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August 12, 2014
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Awards "Teaching Is The Core" Grants

$9.2 Million in Federal Race to the Top Funds Will Help Districts Eliminate Non-Essential Tests 
and Strengthen Local Assessment Practices

State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today announced thirty-one grant awards under New York State’s “Teaching is the Core” initiative.  The grants, funded through New York’s federal Race to the Top grant, will support applicants in their efforts to eliminate locally adopted tests that do not contribute to teaching and learning. In addition, these funds will help districts and district consortia identify and improve high-quality assessments already in use that can be included as a component of multiple measures of student learning and school and educator effectiveness.  Awardees include 25 BOCES, representing 257 districts, four large city school districts (Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Yonkers) and two additional school district consortia (Binghamton CSD and Williamsville CSD). 

“High quality assessments are an integral part of teaching and learning,” King said.  “They provide useful feedback to teachers, parents and students.  At the state level, we haven’t increased the number of tests we administer, and virtually all of the tests we give are required by federal law.  Unfortunately, due to various pressures at the federal, state and local level, testing has increased in many districts in ways that do not always support good instruction and sometimes even crowd out time for student learning.  Testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making in classrooms, schools and districts. These grants will help reduce non-essential local testing in hundreds of school districts across the state.  And, more important, they’ll help teachers teach more and test less, which is exactly what our students need.”

King noted that assessments can take a variety of forms.  College and career-ready assessments require students to do more writing and real world problem solving.  Essays, science experiments and research projects may, in many instances, be very effective tools for measuring particular skills, King said.  Through the “teaching is the Core” grants districts will be working with local bargaining units to replace, where instructionally appropriate, locally selected “multiple choice only” tests with these more performance based assessments.

Last month, the State Education Department sent every school district and BOCES in the State a Testing Transparency Report that identifies locally-selected tests that could be eliminated or replaced with more performance-based assessments, such as essays or projects, consistent with each district’s instructional vision.

The “Teaching is the Core” funding will allow districts/consortia of districts to:

  • Determine which assessments support the instructional goals of the district/consortium;
  • Determine an appropriate action plan that will eliminate unnecessary assessments and increase the use of diverse and quality assessment;
  • Support the use of diversified assessment strategies by encouraging a review of local assessments currently in use for teacher evaluations (APPR); and
  • Establish a professional development program that will aid teachers in identifying high-quality assessments and improving assessment practices.

Final approval of the grants is subject to the review and approval of the Office of the State Comptroller.

Following is a list of the districts and consortia receiving Teaching is the Core awards.

For more information on the Teaching is the Core Program and other State Education Department programs funded through Race to the Top, please visit

District Superintendents and Superintendents commented on receiving Teaching is the Core awards.

"This grant provides an opportunity to review Yonkers' local assessment system and constructively evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each assessment, determine overlaps and identify gaps,” said Dr. Michael Yazurlo, Superintendent, Yonkers Public Schools.  “From this, a district-wide plan can be developed that targets a more efficient, economical and balanced assessment system; one that provides accurate feedback that guides student learning activities and promotes sound policy decision-making. The grant also supports professional development throughout the district to maintain educational excellence."

"We at Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES, and the 18 school districts of our region, are thrilled that the valuable work we proposed to do as part of the Teaching is the Core grant program can go forward,” said Stephen Todd, District Superintendent, Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES.  “This generous grant will enable our region to collectively extend and enhance the good work that is currently underway as part of our Strengthening Teacher Leader Effectiveness (Round 3) grant effort. Teachers and administrators will gain greater knowledge and experience in the area of assessment, and as a result they will be able to collaboratively improve the quality of assessments in our region. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to do this important work on behalf of the students of our region, and we look forward to launching this exciting initiative."

"Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES is honored to receive the Teaching Is the Core Grant,” said Lynda Quick, District Superintendent, Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES.  “This is our opportunity to dig into assessments in our region and help make the APPR process a more authentic process for teachers and students. The outcomes of the TITC Grant will provide needed high quality professional development and coaching in auditing current assessments, building regional understanding and appreciation of the assessment process, and creating more authentic assessments in various content areas. We are excited to begin this important work so that it's effects are felt positively in the classroom and help deepen the professional learning process for educators in our region."

“We look forward to partnering with the Orchard Park and Lancaster school districts in this collaborative venture to advance literacy learning at the elementary school level,” said Dr. Scott Martzloff, Superintendent, Williamsville Central Schools. “This grant provides an excellent opportunity for our three districts to work together in order to positively impact student growth and achievement in the critical area of early reading for thousands of students across our districts.”

“We are very excited to be the recipients of the ‘Teaching is the Core’ grant,” said Scott Bischoping, District Superintendent, Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES.  “The districts and teachers that are part of the Wayne–Finger Lakes grant consortium will be able to improve their understanding and use of student assessment information as a result of this funding. We look forward to the ultimate impact on student learning.”

"Educational assessments are an important piece of the learning process: what's most important is creating and administering high-quality assessments that allow teachers to better target instruction to increase individual student learning and parents to know exactly how their child is performing,” said Sharon Contreras, Superintendent, Syracuse City Schools.  “Through this grant-funded partnership with Education First, we are positioning the Syracuse City School District as leaders in streamlining our use of assessments, including authentic performance tasks, to strengthen this focus on student achievement and growth."




Albany-Schoharie-Schenectady-Saratoga BOCES (Capital Region BOCES)


Binghamton City School District


Buffalo City School District


Cattaraugus-Allegany-Erie-Wyoming BOCES


Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES


Eastern Suffolk BOCES


Erie 1 BOCES


Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES


Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (BOCES)


Greater Southern Tier BOCES


Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES


Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES


Monroe 1 BOCES


Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES


Nassau BOCES


Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES


Orange-Ulster BOCES


Orleans-Niagara BOCES


Oswego County BOCES


Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES




Rochester City School District


Rockland BOCES


St Lawrence-Lewis BOCES


Syracuse City School District


Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES


Ulster BOCES


Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES


Western Suffolk BOCES


Williamsville Central School District


Yonkers City School District