary performance expectations measured by each are:

  • Structures and Properties of Matter: All Mixed Up (PE: MS-PS1-8)
  • Energy: Cool It! (PE: MS-PS3-4)
  • Weather and Climate: Air Mass Matters (MS-ESS2-5)
  • Structure Function and Information Processing: It’s Alive? (MS-LS1-1)

The investigations will be implemented in good stead; however, an examination of sample written questions on the new test proved to be very challenging. Completion of the investigations will prepare students in responding properly to a portion of the items in the new test, but the remainder of the test will be difficult for a number of students due to strong emphasis on reasoning, reading comprehension/vocabulary, and writing responses.

While there is considerable emphasis in the Investigations resting squarely on reading and scientific vocabulary, there is a greater challenge featured in the sample, grade 5 written test. With the Investigations providing the real nature of using science, the written test will include a higher degree of reading challenge in understanding science texts and responding to related questions. SED has promised to help with resources.

As discussed in a previous piece on preparing to meet NYS science challenges P-5, this will call for a collaborative/integrative action within all subject areas. This could begin with a selection of science-based texts to meet the non-fiction dimension of reading at all grades and math support in addressing measurement, as well as art and music. A large factor undergirding this challenge is TIME; hopefully it will be made available for curriculum modification to support implementation of new science standards.  

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

With the advent of new P-12 science standards and science tests, I began a review of the INTERVENTIONS which must be implemented with evidence that every fifth grader completed them prior to taking the new Grade 5 Science Test in the spring of 2024. Completion of the Investigations prepares students for the written test by providing a hands-on opportunity to demonstrate attainment of science knowledge and skills that also will be assessed on the written test.

We are now in 2023, and the clock is ticking for schools to prepare students for the new test. The Investigations are designed to be embedded into instruction and can be offered any time during the school year, dependent on when teachers cover the particular Learning Standards assessed. So, what’s the big deal?

 Science Curriculum

Both the new P-12 science standards and Investigations need to be woven into what currently exists as a science curriculum at each grand-band level. While the standards inform the development of instructional units, the Investigations provide students with hands-on, science experiences (i.e., emphasis on PERFORMANCE). A Teacher’s Guide for each required Investigation provides an estimate of the time needed to complete related activities. However, the actual times needed to complete the required laboratory activities may vary depending on the length of scheduled laboratory periods or whether lab questions are to be completed in class or outside of class as homework.

An apparent and early challenge is the shape of a new, elementary-level science curriculum. This prompts a critical question: How, where, and when will the Investigations be implemented along with the scope and sequence of other elements of a science program within the P-5 system? It will certainly take more than conference days to meet this challenge, granted that much of work can take place in progress with the retention of selected current materials to avoid throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

Investigations

The four required Investigations for Elementary-level Science and the primary performance expectations measured by each are:

  • Structure and Properties of Matter: What’s in the Bag? (PE: 5-PS1-4)
  • Weather and Climate: Cloud in a Bottle (PE: 3-ESS2-3)
  • Energy: Light It Up (PE: 4-PS3-4)
  • Life Cycles and Traits: Circle of Life (PE: 3-LS1-1)

An examination of the Investigations reveals the levels of reading/reasoning, predicting and verifying, describing and explaining, and working with data tables and maps. The new science standards reside in a sea of verbs. Reading and writing are at the heart of each investigation.

Reading-Writing Connection

While there is considerable emphasis in the Investigations resting squarely on reading and scientific vocabulary, there is a greater challenge featured in the sample, grade 5 written test. With the Investigations providing the real nature of using science, the written test will include a higher degree of reading challenge in understanding science texts and responding to related questions.

In closing, I must recommend that a new, science curriculum be supported across the curriculum. There are considerable supports that may come from ELA, math, and social studies, not to mention art and music. This could begin with a selection of science-based texts to meet the non-fiction dimension of reading at all grades and math support in addressing measurement. Success in development and implementation will rest on the level of collaboration and integration that makes its way into a school’s total curriculum system.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

As the new P-12 science standards and grade 5 and 8 science tests see the light of day in 2024, the job ahead will require the need for time and teacher collaboration. The shift from the prior and next-gen science standards is timely and challenging for both teachers and students with an emphasis on PERFORMANCE. Also, it appears that reading comprehension will be a significant factor due to the complexity of science literature and its application.   

NYSP-12 Science Standards

The new standards are structured around three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and key ideas in four disciplinary areas. Those areas include: life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences; and engineering and technology. The science and engineering encompass critical thinking, communication and other skills. They also reinforce habits scientists and engineers use to develop new knowledge, solve problems, and apply existing knowledge to questions and problems in the real world.

Written as performance expectations, the standards depict what students must do to show proficiency. The performance expectations are organized by grade level from Prek-5th grade and by topic at the middle and high school level. In addition, they build in the requirement that students operate at the intersection of science practices, content, and connections. The most prominent change calls for a shift from memorizing to engagement, knowing how to use existing knowledge and discovering new knowledge, and a shift from direct instruction to learning based on inquiry.

There will be a definite effect on science curriculum because the new science standards are not a curriculum. However, they affect how curriculum materials and lessons are designed with emphasis on performance and understanding of science and engineering practices. The shift requires learning to be more hands-on. Also, the sequence of grade-level standards provides a structure for curriculum development and more opportunity for teachers to work across grades.

New Grades 5 and 8 Science Tests

New science tests administered in 2024 will assess student learning with the new standards which provide for performance-based assessment through embedding required investigations into instruction. Investigations are currently available from NYSED. To assist in assessing performance-based learning, performance level descriptors (PLDs) are available as guidance documents to show the overall continuum of learning of knowledge and skills from the standards. PLDs support differentiating instruction, creating formative assessments and rubrics, targeting performance levels for individual/groups, and tracking growth along the proficiency continuum. However, NYS science tests for grades 5 and 8 will only consist of multiple-choice and constructed-response (i.e., open-ended) questions. Samples of the new testing are available and reflect a strong reading comprehension challenge at both grades.

Next steps in getting started with implementation of the new science standards and assessments require familiarity with the investigations with opportunities for collaboration. Remembering, the new science standards impact P-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Also, there a need for science resources in the way of instructional units, lessons, and literature for curriculum development or modification (don’t throw out the baby with the proverbial bath water). Finally, an infusion of science-based materials across all subjects including math is absolutely essential. Our teachers and students are certainly ready for the challenge as they have demonstrated in the past.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

As I have said on many occasions, aside from the safety and welfare of students and staff, school curriculum is one of the other key elements of a school system’s strength. It establishes common learning expectation and the primary focus of teaching and assessment for students and staff, as well as the basis for informing the public the school serves. In its entirely a school curriculum is teaching, learning, and assessment operating within an integrated web.

An effective curriculum design is systemic, common, and the focal point for examining results whether from within or outside the school, as in the case of State testing. It is a system that supports spiraling and coordination of teaching and learning both horizontally and vertically. There is a built-in opportunity for teachers to support their fellow teachers in subsequent grades. Also, each grade is informed of the expectations of previous grades for all subjects.

