Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

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Instructional Coaches Support Good Teaching, Says District Official

Teaching matters.  That was the message at the December 1 school board meeting, which focused on professional development and instructional coaches.

Sandwiched between the prior night’s meeting about budget realities and the consultant’s presentation about the superintendent search, the topic of the abbreviated presentation — professional development — easily could be overlooked.

That would be a mistake, according to Annie Ward, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.  Professional development matters because teaching matters.

Ms. Ward began by defining teaching as decision-making, describing “the myriad complex decisions teachers make each day before, during, and after each lesson.”  She explained that to make the best decisions possible, teachers need in-depth knowledge of academic content, instructional strategies and children. Professional development, she asserted, is a crucial means of sustaining and extending teachers’ knowledge base and professional repertoire.

She then presented research from the Tennessee Value Added Studies, which demonstrates that good teaching is the single largest factor in predicting achievement, where achievement is measured by standardized testing.  The impact of having a good teacher can be measured for four years after a student leaves that teacher’s classroom.  Unfortunately, however, having an ineffective teacher also has a long-lasting effect.

Research also shows that specific practices are linked with improved student learning, noted Ms. Ward.   For example, effective teachers are frequently “in the midst” of their students rather than merely assigning and assessing.  According to one researcher,  “Exemplary teachers’ thighs are in good shape from weaving and crouching.”

The question, then, is how to assure that teachers are using those best practices?

Value Added by Instructional Coaches

Research demonstrates that using instructional coaching is a particularly powerful way to help teachers bring specific teaching techniques into their classrooms, Ms. Ward contends.  The coaches – essentially in-district staff developers who are available to work with teachers regularly in their classrooms – also meet the New York state professional development standards, which call for job-imbedded professional development that is frequent and ongoing.

The instructional coach model is recognized nationally and used by other local school districts such as Chappaqua; Scarsdale uses a similar model of “helping teachers” in each academic discipline.


In Mamaroneck, instructional coaches work to develop curriculum at the elementary schools, helping to assure district-wide consistency where there are no department chairs.  In addition, a literary coach was added to the Hommocks Middle School last year, partly in response to parent concerns about student writing.

Coaches provide different levels of support to different teachers.  Ms. Ward noted that in the elementary schools, “classroom teachers must plan and implement lessons across all disciplines.”  There, “coaching provides a necessary source of knowledge of both academic content and the teaching practices most effective in those content areas.”

In the elementary schools, for example, literacy coach Allyson Daley has provided workshops for all teachers in grades K-5, providing workshops on how to take a “running record” and then supporting teachers as they do so in their classrooms.  In taking a running record, the teacher listens to a child reading aloud and records all miscues.  The mistakes are then analyzed for patterns so that the teacher can develop targeted lessons for each child.

As a result of Ms. Daley’s work, running records will be taken more frequently by more teachers, in addition to the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) currently being administered twice a year.  More frequent running records will enable students to receive more tailored reading instruction and will allow teachers to track students’ progress over time. (For more information about running records and other reading and writing assessments, see the “English Language Arts” tab on the “Curriculum and Development” page of the district website.)

Similarly, math coach Mariana Ivanov has been working to help teachers plan tiered lessons within the district’s TERC Investigations curriculum, so that students can be working on the same core skills, but at levels that will support and challenge each one.

Technology has its place in all this, explained Technology Coordinator Ed Cofino.  Although words go into short-term memory, images go into long-tem memory, so using videos and other technology to provide images for students really can enhance student learning.

Mr. Cofino and Technology Coach Andrew Hess also have been working to develop the district website as an online forum for professional development pursuant to district goals.

Good Work May be Invisible

When done well, “it is hard to see the fingerprints of professional development,” said Ms. Ward after the board meeting.  “It just looks like knowledgeable teaching.”

“If teachers are the ‘engine’ of the district,” she explained, “then staff development is the essential, ongoing maintenance (tune-ups and oil changes) that we must do to protect our investment in student learning.”

Ms. Ward also noted, however, that in light of the difficult economic times, “significant cuts were made in the professional development budget for the current school year, and we will of course scrutinize every budget line going forward with a focus on value added for students.”

