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Teacher training program given green light by Hamburg School Board

After further review of a training program aligned with common core standards for writing and literacy, the Hamburg Central School Board has decided to officially OK the preparatory course for district teachers, 88 of which are participating.

The cost to fund the training as part of the program, which is conducted by Professional Development for Balanced Literacy Presenter Jeanne Tribuzzi, comes to the district in an amount not to exceed $17,250. The measure’s approval had been delayed since first being brought to the board as an action item at the June 11 meeting. A few district officials at that time had questioned the cost and parameters associated with the program, requesting a further description. After being given an in-depth presentation regarding the matter by Tribuzzi at a special meeting held Thursday (June 20), however, board members unanimously approved the course, which is slated to begin this summer in preparation for next school year.

Tribuzzi outlined the training rubric last Thursday, describing the course as satisfying quite rigorous core standards of writing and literacy, with a goal of having a longer-term plan established in district schools by the end of the 2013-14 academic year. Covering teaching units in grades K-8, the guidelines are in accordance with the framework of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP protocol is described as capturing a range of subject-specific content and thinking skills needed by students in order to deal with the complex issues they encounter inside and outside their classrooms.

In addition, the mechanics of spelling and grammar are said to be incorporated into the teaching program, with individual writing workshops designed to be given to students. Another part of the four-year plan includes pupils compiling writing portfolios with cover sheets. Writing and English Language Arts standards are stated as being administered. Common core pieces are noted as strategically implementing opinion/argument, information/explanation, narrative and research segments.

“Teachers can come together to grade students’ work,” said Tribuzzi, who also serves as the director of ELA and English as a Second Language in the West Seneca Central School District. “(The training) lends great support for teachers and the assessment piece.”

Board President Dr. Joan G. Calkins, whose final district meeting occurred Thursday after she was not re-elected to the board during the May budget vote, expressed concerns regarding what she believed to be straight-laced writing rubric. Calkins said she worried that part of the students’ creativity in writing could be taken away during the process of having to conform to mandated program guidelines. Tribuzzi responded that the design of the common core training and aftermath does not discourage ingenuity from pupils; rather, it establishes proper techniques and mechanics in writing form.

“(The common core criteria) does not and should not take away the joy of writing,” stated Tribuzzi.

District Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch described the training program as the first of its kind to be offered to Hamburg school teachers.

Once the training is administered to teachers and the rubric is incorporated, Tribuzzi said, pupils will be expected to produce pre- and post-assessment writing pieces that adhere to established guidelines.
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