What would constitute a basic curricular system? Here are key criteria to use as a backdrop:

  • It is subject/grade/unit-based with a developmental flow and pacing.
  • Instructional units represent learning chunks in 2–4 week timeframes.
  • Each unit is titled with a brief description of what is learned in terms of skills/knowledge.
  • Unit learning standards are tied to selective content, strengthening acquisition.
  • Unit activities are titled, briefly described, standards-based, and performance-driven.
  • Unit assessments are varied with emphasis on a formative approach.

The concern for instructional unit length is based on long-term review which makes clear that drawn-out unit implementation inhibits closure. Shorter unit length ensures a greater understanding effect. With a large area of study, it is therefore wise to chunk it into smaller elements.

When viewing a curriculum in any subject, the listing of units with approximate timeframes represents a curriculum map. The curriculum is computer-based, such as EdVistas’ Curriculum Developer which houses all elements described with easy access to stay the course.

A curriculum must be described and in a place of easy access for reference and continued modification based on results. An unwritten curriculum does not exist. Therefore, a curriculum is a viable entity that never leaves the awareness of all who are responsible for instruction, learning, and assessment.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

A powerful foundational term in education at this moment is COMMON. It was referenced with the advent of COMMON CORE LEARNING STANDARDS, and it must be instituted in any system of measurement to make it meaningful and systemic.

Existence of a school’s comprehensive assessment system establishes the manner and process on which the measurement of teaching and learning is based. Such a system is not merely grounded in the traditional. It needs to embrace both data and observational perspectives. Moving into the future further intensifies the importance of this system to understand the degree of pandemic’s negative impact on teaching and learning, as well as determining what to do.  

The power of the linkages rests squarely when all are in place. Elimination of one inhibits the effectiveness of the others.

Standards

Student learning expectations are contained within the standards. They are common as they apply to all students to form the basis for skill development as well as task assignments. Standards contribute to the movement into performance assessment, a major topic for advancing the nature and purpose of assessment to be reality-centered. However, standards may only be implemented effectively with careful selection of content. Common core made this clear from the moment of its implementation.  

Dynamic Curriculum

It is the function of a common curriculum to bring together both standards and content for the acquisition of content knowledge and display or demonstration of that knowledge. In fact, selection of content is a key factor for engaging particular standards and driven by the notion: Content determines process. It is the demands of content selection for a curriculum that is the greatest challenge for school staff, and it begins with the determination of what students are expected to know. With an agreement of what students are to know which may be informed by content standards, the next step is the organization of learning. Typically, that is done by chunking out meaningful bits of the learning/knowledge arc into instructional units with a timeframe that for each that covers the school year, allowing for other education-related events.

Comprehensive Assessment System

With the organization of learning completed, the measurement of student learning takes form. It begins with the understanding that learning is firmly based on performance. The act of demonstrating understanding of a knowledge base can only be determined by doing something with it to exhibit the degree of understanding. Doing may be designed in numerous ways from traditional measures to projects, much of it with the assistance of technology. But it needs to be COMMON for staff to examine assessment results for a specific grade in which they all benefit from what is learned.

Reporting, Analysis & Action

Reporting is critical phase to support analysis with codified information and data. A reporting system such as EdVistas DataMate provides a reporting dimension from individual student perspectives on learning to group and class. Insight into student acquisition of standards to distractor analysis display deep understanding of the learning status of a school.

A comprehensive assessment system is the path to continued improvement of teaching and learning.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.   

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

   The past two years have had a devastating impact on student learning. However, a renewed emphasis on learning is a top priority, and assessment for learning plays a powerful role in addressing it. Simultaneously, social-emotional effects need to be addressed; but these affects must be one with an academic pursuit.

Initial Steps

   Grasp of the learning status of students entering school in September requires access to data and information from available sources. An immediate source would be NYS testing, particularly in reading and math. Here is available data for grades 3 through 8 which provides valuable insight into student learning to show areas where they are doing well and where they are being challenged.

   The necessity for access to good assessment reporting is essential. Here is where EdVistas may be of assistance with it: DataMate Assessment and Reporting System. This system provides numerous reports that bring data to the level of information for action. They run the gamut from:

  • individual student, grade, section
  • distractor analysis for objective items
  • breakouts for performance items
  • standards clusters
  • performance levels

   While DataMate provides more, there is an additional dimension which must be acknowledged. DataMate is programmed to provide reports which redistribute students’ data from the previous year to provide their new teachers with what has been called a “free pre-assessment.” Just imagine teachers in grades 4 through 8 having assessment data for their entering students from NYS testing completed in the spring of the previous year. This is all possible due to the manner in which DataMate is able to work with any and all student information systems. School districts to which EdVistas provided NYS test scoring have immediate access to this reporting dimension.

Continued Steps

   Early assessments, as well as continued formatives, which may vary in purpose and nature for all grades are helpful. These may take the form of simple to more complex approaches which may be interactive in nature to inform and not simply to test. Learning through performance is a tried-and-true way to grasp insight into a student’s zone of proximal development. Remember: assessment does not have to be something we do to students; rather it may be the basis for helping students.

   This school year will certainly present a level of learning challenge not seen before. We should be confident that we are not only able to meet the challenge, but we are able to exceed it.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.   

Equitable

Are all of your financial accounts working cohesively
to get you to where you’d like to be?

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Dear Kelly,

I’d like to do some ‘financial spring cleaning’ soon. I have a spattering of accounts, each has (or had) it’s own purpose when I set them up, but I am not sure if they are all necessary at this point, or if they are all working together to help me reach my goals. What would you recommend? For reference, my accounts are:

  • 2 old 401(k) plans
  • my current 403(b) that I just set up
  • 1 term life insurance policy
  • 1 529 plan for my now 15-year-old
  • 1 Roth IRA
  • 1 brokerage account with several shares of various stocks

Sincerely,
Collecting

Dear Collecting,

It is funny how we often hear that we should ‘be diversified’ and ‘not put all of our eggs into one basket’. We then accumulate so many different accounts and sometimes lose sight of managing those accounts. This is normal. Life gets busy, and our financial priorities may change. Because of this, it can be challenging to keep everything aligned.

With a scenario like this, you have a good number of accounts and not everything can be combined. These accounts have different tax provisions that you shouldn’t comingle. Of the accounts that you could hypothetically consolidate, how do you determine what accounts to keep what accounts to move? The answer is: It depends. It depends on your current financial situation, your specific goals, and how each of these accounts play into those objectives.

So, what should you do? You have done a good amount of work and saving to amass these accounts, now, you need a plan for making them work effectively together. I can make an argument to do any combination of things depending on your goals. That being said, I’d need to know more about you before diving in. You need a financial advisor to help to sort through your objectives, your options, and create your roadmap of our recommendations

Be aware: one thing that doesn’t help with is asking your ‘investment savvy’ friend who touts to have all the answers what to do. They may have answers, but are their answers specific to you and your situation? Rarely the answer is ‘yes’. So, be cautious with that advice coming from a non-financial professional.

Here are just a few of the I’d need to know about you prior to making a recommendation for your accounts.

