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LI education partnership is model for the state

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, at a regional forum, says the collaboration between educators in Long Island's public schools and colleges shows "we can do so much more if we do it together."

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speaks Wednesday with

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speaks Wednesday with Long Island school superintendents and college presidents about efforts to improve students' educational pathways during a forum at LIU Post in Brookville. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia on Wednesday touted the work of Long Island education leaders as a statewide model for bridge-building between prekindergarten through 12th grade and higher education.

The Superintendents-College Presidents Partnership, formed in 2001, is a work group of the Long Island Regional Advisory Council on Higher Education, a consortium of 15 colleges and universities. It brings together college presidents and school district superintendents from across the Island to discuss issues affecting teaching and learning across all academic levels.

“This is an incredible model for partnerships,” Elia said at the group's regional fall forum, held on the LIU Post campus in Brookville. “This is a challenge; you guys have kind of broken the code here. But the reality is K-12 has traditionally been living in their own world, and higher ed really didn’t want to let anyone else in. …We’ve got to realize that we can do so much more if we do it together.”

The partnership is working to find solutions to better align secondary and postsecondary education, help students graduate from high school ready for college or the workforce, promote equity across the region and improve student attainment rates.

“There are issues in some cases where students are not ready and they have to take remedial courses in college. And what that does is [it] increases their debt on the outside because they’re using up their financial aid,” said LIU president Kimberly Cline, who co-chairs the partnership. “If we work in our own silos, we never help the student have the bridge to reach college and be able to be prepared without having, in some cases, college readiness issues.”

About 200 people attended the forum, including school district administrators, guidance counselors, math and writing teachers, college and university administrators, advisers and faculty. Work group leaders gave an update on efforts in the areas of guidance and counseling; writing and critical thinking; and math.

The work groups consisted of volunteer educators and administrators from more than 60 school districts and 13 higher education partners. Their findings stressed the need for more professional development and teacher training, as well as coordination of math, reading and writing programs in high school to meet college requirements.

Next fall, the partnership plans to pilot a 12th-grade math course in a few schools, said Timothy Eagen, Kings Park schools superintendent and partnership co-chair.

Currently, the state requires three math courses in high school, and while some students take college-level math in their senior year, not all do. Students may fall behind in math, entering college unprepared and having to take remedial courses, which don’t count toward graduation.

The 12th-grade math class is designed to “prepare students to be successful in that freshman-year math course in college," Eagen said. 

Along with academics, the partnership is looking into better ways to help students and their families navigate college, and recently piloted a workshop in the Longwood district on education records and privacy.

The state Education Department has been working on collaborating with the State University of New York system to improve teacher preparation and professional development, and to align state standards to ensure students are college- and career-ready.

The work being done on Long Island is an example of ways to make progress in those areas, Elia said.

“To have this many higher ed institutions working with this many districts is something we are not seeing across the state," she said. "However, it’s our goal.”

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