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18 comments to Instructional Coaches Support Good Teaching, Says District Official


    If “Good Work May be Invisible”-”So Should Their Compensation.”

    Teachers can earn well over $100,000 a year in this district, as many do, and I think they should be competent at their job or not.

    A District Teacher, who is a Commentator reported Teacher’s Coaches are a waste of time and do NOTHING. Ms. Ward and others are trying to protect their jobs.

    I say…delete this job entirely to reduce our budget.

    • Anon E Mous

      Yes, and it’s so simple even a child could understand it.

      See, The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson. :-)

      • Mumbo Jumbo

        See what?? The Emperor has no clothes !!

        • Anon E Mous

          EXACTLY! Jumbo expensive, yet invisible results. No, mumbo jumbo ’bout it.

          It’s so simple, hopefully we’ll all understand it :-)

          Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing. – Oscar Wilde

  • concernededucator

    So if they are sooooo valuable to the professional development in this district why are they so invisible????? Inquiring minds would really like to know!!

  • concernededucator

    and if they really wanted to make an impact on the teaching in this district they would need many more coaches in each of the schools which the budget does not allow for, so they may as well put these coaches back in the classroom as long as they are still certified teachers… which is a whole other question??!!

  • admirable

    Dear Concerned Educator: since you are so concerned, beyond the coaches issue, can you elaborate on the automatic tenure granted to you and all your colleagues with little or any consideration of performance or potential? And explain how removing a couple of coaches will solve the structural pension and healthcare costs issues, mostly not contributive?

    • concerneducator

      Teachers are NOT automatically awarded tenure in this district. That has never been the case. Teachers go through an extensive evaluative process. There have been plenty of teachers who have not been awarded tenure over the years. As far as the coaches go, if those positions were eliminated there would be a savings of 4 teaching positions, thus saving money for the district. Healthcare costs are rising for everyone. We all pay into our healthcare and its going up for us all! Our pension is governed by NYState. We all deserve a retirement just like you. All public employees are subsidized by taxes. Teachers are not the only ones – firemen police, etc…
      Hope this clarifies your questions Admirable. :)

  • January

    ConcernedEducator brings up an age old question of mine: How are the teachers selected in this school district? I know that there are no teachers who are automatically awarded tenure, it’s an honor to receive it, at least in the better school districts in this country. Yet, my question always goes beyond this: If the school district is very good, as in this one, how to really define whether it’s because the students themselves come from highly educated families who place great value on studying, learning and getting ahead academically; and therefore they are highly motivated and would succeed in almost any school setting, or is it really the teaching that drives up the test scores.

    I say this because I went thru the Mamaroneck School District and while I can count on a handful of good teachers, (all were at MHS by the way) I did not feel that the teaching was in any way superior to many other school districts of middle income, less prestigious, neighborhoods in New York State as well as other nearby states. I also feel that some of the school districts in the area that are better than Mam’k's could teach a few lessons to the school district here. For example, New Jersey and Rockland County, believe it or not have some very good teachers on staff, and the kids seem to leave there with a lot of fond memories of their teachers. On the other hand, I can’t recall if anyone I knew ever shed a tear for leaving a teacher behind as they graduated, w/ the exception of maybe one or two. Education is so important – getting the right teachers in the door is equally important to a child’s success in the future. Caring teachers, those that truly take an interest in their students have been so lacking that the onus is 100% on the student to make it right. God forbid they have learning problems (even mild ones) for they will be either pegged as “dumb” (far from the truth, many dyslexics for example, are brilliant people once they get the right help).

    For all the money that goes into property taxes for example, to pay for education as a significant chunk of it, I am just not convinced that the “quality of the teaching” is why the schools do well – neither I nor others I grew up with feel that they experienced  it in the elementary schools and definitely not in Hommocks. In college, I found many teachers who were very interested in my academic progress and took a keen interest in me; in the Mamaroneck School District, this never happened, especially on the lower school grade level. I realize that parents who are very involved, PTA etc. can certainly count on a lot of preferential treatment for their kids. But what about all the parents who work and cannot commit that time during the day to being actively involved in the school district? These kids suffer as I know I did as well as others. I presume things are pretty much the same there today. All I am saying is that I think the school district is overrated; I think that the teaching is overrated. And I think that it’s the students and their own internal mechanisms that help them exceed academically. 