  • age, income, debt, assets
  • monthly expenses
  • current accounts and account details
  • current emergency fund savings
  • ideal retirement age
  • ideal retirement activities
  • upcoming potential large expenses
  • financial plans for beneficiaries/spouse
  • family history of longevity

Sincerely,

Kelly

IRS Retirement Plan Maximum Contribution Changes for 2024

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Dear Kelly,

In 2024, have there been any changes in tax rules pertaining to how much I can save into my 403(b) and Roth IRA? I’m nearing retirement and want to make sure I’m putting as much into these accounts as possible.

-Maxing Out

Dear Maxing Out,

It has long been said that the only thing guaranteed in life is change. The IRS embraces this moto, changing the contribution limits to retirement accounts on an annual basis. Let me give an overview as to what 2024 has to offer.

Roth IRA Contributions: 2024 offers a $7,000 per year maximum contribution limit, with an additional $1,000 catch-up provision for anyone contributing over the age of 50.

403(b) Contributions: $23,000 is the maximum contribution with an additional $7,500 for someone over the age of 50. There is another catch up provision specific to 403b accounts, where someone can add an additional $3,000 contribution for 2024 under specific provisions including length of tenure with an employer and past contributions to their account.

457 plan (Deferred Compensation Plan Contributions: If you have access to a 457 or deferred compensation plan through your employer, you can also contribute additional dollars to that plan. Contribution limits are the same as a 403b, $23,000 is the maximum contribution with an additional $7,500 for someone over the age of 50.

Traditional IRA Contributions: Contributions to a Traditional IRA can vary greatly depending on the situation. Those contributions are not always deductible on taxes, depending on a variety of factors.

For additional information, please contact a CPA or tax professional for guidance related to your specific situation. As always, no two people have the same circumstances, and avoid the advice from those who may not be professionals as it relates to your tax, savings and retirement goals. For a more in-depth explanation about 2024 contribution limits from the IRS, click here.

Kelly DeMay is a Financial Advisor with Equitable Advisors. Equitable Advisors collaborates with SAANYS to provide financial articles, seminars, guidance and planning for SAANYS members.

As a member of SAANYS, you are able to receive a complimentary financial analysis with a Financial Professional from Equitable Advisors. To get started email: SAANYSMembers@equitableadvisors.com.

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest AGE-6217338.1 (1/24)(Exp. 1/26)

How can I take advantage of my SAANYS membership when it comes to utilizing Equitable Advisors?

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Dear Kelly,

This year one of my resolutions is to use resources available to me. I know that Equitable Advisors and SAANYS work together to provide resources to SAANYS members. Can you tell me how I can maximize what is available to me because of this relationship? What types of things can SAANYS members get through Equitable Advisors?” -Resourceful

Dear Resourceful,

As a SAANYS member, there are an array of benefits available. As it specifically relates to Equitable Advisors, SAANYS members are eligible to get a complimentary financial planning analysis. There is no cost or fee for that service. Let me provide a breakdown of what that would entail:

1. Discovery Meeting: Who is Equitable? What does it mean and how does it work when you meet with a financial advisor? The discovery meeting is step one and outlines the process, allowing the individual and advisor to learn more about each other.

2. Profile: This is where we gather data. That data is broken up into hard data, and soft data. Hard data is name, date of birth, pension information, etc. Soft data is emotional finance- how do you feel about money and what are your goals? What is important to you?

3. Strategy: In the strategy step, we use the data accrued through the profile in step 2 and apply it to financial software. We go over your projections and discuss how changes and adjustments may impact the outcome with an objective of helping you make educated decisions for the future.

4. Review: The one thing that I can guarantee, is that life will change. It will change for the better, someone gets a better job or pays off debt. It may change for the worse, someone gets sick or has unforeseen expenses arise. Review meetings allow for adjustments and changes to your plan. It allows for your financial planning analysis to be dynamic and ever changing as life changes. If, at any point you would like to schedule your financial planning analysis, please email us at: SAANYSmembers@equitable.com.

From there, you will be connected to a local advisor who specializes in your specific needs. Meetings are held in-person or virtually. The good news is that the guidance and assistance is there, you just need to take the first step.

Sincerely,

Kelly

If you would like to submit a question for Dear Kelly, please email us at SAANYSmembers@equitable.com.

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-6146193.1 (12/23)(Exp. 12/25)

How Can I Gift Stock To Grandkids?

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Dear Kelly,

My son and his family will be visiting for the holidays, and I would like to start a tradition of gifting my grandchildren a few shares of Disney stock every holiday until they reach 18 and can take control of the account. What is the best way to do this? -Giving Grammy

Dear Giving Grammy,

I love this idea. You may experience that sometimes kids get to a point where having more ‘stuff’ doesn’t always equate to the best option. Purchasing stock in a non-qualified (after-tax) brokerage account is a great step. Some insight:

  • Keep it simple. When deciding what stock to buy, use brands and companies that you know and are familiar with/use their products. Disney (DIS) is a great choice, and has a long history of paying a strong dividend1*. There are many other companies out there who also have a great history. If you decide to purchase different stocks for your grandkids down the road, I suggest choosing no more than 3 stocks, as more than that can be cumbersome to track.
  • When the grandchild gets old enough to understand the gift, you could make some kind of letter explaining the gift and list the current number of shares the account has for the child. It could be a fun way to learn about investing!
  • A brokerage account is a type of account that you can open and gear towards almost any goal you may have. It is extremely flexible and can be set up in a self-directed format where the individual has the control and is making the decisions or through a financial advisor. There may be an additional fee for setting it up through a financial advisor, so make sure that you ask and understand the pros and cons of the choice and platform used.
  • Just a thought: Think of the future. What if you have more grandchildren, can you be fair and equitable with gifting stocks as that comes forward? Sometimes, well-meaning grandparents eagerly set up accounts for the first grandchild(ren) but quickly realize that depending on their family size, they may not be able to continue that promise with everyone. Just be thoughtful about the goal now, and how that may change for the future.

As far as the transfer of the stock at a later point, here are a few ways to transition the ownership.

Each of these options comes with specific rules, regulations, tax laws, etc., I will always recommend consulting your tax professional prior to making a choice.

1) Open a brokerage account in your own name, and when the child comes of age, transfer the shares of stock in-kind to them.

2) Open a custodial brokerage account (such as an UGMA or UTMA account*), which would automatically make the minor the full account owner once they reach the age of majority (18 in New York).

3) For some companies (Disney is one of them), you can purchase stock directly through the company and manually transfer the stock over to the grandchild once they reach 18.

“Can I just purchase a paper stock certificate?”

The short answer: Most likely not. The practice of purchasing stock and receiving a paper certificate is in the past, and few companies offer this option.

*More information about Disney stock history here: https://g.co/finance/DIS:NYSE

1: Past performance is not indicative of future results. We are providing this link as a convenience to you. Neither Equitable Advisors, LLC nor any of its affiliates own, control, or represent the content, accuracy or opinions presented on the linked website

*More information about UGMA/UTMA accounts here: https://tinyurl.com/UGMAsandUTMAs

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE- 6090331.1 (11/23) (Exp. 11/25)

Is there any such thing as a holiday gift spending financial plan?

