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Upstate Parents Have 'Bright Idea' for School Excellence Contracts

May 19, 2008

Buffalo, NY - Parents and educators from around the state are looking to "shine some light" on schools. They're bringing light bulbs and ideas to the New York Board of Regents in Buffalo and elsewhere today. Their goal is to make sure parents and communities play a strong role in how schools take action on the state's academic "Contracts for Excellence." The contracts require underperforming school districts to use proven teaching methods to get up to par.

Michael McDuffie with the Alliance for Quality Education says kids shouldn't be left "in the dark."

"We want to bring light to the 'Contracts for Excellence' because this is $22 million of additional aid and $2.8 million of that is going to the Buffalo school district. There are students here who are underperforming, there are teachers who are underperforming, and we need to bring this to the light."

He notes upstate parents and educators want the Regents to support several proposals to improve underperforming schools.

"They need to make it better, a) by giving proper notice, and b) by adding more timeline tasks for the after-school programs. We're looking for smaller class sizes, and we're looking for 'English Second Language Plus' for parents and students."

According to McDuffie, community planning for the Excellence Contracts also helps students who have suffered in the past from inadequate resources.

"It makes a difference as to whether or not the student can graduate or not graduate. It's the difference between having the materials and not having them. It's a matter of having the proper amount of books, versus a limited number of books for only a select few of the students will be able to finish their schoolwork."

According to McDuffie, today's Buffalo School District hearing had only five days' notice, and he says the Regents need to guarantee better public and parental participation, as required by state law. Only one out of every nine school districts complied last year with requirements for public input on the Excellence Contracts, he adds.

Additional information is available at the Alliance for Quality in Education website, www.aqeny.org.

Robert Knight/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY