2013-06-07 / Community

School board focuses on universal design for learning

BY STEPHANIE PETRELLESE

The Garden City Board of Education focused on Universal Design for Learning, which is a set of principles for curriculum development that provides all students with equal learning opportunities, at its June 4th work session.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen explained that the school district has made numerous advances in the way curriculum materials are adapted for students. By using UDL, the district continues to explore ways in which technology can help all students participate and better understand content.

“One of the things that I am excited about as an educator is that UDL is embedded into the new assessments,” said Ruth Fuller, the district’s special education assistive technology specialist. “I think that will help open up more opportunities for students because in order for us to reach more students we have to be more flexible in terms of how we present information and how they can show what they know and how they’re engaged.”

Dr. Teresa Prendergast, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, explained that every child and adult benefits from the new learning opportunities that technology offers. “The beauty of what we’re seeing with the UDL is that it’s not just for special education students, but it’s also for general education students, all students, and you’re looking at the different types of accommodations that are available for students to utilize to help access the curriculum.”

After the UDL presentation, Dr. Prendergast announced that this summer teachers will be finalizing curriculum revisions for mathematics at the kindergarten through fifth grade levels to ensure alignment with the New York State Common Core Learning Standards. They will also be creating math videos for the school district’s Web site. Parents and students will be able to watch videos for their child’s grade level based on specific units of study which feature teachers demonstrating and re-teaching how to solve certain math problems.

At the regular Garden City Board of Education meeting (which is scheduled for June 11 at 8:15 p.m. in the Garden City Middle School cafeteria), the school board is expected to establish its annual list of classes at Garden City High School that have enrollments under 15 for the 2013-14 school year. The school board has the authority to cancel classes that do not have at least 15 students enrolled. They also have the option of offering the course every other year.

Dr. Fino Celano, assistant superintendent for personnel, announced the current list of courses that do not reach the minimum enrollment level: honors-level social science research; honors-level advanced programming; introduction to visual basic, which is a computer programming course; French 2R and 2H; college French; college German; music theory 1 and AP music theory.

Dr. Celano said that with the exception of the World Language courses, it is expected that the other courses will reach enrollment levels higher than 15 before the school year begins. In the past, the school board has continued world language courses that do not meet enrollment levels to allow students to complete a sequence in a particular language.

In 2011, the school board decided to eliminate French from the list of language options made available to students entering the Middle School in September of that year. Students are now offered German, Italian, Latin or Spanish. Those students who had already begun the French sequence will be able to follow it through to completion.

Dr. Celano said the school board may want to consider offering music theory 1 and AP music theory every other year. Music theory 1 currently has an enrollment of nine for September and AP music theory has seven. The AP music course has mostly students who will be seniors, so Celano recommends that the course be offered in September.

In other news, school board trustee Tom Pinou reported that at the June 3rd meeting of the Eastern Property Owners’ Association, members asked when the school district plans to do its next demographic study. Dr. Feirsen said that he will likely recommend a study be done next year because the demographer’s projections for kindergarten differed significantly from actual enrollment numbers.

Dr. Jonathan T. Hughes, the demographer who did the school district’s last study in 2010, told Dr. Feirsen that he and other demographers have been overestimating this year’s kindergarten enrollment. The school district paid Hughes’ firm, Columbia Educational Associates, $7,650 for the 2010 study.

“We don’t know if it’s a long-term trend or not,” Dr. Feirsen said. “So, it’s probably wise for us to do a demographic study sometime next year, earlier rather than later so we can have the information for our enrollment projections for the budget.”

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