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Dear Kelly,

Last year I waited until the last minute to buy holiday gifts for my friends and family and found it stressful for my life and my wallet. I want to make a change, so this isn’t the norm. Do you have any advice for holiday gift-giving planning when it comes to finances?

Dear Gift Giver,

That is a great question. For many of us, all of our holiday expenses could be bundled together to form a significant bill. I would recommend treating this this bill as a planned expense every year.

Think about holidays in the past and figure out how much was spent.

Would you feel comfortable spending the same amount this year? Do you need to spend less, or are you able and wanting to spend more? Whatever the answer is, the next step is to plan ahead.

Decide ahead of time who you would like to receive gifts, and how much money for each of these people you’d like to spend. If you are in the group of people that want to save more for holiday gifts, review your monthly budget and set aside a small portion of your income to go towards holiday giving. You may find the need to cut back on expenses a little bit each month. Consider deleting an unnecessary subscription, selling something you don’t need anymore, or brown-bagging it for lunch. These things add up!

If you’re trying to spend less, allow yourself time throughout the year to brainstorm gift ideas that have value, but don’t break the bank

Gifts for colleagues and neighbors can add up. If you’re intent on giving gifts to people that are in your life (but not as high on the priority list as family), start looking at the beginning of the year. You’ll have more time to look for fun or generic nice gifts that are within your price range (or even on sale/clearance). This will also relieve you of any stress of picking up gifts last minute.

Lastly, plan it out! There are many free resources that help people plan for gift giving. If you have Microsoft Excel on your computer, you can find a few of them by opening a new document and enter “Holiday Gift” in the template search bar.

Although the above steps require a bit more work, you will thank yourself at the end of the year when you don’t feel obligated to be amongst the crowds of shoppers, or trying to decide if the ‘holiday gift deals’ advertised online are really deals at all. Another big plus-side to holiday gift planning, is that you help yourself start the new year with a fresh start, instead of a large credit card bill.

Sincerely,

Kelly

Kelly DeMay is a Financial Advisor with Equitable Advisors. Equitable Advisors collaborates with SAANYS to provide financial articles, seminars, guidance and planning for SAANYS members.

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-6019491.1 (10/23)(Exp. 10/25

What factors play into knowing if you will have enough funds saved up by the time you retire?

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Dear Kelly,

Without getting too much into the weeds, how do I know if I’m saving enough to retire when I’m ready?

-Thinking

Dear Thinking,

Knowing that you’re on the right track to fund your retirement can be a very empowering feeling. It is healthy to have a roadmap to guide you when determining what your number will be when the time comes. If it were an easy math equation that anyone could track, there would be a lot less people working into their retirement years than there are now. The answer is that each person’s retirement requirements will be unique and dependent on many factors such as:

· What would you like to do in retirement?

The cost of a retirement full of traveling is very different than the cost of a retirement sipping lemonade on your back porch.

· What might your monthly costs look like?

In retirement, will you have loans or other debts outstanding? will you be paying off a house? A boat?

· If you will be collecting a pension, what is your pension projected to be?

· What kind of retirement vehicles are you currently using, and how are you allocated within them?

· Do you have future plans to gift money to grandchildren, pay for a child’s college, fund a wedding?

There are many more factors that play into if you’re on track to fund a retirement, as well. Assessing all of this data can be overwhelming to the individual, but to a licensed financial professional with the right tools, this is our job. We are here to make things easier for you, and to lend guidance to put you in the best place possible for retirement.

If you are looking for the simplest of tools to give yourself a very general idea of where you stand retirement wise, there are DIY retirement calculators out there, like the one here (https://equitable.com/403b/educators).

Ultimately, your life, finances, and retirement are unique to you, and I would stick with my original recommendation to meet with a financial professional to help ask the right questions and recommend the right path.

Sincerely,

Kelly

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5812668.1 (7/23)(Exp. 7/25)

Who am I allowed to list as a beneficiary for my NYS Pension payout?

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Dear Kelly,

I’m retiring next year and trying to determine if I should select the Single Life monthly payout option for my NYS Pension or the option that allows for a beneficiary to receive a monthly payment after I should pass away. For the 2nd option, who am I allowed to list as my beneficiary? Anyone?  -Thoughtful

Dear Thoughtful,

 To those who aren’t fully aware of the specifics of using a beneficiary option (also called Joint Allowance or Pop-Up Joint Allowance) on your NYS Pension payout, here is how it works:

  • You opt for a beneficiary option when selecting your pension payout option.
  • Upon retirement, you receive your NYS Pension benefit per usual, at a rate that is reduced*** (compared to your Single Life payout option).
  • Upon your passing, your beneficiary now receives the NYS Pension payout for the rest of their lives.

In terms of who can be listed as your beneficiary, the rule is simple. You can list any natural entity. This means any human. You cannot list a trust, or an estate.

The age of your beneficiary matters. Since NY will be paying this person for the remainder of their life after you pass, NYS will severely cut your monthly benefit if the person you choose as beneficiary is young (with a full life ahead of them). If you choose a beneficiary that is in your same age range such as a spouse or sibling, the benefit you and your beneficiary receive will be higher (but still not as high as the Single Life payout option).

What happens if my beneficiary passes away before me? There is a type of benefit option called POP-Up Joint Allowance that allows you to list a beneficiary (therefor taking a cut in your monthly pension benefit) but then ‘pop-up’ to your full, Single Life benefit amount if your beneficiary passes away before you. This perk comes with a cost: you’ll noticed an even more reduced initial monthly benefit starting off.

In summation, it is worth fully understanding each of your NYS Benefit payout options so you can make the right choice. Your decision is one that cannot be reversed once you are retired! You cannot change beneficiaries; you cannot change your payout option. This is a decision that is worth a meeting with your financial professional to weigh out the pros and cons of each option.

***There are several options for NYS Pension beneficiary payouts, each one changes the amount of money you’ll get per month. To see a list of all of the payout options, visit here: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/retirement/members/pension-payment-option-descriptions

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5812668.1 (7/23)(Exp. 7/25)

How Large are the Financial Consequences of Retiring Prior to my NYS Pension Tier’s Full Retirement Age (FRA)?

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Dear Kelly,

I’ve hit a wall and am ready to retire yesterday. I’m 50 years old, in Tier 4 of the NYS Pension, and have worked 28 years. I am seriously considering putting in my notice before the new school year. Financially, how much would this cost me? I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of potential retirement earnings from lost pension benefits in order to be done with it all.   -Ready

Dear Ready,
Burnout is real. The thing about moving up the food chain is that everything is bigger. The office, paycheck, responsibilities and challenges are bigger. The rewards can also be bigger, as well as the struggles. The good news is that you are not alone in your struggling, others have been there before it is a very common feeling. It seems that for you, change is necessary. The opportunity to reinvent yourself has more positive to it then not.

The financial consequences of retiring early are unique to each individual, I would need to know more about your specific situation to give you exact numbers of how much NYS Pension payout you’d be missing out on, but I will outline a very simple hypothetical scenario below.

For your current scenario, I do have some general advice based from my own personal experiences.

