Boosting Reading Performance, Closing Gaps, Other Goals Explored in FSLA Exhibition


Kindergartners who lagged behind their peers in identifying letters made leaps forward when their parents were recruited to help with home exercises. A college readiness program showed a dearth of African-American and Hispanic boys until more objective criteria were used to choose participants.

And while it’s too early to see the effects of efforts to prepare developmentally disabled adults for life after school, the parents who attend sessions with various service agencies say they’re happy with what they’re learning.

These were some of the results on display Thursday by teachers and administrators in area school districts who are students in the Future School Leaders Academy (FSLA) at Putnam | Northern Westchester (PNW) BOCES. The academy is a program of the Center for Educational Leadership at BOCES and is offered in partnership with the Bank Street College.

Mary Catherine Hillman, an Ossining kindergarten teacher who led the initiative to give home exercises to parents, said the results were dramatic. One student who had identified random letters at a rate of four per minute improved to picking out 26 letters in the same timeframe after working with a parent.

“We just made sure that the parents understood how to do it,” Hillman said. “All parents want to help their children be successful.”

Those displaying their projects in the PNW BOCES headquarters in Yorktown Heights represented 12 districts from Carmel to Mount Vernon. They explored topics including closing a foreign language achievement gap, the connection between poor reading skills and behavioral issues in early elementary school students and transitions to post-secondary education.

The educators are about to graduate the two-year, 30-credit FSLA program, which leads to dual New York State certification as a school building and school district leader. Participants complete coursework at PNW BOCES in Yorktown Heights and the Bank Street campus in New York City and complete concurrent internships in their home districts. FSLA is run by Co-Directors Terry Orr, PhD, of Bank Street, and Joan Thompson, program developer for the Center for Educational Leadership at PNW BOCES.

Amanda Allison, a recently named special education administrator at Carmel High School,

worked on preparing students with developmental disabilities for adult life. Over the next decade, she said, more than 500,000 adults with autism are expected to move from schools to the adult world.

“We’re not even prepared to handle the adults that we have now,” she said.

The district is building an apartment at Carmel High School to practice life skills, teachers are receiving professional development, and parents are invited to sessions with service agencies to learn how their children can make the transition to the adult world. While it’s too early to measure the success of the program, she said, “the parents really like the parent training sessions.”

Mary Harrison, the social studies and business coordinator for the Bedford schools, studied why African-American and Hispanic boys were not entering the college preparatory program Advancement Via Individual Determination. Boys overall were entering at much lower rates than girls, until they changed the criteria, using test data and one-on-one interviews rather than relying mainly on teacher recommendations.

It worked; the upcoming 7th-grade class in the program at Fox Lane Middle School – currently the first year students engage in AVID – will be split 50-50, girls and boys, Harrison said.

“AVID is working and we have to grow it, we have to make it districtwide,” she said.

Susan Ostrovsky, Principal of Fox Lane Middle School, said the participants had obviously delved into issues they were passionate about, and could benefit from.

“They’re taking on projects that they can learn from” and bringing that information back to their districts, she said. “They speak with great knowledge and depth of understanding.”

She also expressed pride for her colleague, Harrison.

“She’s ready to take on the world,” she said.