    I hope none of the teachers here ever receive tenure without fighting tooth and nail for it; It’s an honor and privilege to receive it. I come from a family of college academicians who had to struggle and play the political landscape in order to receive tenure. On the graduate school  level many of them need PH.D’s  and a published thesis to receive tenure. I realize they are paid well for this and I am not opposed to paying teachers more if they are required to academically pull their weight, outside of teaching, to take classes and put serious effort into improving themselves academically. How many of them are required to have Master’s degrees? I’d never want any teacher to receive tenure unless they truly deserved it. The bar needs to be raised.

  • Eleanor

     ”Class Struggle: What’s Wrong (and Right) with America’s Best Public High School” book is written by Jay Mathews, a Washington Post Education writer featured Mamaroneck High School.”  This is a “must read” for parents of MHS.  Many teachers and administrators are still in our school system.  Not much has changed since 1998.

    Available through Review
    There is a wide disparity between the academic achievement of poor schools and their wealthy, middle-class neighbors. What makes a child achieve? Is it purely the school environment and resources (or lack of), or is it parents’ socioeconomic backgrounds and parenting skills? Taking an unusual tangent, Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews spent three years studying the cream of American high schools, causing him to conclude that even the best-funded and most well-staffed schools suffer from problems, some identical to those experienced in poorer schools. A majority of Mathews’s time was spent at Mamaroneck High School in New York, allowing him to provide a first-hand account of the workings of one of the nation’s top high schools. A significant flaw with “elite” high schools, argues Mathews, is their failure to adequately push the less academically gifted. Mamaroneck’s controversial approach to “pushing” these kids was to introduce a multidisciplinary, integrated curriculum for all, spurring heated debate between parents and teachers, all wanting what’s best for the education of their children. Mamaroneck’s integrated approach works for some, but Mathews notes that a disproportionately high number of failing students come from poor neighborhoods. There is no easy solution.
    Class Struggle is a fascinating look at America’s best high schools, providing a balanced journalistic view of what’s right and what’s wrong and offering thoughts on what all schools should be doing to provide a decent education for every student. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

    From Publishers Weekly
    In his well-written, comprehensive analysis, Washington Post education reporter Mathews (Escalante: The Best Teacher in America) reveals the flaws of America’s “elite public schools.” He spent three years conducting on-site research at four schools across the nation, but focuses primarily on Mamaroneck High School in New York’s Westchester County, a school he ranks 73rd in his listing of 200. Through case studies and personal profiles, Mathews catalogues common problems of most schools (the privileged included), as well as issues that are peculiar to leading institutions because of their high-powered clientele. Pivotal in his discussion are the controversies of tracking and ability grouping; in the case of America’s best schools, says Mathews, “notoriously aggressive” parents insist on these practices, though teachers find them detrimental to the student body as a whole. Mathews reports that Yale- and Harvard-bound youth are just as likely to drink or cheat, simply because “it is… easier.” Class Struggle as the title implies also delves into the economic realities of neighborhood incomes and tax dollars, wisely connecting them with administrators’ salaries and, indirectly, with the growing controversy of tenure. Although Mathews claims that advanced-placement classes and examinations “could revitalize thousands of schools” if they “maintain their depth and rigor,” the bottom line is less optimistic: “Elite schools [are] not judged by how well [they] educate every child.” In this respect and others, they do not differ from most high schools.– not judged by how well [they] educate every child.” In this respect and others, they do not differ from most high schools.

  • Mumbo Jumbo

    Very cool – And did anyone happen to see where MHS ranks in the newly released US News and World Report rankings of top American High Schools?? Do check it out!

    • Eleanor

      Answer seems to be MHS is “Not Rated.” I believe that the reason is that we have not kept up with the times. We are no longer competitive with other districts. I gave examples of how other district’s use and training in the use of the TI89 Scientific Graphing Calculator as an example of how we are behind the times. I cited this back in 1998. Now our students are paying the consequences.