Firstly, avoid making lasting decisions while emotional. Life can seem overwhelming, but take a moment to sit down, look at your numbers. Take a breath.

peak with a mentor or coach. Tell them how you are feeling, ask for insight. If you don’t have a mentor or coach, now is the perfect time to seek one out. A fresh perspective can help.

What are small and strategic changes that you can make to help get you our of the funk? That may be something as small as taking a walk at your lunchtime or changing up your routine. It takes 30 days of doing something to create a habit. Start with one, small, actionable change you can commit to for 30 days. Or, perhaps there is a different role you could take at work that alleviates some of the stress you are experiencing.

As always, consult with your financial professional to determine your financial options. You may be able to work outside of the retirement system, but the ‘cost’ of that choice may be that you have to work longer. Or, you may need to scale back on finances and spending to accommodate the change in income and benefits.

There are always options, it will come down to weighing out the pros and the cons to make an educated decision as to what is next.

Hypothetical Illustration: Retiring at age 50 vs. at your Full Retirement Age

This illustration is hypothetical and based off of the below information being accurate:

  • You have enough service credits to retire but are not at the full retirement age yet.
  • Your FAS @ retirement is $100,000 (Final Average Salary)
  • You are in Tier 4 of the NYS Pension
  • You decide to take the Single Option for your Pension Payout

Decision to retire at 50 years old

  • You cannot collect your NYS Pension until age 55, and if you do collect at 55, you will be penalized.
  • With this choice, your approximate yearly pension payout is $38,000.
  • If you wait until age 62 to collect your NYS Pension, there is no penalty.
  • With this choice, your approximate yearly pension $56,000.

KEY POINTS: In this scenario, you are without pension income for a number of years, and you also may be without healthcare benefits, depending on your situation.

Decision to wait until your Full Retirement Age (FRA) of 62 for retirement

  • If you keep working and retire at 62, your approximate NYS Pension yearly payout is $56,000.

KEY POINTS: In this scenario, you have yearly income and benefits until you retire, and collect your pension immediately upon retirement. There are many other options that could affect your unique situation, this is just a very simple example of the effects of retiring early.

*We used the NYS Pension Calculator found here to estimate the values listed in this hypothetical:
https://nysretirementonlinetraining.osc.ny.gov/psc/customer/CUSTOMER/CUST/c/NY_CUSTOM.NY_BPC_BEN_ESTMTR.GBL?&

 

Kelly DeMay is a Financial Advisor with Equitable Advisors. Equitable Advisors collaborates with SAANYS to provide financial articles, seminars, guidance, and planning for SAANYS members. Please feel free to contact me to be set up with a complimentary meeting. Kelly.DeMay@equitable.com

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE 5769216.1

Is there a good way to approach general financial maintenance now that
the summer is upon us?

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Dear Kelly,
Now that school is almost over for the summer (for some of us), do you have any general financial advice for someone that has felt like they just don’t have the bandwidth to handle financial organization during the school year? I’d like to take some time this summer to become organized and feel confident in my finances.      -Summer Planning

Dear Summer Planning,
Kudo’s to you for making it to the summer and asking this question! Summer can be the perfect time to review your finances, and there is no reason to feel guilty about not doing it earlier in the year.

Reviewing and organizing your assets and finances once a year is important as it allows you to assess your goals, track progress, and make necessary changes. It can also help you identify potential issues or opportunities to improve your financial situation. Regular reviews help you stay on track and make informed decisions about your finances.

Here is a great ‘reviewing-your-finances’ checklist. Some of it may not apply to you, or may seem daunting. Please keep in mind that most of these items are things that a financial professional can help you with. You are not alone!

  • Take a break! Decompress. You’ve worked hard throughout the year and it’s time to recharge!
  • Take inventory of your accounts. This step is crucial to get the full picture of your financial situation so that you can make informed decisions. Financial professionals should have software that can make this easy.
  • Review beneficiaries, consider account consolidation, review your social security projections on SSA.gov. These are also items that your financial professional can help you with.
  • Review debt consolidation / payments, wills / guardianships, asset allocation, and the benefit / cost of life insurance. These items aren’t the most exciting things to do, but are a crucial part of feeling confident that you are up-to-date.
  • Budget Awareness: Start by gathering all of your income and expense information. Categorize expenses, compare them to your income. Spending more than you’re earning? If needed, identify areas to cut back on spending.
  • Forecast your financial plan. It’s not easy to do on your own, and is yet another benefit of working with a financial professional. We use complex software to show our clients where gaps may be in their retirement if their accounts are not funded correctly. The good news is that it allows us to suggest small but effective changes that can add up once it’s time to officially retire.

This list is a long one! If you do not have a financial professional you are working with, I am happy to connect you with someone from Equitable Advisors, LLC. We have a close relationship with SAANYS, and provide complimentary meetings with SAANYS members and their families.

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE 5680982.1(5/23) (Exp.5/25)

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To consolidate accumulated retirement accounts, or keep them separate, what is the right choice?

Dear Kelly,

I find myself having a few retirement accounts piling up from former jobs and a few more from my past when I had good intentions to save into other investment plans (but stopped contributions a few years into it when life got busy). Should I let these accounts sit and grow on their own? What is the benefit of consolidating accounts?
-Spring Cleaning

Dear Spring Cleaning,
This situation is not uncommon when I meet with people for the first time. Different employers, different accounts, different advisors come up over time, and the best of intentions of consolidating just doesn’t happen.

There isn’t anything blatantly wrong with this type of situation and leaving retirement accounts as-they-are is not necessarily a bad thing. Where I find it can be confusing is when those plans or companies change names, passwords to online accounts are forgotten, and then a number of years go by and you are trying to track information down that is difficult to locate. Especially during tax season! I have noticed this with clients as they age, it can be increasingly more difficult to manage several like structured accounts at once.

There are several consolidation options for certain types of accounts, and any of those options could be recommended by a financial professional depending on your situation. I would encourage anyone to evaluate all options, which are generally:

  • Keep things as-is, leave accounts where they are.
  • Consolidate accounts into your current employer sponsored plan (403b or 401k).
  • Consolidate eligible accounts into an IRA (non-employer sponsored retirement account)
  • Do a combination of the above

For some situations, consolidating accounts may be beneficial so that beneficiaries and investment allocations are aligned. I’ve had people meet with me that have several accounts, some are extremely aggressive and others conservative. For the ease of managing funds, in these types of situations some financial professionals may recommend consolidating and taking another look at that person’s risk tolerance.

Consolidating accounts is not typically a taxable event, but a 1099 may be generated anyway. Don’t worry, when filed correctly, this form will indicate the funds that were rolled over as being non-taxable.

Other challenges you may face when consolidating accounts:

Every financial company’s process tends to be unique. Oftentimes, if you work with a financial advisor, the advisor can take care of the majority of the paperwork process on your behalf, and explain what is happening.

Understanding the paperwork and moving parts of these types of transactions can sometimes create undue stress if attempting to do this on your own. We’re here for you if you need help!

 

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5530210.1(03/23)(Exp.03/25)

 

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What is a good way to stay informed of our current economic climate, and adjust finances accordingly?

