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Advanced technology and teacher incentives proposed means for brighter future for state education

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In his annual State of the State Address on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew W. Cuomo proposed new financial incentives for teachers in public schools and a bill to allocate $2 billion for improving technology in the classroom.

Gov. Cuomo also gave support for implementation of a statewide full-day prekindergarten and development of scholarships for New York students in the top 10 percent of the state who wish to study math or science to have full scholarships to State University of New York or City University of New York schools.

“We’re going to invest in our schools like never before,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The best long-term economic development is to have the best education system in the world.”

To improve technology at a statewide level, Gov. Cuomo proposed a $2 million bond referendum for a smart schools initiative be put on the ballot. The initiative would provide advancement in technologies to schools.

“Leveling the availability of competitive technology in the classroom should be a priority,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Jack J. Boak Jr., superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said students at BOCES would benefit from increased fiber-optic connections to advanced classes.

“Most of our course work comes through from live, interactive television from Jefferson Community College,” Mr. Boak said. “I would hope the funds can be used to improve the number of college-level, challenging courses. The technology can do that.”

South Jefferson Central School Superintendent Jamie A. Moesel said she would like to see the details of the proposal. She said that although her district has a well-designed technology program, the demands and availability of newer instructional technology are always changing.

“If you aren’t on the information superhighway, it could leave you behind at 100 miles per hour,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Gov. Cuomo said the incentive of $20,000 for eligible educators would come after successful teacher evaluations.

“The teacher excellence fund is the first statewide teacher performance bonus program that actually rewards teachers who perform well,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said in a news release: “Our best teachers should be recognized and rewarded. They serve as role models and mentors for their colleagues.”

The performance pay for educators had several north country superintendents saying the “devil will be in the details.” If the incentive is based on student performance, Mr. Boak said, he worries the data could be skewed for faculty members based on students’ abilities.

“How do you consistently measure progress when you have diverse populations?” Mr. Boak said. “We’d all love to pay our teachers more money, but creating a system like this could create some division.”

Missing from the address were topics of controversy such as the Common Core, the nationwide evaluation system for students adopted by the state last year, and the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a deduction from each school district’s state aid allocation implemented in the 2009-10 school year.

“There were other things we were hoping for,” Mrs. Moesel said. “For our district, GAP elimination and lack of foundation aid has costs us $9 million and 60 positions since the 2009-10 school year.”

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