      In 1998, when Jay Mathews wrote his book, I took Mamaroneck School District to Court for denying its use to a student who was eligible to use this calculator. It was the current Dr. Mark Orfinger, Principal of MHS who denied my son its use. The School Board knew about this and did nothing about it.

      Mark Orfinger is still the Principal of Mamaroneck High School. NYS Board of Education begged Dr. Orfinger to allow its use, but Dr. Orfinger said use of these kinds of calculators is like “cheating.” So Mamaroneck residents … this is what makes up our school district. They are the leaders. Sherry King, the Superintendent of School at the time said “our teachers don’t want to learn this technology, and I think you should look into private school instead.”

      BOCES offered classes in the use of these kinds of calculators that my son could use, and none of the teachers showed up. Yup, this is what we had as math teachers. Our students still score poorly in math and the vast majority of students are not being trained in higher level calculator use.

      Calculator training is not integrated into our “Technology Instruction.” Only computers are discussed. Whoever is doing the planning and instruction, doesn’t seem to have a grasp of what “technology” is.

      The district does not keep up with the real world and times. We have antiquated people running our district. We hire consultants (Westchester based) to look for a new Superintendent that will bring us more of these Westchester County “Rotating Superintendents.” They just are recycled. They all know each other, and move from district to district keeping their salaries elevated, and nothing new will happen.

      We need new blood coming into the district. This is another reason why “tenure” is an issue when teachers do not want to learn new skills, and continue to use old approaches to education.

  • Y on Earth

    While the calculator in the classroom story is very compelling, it is not the reason that MHS did not pull rank in the Best High Schools in the US News & World Report annual High School ratings.

    My guess is that it’s because the quality of the teaching is not there and never has been there. The students are left to their own devices. Anyone remember what SWAS used to be like??! I don’t know how other than 100% self motivation the students made it out of there in time to graduate. Used to be only the best and the brightest were able to be admitted into the program but then they opened the doors rather overtly to allow just about any student who wanted to write their own curriculum participate. I know that many colleges do this but there is a big difference in maturity with age groups 18 and under vs. over 18 in terms of pursuing their academic interests. Truth be told, I am not sure that SWAS was all it was cracked up to be. It definitely created open minds and I am sure it expanded intellectual interests and capacities for many students, but were the traditional fundamentals of 9 – 12th grade education really met? I don’t know about that. But I don’t think they are being met in the general school curriculum today either. So where is the accountability of the teacher’s? I think students really want to learn and be challenged during those precious years.

    One piece of advice I would have for teachers is to treat every student as a unique entity; they are all different and what works for one does not work for the next. The responsibility is on the teaching staff to not only get to know each of their students very well, but to work with their style of learning. Since students are required to learn so much information and retain so much information during these years, why shouldn’t teachers be more involved, even infiltrated in the learning experiences of their students? If they have 6 classes of students per day, that is just 120 students a year – big deal – if the teachers can’t keep track of every student on a granular level or maybe even 150 students a year give or take a few, than how can they expect their students to retain volumes upon volumes of information to be memorized and applied in their classrooms??

    If they teaching staff worked one tenth as hard as the kids do, then there would be a very high ranking of MHS and that would work for both tax payers and for students going on to higher education and out into the real world.

    Calculator and technology training is important, but it’s the small picture – the big picture is making the teachers accountable for the success of every student and the failure of every one as well. Many kids can’t get the academic help they need in the home – not every parent is able to provide it to them. For a variety of reasons, too many to even bother to list. A positive ROI on the tax bill would be for MHS to try to emulate the better public High Schools in Westchester and around the country for that matter. Many more property owners would have an easier time absorbing the astronmical bills if they knew they were getting an outstanding academic school district worthy of a top ranking in the newsweeklies.

    PS – Eleanor, I realize you didn’t imply that the calculator was the only thing critical to the success but I think by now, most have either seen or heard your calculator and technology issues from your many previous posts.

  • Eleanor

    My comments about the calculator were to show how backward the Administration was, and how they hindered technology from being used by students based on their personal biases.