Dear Kelly,
With all of the changing tides in the market, how do I understand what is best for me, and what is going on? It is hard for me to keep track of and I feel like I hear/read contradicting messages in the media. 
                                                                         -Market Watcher

Dear Market Watcher,
That is a very timely question. There is a lot of noise ‘out there’ about what is going on in the market and the economy that certainly could make someone wonder about what, if anything, they should be doing differently. I have three steps that I recommend you look into:

  • Understand the legitimacy of where you are getting your information from. I often have people come to me with economic information that is not accurate or doesn’t take into consideration key facts. Identifying your source and determining their reputability is an important step. Believing every communication, you hear about the economy can end up being a route of misunderstanding, confusion and fear. I personally use economic analysis and forecasting from several sources when considering my take on the market. I will link to some of those sources below.
  • Evaluate your own comfort for risk. If you are not able to sleep at night with fears of losing money (even if you were to make it back later) you should prioritize making sure your investments are reflecting these concerns. Often times this means a person will become more conservative with their investments.

It’s not always so clear cut, however. In being more conservative, you may need to save more money over time, as (historically) conservative investments may not always have the potential for strong rates of return.

  • Consider your time horizon (when you have to start pulling from your accounts). This is not always your age of retirement. It is more often the age at which someone plans on using their retirement funds. Just because someone retires at 55 doesn’t mean they will tap into their accounts at 55. Some wait 5-15 years before feeling like they need to do this.

In summation, there are many things to consider when deciding what your best move is in uncertain financial times. I say this frequently and will continue to say it: When you have any kinds of doubts as to what your best plan of action is, meet with a financial professional who can explain all of the moving parts and recommend account adjustments. Having a professional ‘in your corner’ as you face changing markets can help give you confidence that you are actively handling your situation in a proactive manner.

Here are some articles that I often follow for financial information:

LPL’s Weekly Commentary: https://www.lpl.com/newsroom/read/weekly-market-commentary-wading-through-financial-stability-risks-an-action-plan.html
LPL 2023 Economic & Market Outlook: https://view.ceros.com/lpl/outlook2023/p/1
Oppenheimer Economic & Market Outlook for 2023: https://www.oppenheimer.com/news-media/2023/market-strategy/economic-and-market-outlook-for-2023.aspx#:~:text=We%20reiterate%20our%20price%20target,as%20the%20New%20Year%20progresses.

 

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5530210.1(03/23)(Exp.03/25)

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How should someone who has become in charge of their own finances begin?

Dear Kelly,

In honor of National Women’s Month, what advice would you give to a woman who is suddenly in charge of her own finances for the first time?

I have two friends in this situation, one from a death of a spouse and the other from a recent divorce. In both circumstances, the significant other had control over finances and now my friends are responsible for their own financial future for the first time and feeling a little overwhelmed.

-Taking Charge

Dear Taking Charge,

It is common that in relationships we divide and conquer, and financial planning often is put in the hands of the person that feels most confident in this area. This can turn out positively, or it can be detrimental if the other partner finds themselves suddenly independent. Here are my suggestions for someone finding themselves in the latter situation:

  • Find a trusted professional to be your go-to with questions. A friend or sibling may be able to make a good recommendation for a financial professional, tax preparer, etc. Depending on your situation, the advice they give may be hard to hear. The good news is that since it is their job to be direct and provide guidance when needed, you can feel confident you are in good hands.
  • Review the beneficiaries of your accounts. You will likely need to update this information. If you are considering naming dependent children or grandchildren as beneficiaries, be mindful about this choice (for more information read this article https://trustandwill.com/learn/naming-a-minor-as-a-beneficiary ).
  • Take a close look at your credit report. With your financial professional’s help, you can use do this to help check for discrepancies.
  • Understand your current budget. How much money is coming in, and how much is going out? You may need to adjust your spending habits, identify knowing where you stand by evaluating your cash flow.
  • Be proud that you’ve taken the first, scariest step in advocating for your financial situation. Stick to your plan, and make sure to always communicate life changes to your financial professional so your plan can be updated accordingly

Nervous about meeting with a financial professional for the first time? Click here to see how we at Equitable Advisors work with our clients. https://equitable.com/equitable-advisors

 

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5472401.1(2/23)(Exp.2/25)

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Why do non-taxable rollovers still generate a 1099?

Dear Kelly,

Last year I finally moved my money from my old 401(k) to my current 403 (b). I was told that doing this would not result in a taxable event but I just received a 1099 in the mail from the transaction, can you help me understand why I received this form?

-Concerned

Dear Concerned,

Your question is one I get asked a lot. Tax codes frequently change, as do your taxable circumstances. You may make more money, make less money, have more/less dependents, etc. Having a basic knowledge of taxes is helpful, and the IRS website is a great, user-friendly tool that can help. Here is a link that explains more about the form you received.

As far as your form goes, when anyone transfers a retirement account from one financial institution to another, it generates a 1099r form. By looking closely at the form, you can learn more about why the form was generated. Specifically, draw your attention to section 7.

This section is coded a certain letter or number based off of what occurred. For example, if someone rolled over pre-tax monies (like you) to another pre-tax account, that 1099R is coded letter ‘G’. The IRS defines ‘G’ as “Direct rollover of a distribution to a qualified plan, a section 403(b) plan, a governmental section 457(b) plan, or an IRA.”.

Rolling funds over is typically a non-taxable event, but it is still a reportable event to the IRS (hence the 1099r form). The IRS likes to keep track of what year that rollover occurred.

If you still have questions about this form or other tax forms you receive, connect with your tax professional or financial professional, they should be able to help clarify the situation.

for an easy to read article outlining some of the main types of tax forms, click here.

Kelly DeMay is a Financial Advisor with Equitable Advisors. Equitable Advisors partners with SAANYS to provide financial articles, seminars, guidance and planning for SAANYS members.

As a SAANYS member, you are able to receive complimentary meetings to review your financial situation and plan for the future. To set up a complimentary meeting with a Financial Professional or submit a question for Kelly, please email Kelly.Demay@equitable.com, don’t forget to mention your SAANYS membership.

 

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5409854.1 (1/23)(Exp. 1/25)

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What is one way to curb overspending in a time that prices seem to only go up?

Dear Kelly,
Lately I am finding myself financially strapped. Kids, inflation, holidays, I just don’t have the wiggle room month to month that I had before, and I’ve accrued some debt. Despite my best efforts, my credit card balance has continued to creep up. How do I get myself back on track? Where do I get started?

-Superfluous Spender

Dear Superfluous Spender,

This is a common topic that comes up with many of my clients. I find that there are a few different ways to make effective changes.

  • Know your triggers. Amazon shopping? Target? Starbucks? Going out to dinner? Wegmans? Everyone has something that they seemly overspend on and awareness is key. Me personally, it is Wegmans. I stop in intending to buy one or two items and one hundred dollars later I am walking out the door. Knowing that is my trigger, I handle it by only going once a week. No mid-week trips, as they just add up. It forces myself to use what I have at home and allows me to be inventive with ingredients and meals without breaking the bank.

What is your trigger? Identify your area of spending weakness and determine a management plan.

  • Face the music. Determine how much money is coming in vs. going out. Identify your needs.

This is a healthy activity for everyone to go through. Even as a Financial Advisor myself, I re-evaluate my budget every 6 months. That is the threshold of time for me to review my spending habits. Doing this has opened conversations and financial awareness in my home and may in yours as well. It has enabled my household to openly brainstorm and address how small, effective changes add up over time. Many online budgeting tools exist, here is one of them. (https://goodbudget.com/).

Since 2020 (and predicted to run through 2023) the price of food in grocery stores and at restaurants is steadily increasing *(https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/).

Overpriced food and drinks are common items to indulge on, and their related prices are only going up. Taking small steps and being actively aware to not drain your extra cash on overpriced items is a great way to start your saving journey.

Here is a quick and painless article on ways to save when it comes to food and drink: https://www.credit.com/personal-finance/how-to-save-money-without-feeling-deprived/

 

Kelly DeMay is a Financial Advisor with Equitable Advisors. Equitable Advisors partners with SAANYS to provide financial articles, seminars, guidance and planning for SAANYS members. As a SAANYS member, you can receive complimentary meetings to review your financial situation and plan for the future. To set up a complimentary meeting with a Financial Professional or submit a question for Kelly, please email Kelly.Demay@equitable.com, don’t forget to mention your SAANYS membership.

Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5354868.1 (12/22)(Exp. 12/24)

Dear Kelly,

My first grandchild was born this year and I’d like to give her a holiday gift – the gift of education. Can you tell me a little bit about college savings plans, if I can open an account for her, and some of the things to consider?

-Forward Thinking

Dear Forward Thinking,

I love the idea of giving a holiday or birthday gift of a long-term investment. It is a great idea for children as well as grandchildren. If you are wanting the funds to go specifically to future college costs, 529 plans (also called college savings plans) are a very good vehicle to use. It is important to know that once opened, there are limitations on what the funds can be used for (only for college purposes). On the right I have some of the frequently asked questions I receive about 529 plans. If after reviewing the information with your financial professional you decide to go a different route, opening a basic brokerage account and buying individual stock for a child / grandchild could be an option with less limitations.

What if my grandchild never attends college, or gets a full scholarship?
You can always change the beneficiary on the account. If you take the money out for a purpose other than education, there can be tax implications and penalties. Please speak to your tax advisor for details.

Can other people contribute to the child’s 529 plan that I open up?
Yes, but it may impact some of the tax benefits of a 529 plan.

How will contributing to a 529 plan affect my taxes?
For the better! There is a NYS tax benefit for contributions, see your tax advisor for details.

How do I open a 529 plan?
nysaves.org is a great resource to use. Also, reach out to your financial advisor for support.

Lastly, I’d like to share a story and lesson learned, in case it helps you make a prudent decision about gifting a 529 plan. It won’t apply to everyone.

One of my business partners is one of the last 12 grandkids for his grandparents. His grandparents opened and contributed to many of his brothers and cousins 529 plans with good intentions and felt horrible when they realized they did not have enough funds to contribute to an account for him. They even ended up taking out loans later on so they could treat the other grandkids equally in donations before they realized it was not possible. It ended up giving them feelings of immense guilt as well as financial instability.

There are other ways to give thoughtful financial gifts to grandkids that may be worth exploring if you see fit!

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Securities offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN). Investment advisory products and services offered through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor. Annuity and insurance products offered through Equitable Network, LLC. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances. Equitable Advisors and its affiliates are not affiliated with SAANYS. For more information about Equitable Advisors, LLC you may visit https://equitable.com/crs to review the firm’s Relationship Summary for Retail Investors and General Conflicts of Interest Disclosure. AGE-5189550.1 (11/22)(Exp. 11/24)

Dear Kelly,

I feel overwhelmed trying to understand the various loan forgiveness programs. There are to be so many changes and updates. I need help! How can I clearly understand what is out there, and what programs I could be applying for?

-Perplexed by loan forgiveness programs

Dear Perplexed,

You are not the only one with these thoughts! It seems these loan forgiveness programs are well-meaning and have great intentions, but hard to keep track of. Let me provide some insight below. I have also hyperlinked each piece of information to the website it came from so you can read further.

President Biden Loan Forgiveness
This year President Biden announced a student loan relief program for people making less than $125k/year as a single person or, $250k/year as a married, filing jointly person. The application is now live. The amount of forgiveness is $10,000 or $20,000 if you had Pell Grants. A word of caution, if you are planning on applying for other loan forgiveness programs, meet with a financial professional prior to applying for this program. Reason: If you are on an Income Driven Repayment plan (IDR) your monthly loan payments may increase if your debt-to-income ratio is significantly lowered because of receiving Biden Loan Forgiveness.

PSLF Limited Waiver
October 31, 2022 will close the availability of this program (though there is lobbying now to postpone the cut off). To be eligible for this program, you would have needed to consolidate your non-direct loans (FFELP) by a certain date. Then, the Employment Certification Form (ECF) needs to be submitted. For more information about how the October 31st deadline applies to this program, visit the studentaid.gov site here.

The Original and Temporary Expanded PSLF
This is the standard program which has been around and expanded since the plan’s inception in 2007. Additional flexibility has been added to it over time, making it more accessible to the public (TEPSLF, or Temporary Expanded PSLF). This is the plan that studentaid.gov will revert back to once the PSLF Waiver has expired.

I hope this helps, and if you need further assistance on ‘boiling the ocean’ on loan forgiveness dates, times, and programs, please reach out to us and we can sort out some of your options together. This is one of the services provided as part of the SAANYS / Equitable partnership.

Quick Tip:
Applying for multiple loan forgiveness programs may seem like a good strategy, but you should really consider your unique individualized financial goals prior to applying. I always recommend meeting with a financial professional to review your situation, establish your goals, and to make sure all parts of your financial strategy including loan forgiveness applications align with your short-term and longterm financial goals.

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Dear Kelly,

Next year my daughter is getting married. I am 5 years within retiring and have taken on many extra-curricular activities at school as a way to earn extra income to put towards the wedding. Will my extra income affect my eventual NYS Pension payout?

-Busy

Dear Busy,

Congratulations, that is very exciting. With the modern-day cost of weddings, planning is important. In 2021, the average wedding cost $28,000. Working to generate additional income to offset wedding costs is a great way to avoid going into debt for a wedding. Even the most minimal wedding plans can quickly become costly.

The short answer to the question is that it depends on which tier of the NYS retirement system you are a part of. A large part of your pension payout depends on something called your Final Average Salary (FAS). If you are in tier 4 or 5, you’ll calculate your FAS based on your regular salary, which also covers several types of income (see list to the left). Examples of income typically not counted as part of your FAS include non-regular compensation (like one-time bonuses and payments in lieu of health insurance), termination pay (such as local retirement incentives and payments for unused leave), and certain salary

For tier 6 members, by law the FAS calculation is the highest 5 consecutively paid years, whenever they fall within your career. Salary greater than the NYS governor’s salary is also excluded from the Tier 6 FAS calculation. Other restrictions exist for Tier 6 members with multiple employers. This information and more can be found here, on the NYSTRS website. Extra money today is typically a good thing, both now and in the future. Planning for a large cost is important, and with something like weddings, there is no such thing as planning too early. Those extras may be beneficial to your pension calculation, which will affect you for the rest of your life after retirement. Win-win.

