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Educational Vistas, Inc.

The School Principal: Coming Challenges of a New P-5 Science Curriculum & Testing - January 2023 News & Notes

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

The School Principal: Coming Challenges of New P-12 Science Standards and Grades 5 & 8 Science Tests - December 2022 News & Notes

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

The School Principal:Curriculum Leadership in a Period of Increased Challenges - November 2022 News & Notes

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

The School Principal: Establishing a School Assessment System - October 2022 News & Notes

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.   

The School Principal: Priorities of Assessment for Learning - September 2022 News & Notes

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

You Ask, We Answer - February 2023 News & Notes

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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)

You Ask, We Answer - January 2023 News & Notes

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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)

You Ask, We Answer - December 2022 News & Notes

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!

Download a PDF of the flyer.

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)

You Ask, We Answer - November 2022 News & Notes

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.

Download the flyer here.

You Ask, We Answer - October 2022 News & Notes

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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You Ask, We Answer - September 2022 News & Notes

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

Download the informational sheet here.

Harris Education Solutions

How Self-Directed Learning Can Engage and Empower Your Students - November 2022 News & Notes

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

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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.

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