JOHNSTOWN - Area school districts will pool their $1.1 million in combined federal Race to the Top awards to hire a team at the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services to analyze curriculums in every grade over the next four years.
Officials say they hope the effort will improve the schools' programming after everything is phased in by 2014.
Nearly 50 schools in the districts served by BOCES?in the three counties will participate in the review. BOCES will hire at least three people as a "network team."
The team will develop new curriculum by assessing weaknesses in each grade based on test-data interpretations.
About 75 percent of the funding will go toward that assessment, and 25 percent will go toward principal and teacher evaluation, said HFM BOCES?Interim Superintendent Mark Vivacqua.
Because each school district received a small grant, each would have to provide additional money if it were to do a review on its own, Vivacqua said.
"So there has to be a network team for every 25 schools," Vivacqua said.
He said some schools, such as those in New York City, are large enough to have their own network teams.
Vivacqua said BOCES is getting ready to hire the network team.
Details such as salary aren't yet available.
"The regulations for evaluation aren't going to be done until spring, so this is kind of a learning year. Next year, people will be coming on board to do curriculum work," he said.
As for whether additional funds may be available over the next four years, Vivacqua said he was unsure.
"This is federal, so we're certainly not counting on it. There isn't the expectation it's going to go beyond that. Most of this is getting up to speed with a new curriculum," he said.
Districts had until Nov. 8 to file plans with the state for using the grant.
Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent Robert DeLilli announced the district's plans at the Nov. 8 Board of Education meeting.
"The concept is to pool our resources, and by the fourth year have it all in place," DeLilli said. "The network team will come in and work with school districts."
The district received one of the larger awards in the area, $293,894.
This was the second round of the Race to the Top competitive grants, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The funds were awarded to states based on reforms, including the New York State Legislature's vote earlier this year to create a new system of accountability for educators that incorporates student achievement data.
State lawmakers also allocated $20.4 million to the state Education Department to implement a new data system and increased the state's charter school cap from 200 to 460, and enacted legislation that enables school districts to enter into contracts with nonprofit Educational Partnership Organizations for management of schools that reflect low test scores.
The state has taken on the task of creating a unified curriculum before.
"These things happen kind of cyclically," Vivacqua said. "I'm not sure the change has ever been as dramatic as this, and for the first time, we're following a national curriculum. The federal government isn't mandating the curriculum, but New York state has chosen to band together with most other states."
Amanda Whistle can be reached at email@example.com.