Sincerely, 

Kelly

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Dear Kelly,

I only have 3 more years until my full retirement age, and I am considering changing districts for a few different reasons. By making the switch, I would save 30 minutes of travel each way, and make the same amount of money. Should I consider anything else (financially) before making the change?

-Always Driving

Dear Always Driving,

That is a great question. Being that we are in the Great Resignation, and there being an abundance of opportunities and new roles available in many school districts, it is hard to not consider alternatives elsewhere. Especially with gas prices being what they are and your commute being what it currently is. There are many factors which can play into making this decision, salary changes, a new role in general, etc. When considering this with an awareness to retirement benefits, you must be cautious with the decision you make. Many districts or BOCES state in their contracts that to be eligible for health insurance benefits in retirement, you must have worked for that specific unit or employer for a given amount of time and retire from the employer. So, if someone worked at Employer A for 27 years, and then went to Employer B with only three years remaining to work, they may compromise that healthcare in retirement piece, which is a significant factor. That being said, these types of stipulations vary from employer to employer. My advice to you would be that you review each districts’ contract thoroughly first to make the most educated decision.

Sincerely, 

Kelly

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Harris Education Solutions

Can students really decide how they learn best? That’s a question many schools are wondering as self-directed learning gains popularity across the country. The concept is not new. In fact, its roots trace back to Socrates and Aristotle, but today’s teachers are embracing this instructional strategy as technology offers more opportunities for students to explore topics they find interesting and seek information easily and independently.

Essentially, self-directed learning allows students to take ownership for their learning, deciding what they will learn, and how they will learn it. This empowers students, giving them a primary role in their education. Furthermore, research has emerged to indicate that this method is not only a highly effective way to increase retention, but has many additional positive side effects for students.

How Does This Work in a Classroom?

Allowing your students to choose what they are going to learn based on their own personal interests and strengths sounds nice, but how does this look in a classroom? Well, it’s different for every teacher and every student.

The truth is, there are many different paths to learning and some students will prefer one method over another. Certain students will learn best reading books or websites, while others prefer to watch videos or listen to podcasts. Kinesthetic learners may enjoy physical and virtual field trips. Teachers can help introduce students to these alternative paths to learning and guide students to find what works best for them.

You might give your students a general goal, like learning about marine life. Students would then work with you to determine a topic which interests them and how they will demonstrate their learning. An artistic student may be fascinated by colorful nudibranchs and create an informational pamphlet. Another student may decide to learn about the effects of pollution on beluga whales and write a persuasive letter to the editor of a newspaper. A third student may select to study the marine life in tide pools of their local area, creating a video teaching about the formation of the pools. Each student may have a different learning outcome, but each is deeply invested in the learning process because it is specifically tailored to his/her interests.

What Role do Teachers Play in Self-Directed Learning?

Self-directed learning requires a skill set that must be carefully taught and modeled by their teachers. To build and support self-directed learners, you will need to cover topics like:

  • Functional computer skills
  • Digital literacy
  • Library and research skills
  • Finding credible information
  • Finding resources to assist in the learning process
  • Introducing students to different types of learning outcomes

As students follow their individual pursuits, teachers act like a guide, monitoring progress, helping students find resources, and offering feedback, paving the way for learner independence.

Harnessing Technology to Create Self-Directed Learners 

Technology plays a key role in supporting self-directed learners. You probably use it yourself all the time. Let’s say your dishwasher is leaking. Before you call for repairs, what do you do? You might type “leaky dishwasher“ into a search engine and see what comes up. After watching a DIY video or reading a blog post, you attempt to fix it, based on what you learned. That’s self-directed learning! Some tools self-directed learners use are:

  • Video-conferencing tools
  • Self-publishing
  • Personal Learning Networks
  • ePortfolios
  • Self-Assessment
  • Video-streaming platforms

Today, there is an abundance of online resources available at students’ fingertips, making self-directed learning easy to conduct in the classroom. Using Castle Learning, teachers can reduce the workload of customizing assignments and personalize learning experiences, easily giving students different topics depending on their chosen area of interest. There is really no limit to how technology can develop and support self-directed learners.

Why is Self-Directed Learning So Effective?

The best part about developing self-directed learners is that these skills carry over to different classes and can also be applied in other areas besides school. It helps build skills which develop students into lifelong learners. Here are a few of the biggest ways.

It Cultivates Curiosity

Allowing students the freedom to choose learning objectives based on their own interests helps them enjoy learning. It creates the opportunity for students to follow “rabbit holes” which spawn new topics for discovery.

It Increases Student Motivation

Since students are actively engaged in setting their own learning goals, they are more motivated to participate and dig deeper into hard topics.

It Boosts Understanding and Retention

When students play a role in selecting their focus, they are better able to absorb and retain new information.

Benefits of Self-Directed Learning

As students become the independent architects of their own knowledge, they experience other benefits as well, such as:

Building Digital Literacy Skills

Technology is now firmly entrenched in our schools and classrooms. With more schools integrating a wide variety of online learning components, students need to have competence using digital resources to find and consolidate information. 

Developing a Passion to Learn

Self-directed learning is all about creating a passion for learning. Allowing students to choose their learning path actively engages them in activities that they find relevant, interesting and, most of all, fun. It’s not a stretch to realize that active engagement allows students to retain more information than passively listening to or reading about topics. It also encourages deeper learning as students are more motivated to enrich their own learning.

Learning to Take the Initiative

Self-directed learners are able to understand what they want to know and determine how best to achieve their learning goals. They are able to take initiative to build their own knowledge.

Building Skills for College and Career Readiness

As self-directed learners diagnose their own learning gaps and build knowledge in specific areas, they also build other important skills. Since they are responsible for their own learning, they develop intrinsic motivation and integrity. Self-directed learners become comfortable asking questions, and aren’t afraid to seek help when they need it. These are important life skills that will serve them well across classrooms, as well as college and career goals.

Here are just some of the life skills that self-directed learners develop and exhibit:

  • Perseverance
  • Setting goals
  • Problem solving
  • Time Management

Self-directed learning provides a feeling of empowerment and is an amazing tool to develop essential life skills and lifelong learners. It encourages deeper learning and supports students to set higher learning goals. The more interested and invested your students are in what they are learning, the more willing and able they will be to do the hard work to achieve their learning goals. You may be surprised at the enthusiasm students exhibit when they are truly invested in their work.

At Harris Education Solutions, we provide solutions that help support educators and encourage students to take ownership of their learning. Learn more about how we can help today at www.harriseducationsolutions.com

edInsight is part of the Harris Education Solutions’ family of EdTech products. Our Student Performance Suite includes a data dashboard, RTI/MTSS software, assessment builder, curriculum management, and online lesson planner to help your students achieve academic success. Learn more.

Peaceful Schools

Renaissance

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of K-12 education, including our assessment practices. With more students performing off grade level than ever before, you may be wondering which assessment strategies will yield the greatest growth in the new school year.