    They feared it, they couldn’t use it, and they didn’t understand it. They banned it! I don’t get a sense that they understand it yet, if for example “calculator instruction” is not incorporated into our current Technology Plan. That is worrisome.

    When my son was in 4th grade, his Principal called me asking where can she find the “slash / on the 4 function calculator for fractions.” I had to tell her she had the wrong calculator model and needed a model that can do fractions.

    My concern is “are we preparing our children for real world skills, when the staff doesn’t have it themselves?” Sure we have to prepare them for test taking, but are we also giving them the skills they need for the work force?

    • Turn of Events

      Your last paragraph is a summation of Y On Earth’s whole point; I think you are both on the same exact page but approach it from two different doors.

      The overall theme is that the preparation is inadequate because the teaching is not up to par and it should be classified at this point as “Superior” which it is not. Yet the Taxes paid for this school district are “Superior” to most others in the nation – why shouldn’t the services be as well?? Especially, if nothing else, the education of our children. It is wrong not to hold the teaching staff, tenured or not, highly accountable here. I think parents need to have a Teacher/Parent group meeting to address the issues at a town hall. With the representatives (teachers) present from each school. Hold the meetings on different nights to accommodate parents who have kids in different schools – MHS, Hommocks, Central, etc.

      Face to face meetings in a civil group setting is the way to address and find solutions in an adult forum.

      Problems for kids may start in the home but they are perpetuated in the classrooms unless there are teachers who are interested, concerned and involved with all of their students. Too many kids fall through the cracks and at the cost to educate each child today, the need to be sure each one is helped along the way is more important than ever.

      • Eleanor

        Points well taken.

        If Dr. Orfinger, MHS Principal thinks “higher level calculator use is like cheating” which he told me and he is responsible for hiring our MHS teachers, doesn’t this present a problem for our students? If he is afraid of technology, doesn’t understand it, doesn’t use it and hinders our students from learning it…is this a problem? MHS offers students the same “old math approach” with the “same teachers” and our students continue to score poorly in math.

        Something does have to change. We need new approaches, forward thinkers, and perhaps early retirement for some.

        • Turn of Events

          BRAVO! For early retirement…..but can the Social Security system handle the influx of baby boomers taking their benefits before age 67?? Think how it will strangle our already choking trillion dollar deficits.

          There’s got to be a better way! We put men on the moon, send robots to explore new galaxies and use drones in warfare in the Middle East, surely we have enough brilliant minds and economists to think outside of the box and come up with a solution to the never ending questions of “how to pay for retirement in the 21st century”

          What I am saying my Dear Eleanor, is we can’t be so heartless as to throw people to the wind and suggest they shrivel up and die in premature retirement. Rather we must tap into these resources as best we can. For example, why not have a graduated “scaleback” program in place for retirees on the teaching level. So that the torch is passed with the current teachers still on staff, yet to begin weaning them off a few years prior to their departure dates. This way the school system can benefit from their knowledge, expertise and skills (presuming they exist)and keep the transition seamless, while keeping the outgoing teachers, from feeling the shock of sudden unemployment and reduced wages and standard of living.
          With a system like this, everyone benefits including taxpayers :=)

          National Weather Service Alert: Nor’easter heading up the coastline of Long Island Sound, Westchester and CT prepare for the 2009 blizzard, hot chocolate and marshmallows are flying off the supermarket shelves!!!!

          Let it snow, let it snow, oh, let it snow!

  • Eleanor

    I was “not exactly” talking about “early retirement as you are discussing.” I was suggesting they should have “early retirement”…as in “early termination of their employment.”

    Are you suggesting that we “wean teachers” like we do infants? They are not children…They are supposed to be educating our children, which seems to be an issue.

    Knowing “Baby Boomers,” I don’t think they will shrivel up and die just because they reached an age of maturity.

    Enjoy the snow and your hot chocolate and marshmallows. :-) Consider watching your sugar consumption. Drinking and eating lots of sugar is not healthy as we get older. ;-) LOL I also wrote a book on “Nutrition” awhile back. :-)