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March 11, 2013


Dear Parents and Guardians,


As you may be aware, New York State has adopted the Common Core Standards along with 44 other states, in an effort to align New York's education standards, instruction and assessment with college and career readiness benchmarks. Next month our third through eighth graders will be taking the new NYS English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Exams, which for the first time will have content containing Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). 


Additionally, changes have already been made in regards to high school regents examination requirements and more revisions to the actual test structure and questions will be made beginning in 2014.


Renaissance supports these changes in raising the standards for all of our students. That is why we have been implementing curriculum and instructional changes across the school including expanding our Advanced Placement Program in the high school to six classes this year (with additional courses to be offered next year and the years ahead) and increasing our students' participation in onsite and offsite college classes through the College Now program. We are also providing ACT and SAT tutoring through our partnership with 82nd Street Academics and with generous funding from a Higher Education Service Corporation grant to improve college readiness and persistence. 


You may also know that we have implemented interim testing in ELA and Math. These assessments are designed to give our students practice with the type of questions and testing environment they will encounter on the actual exams and be another information source to our teachers, in addition to their own observations and assessments, on what topics our students have mastered and areas where they need support.


These changes, along with our ongoing mission to develop leaders and global citizens will continue to drive our programming. We firmly believe that our students will be exceptionally well prepared - academically, social-emotionally and creatively to handle the demands of the global and technologically-driven society we live in and will truly become

"Leaders for the Renaissance of New York."

Please take the time to read through this special edition of our newsletter and follow the links provided. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact the School.




Stacey Gauthier, Principal 


Why has the state decided to change things so drastically? It comes from the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) trying to address a crisis of low graduation rates and low performance of students coming from the public school sector. New York's graduation rates have increased in recent years, to 74% in June of 2012. However, the good news about the rise in graduation rate does not tell a full story. Despite New York State having some of the most successful individual districts and individual schools in the country, too many of our students do not graduate and too many of our high school graduates find themselves taking remedial courses when they enter college.


Renaissance has had an exemplary graduation rate--we consistently graduate between 92% and 98% of our senior class.2012 GradsHowever, even with this successful statistic, we know that many of our students still need remedial classes to be able to keep up with college level math and writing. These students have to pay college tuition for the kind of learning that we can provide here in high school with the right focus and instruction. That is why our teachers have been working hard to master the new standards, and why our students have been taking interim exams, participating in small group instruction and receiving targeted programs as needed. It is a new way of teaching and learning.


  The new 3rd-8th grade exams were designed to measure the knowledge and skills students need at each grade level to achieve college and career readiness. They were developed by mapping backwards from college and career success, internationally benchmarked, and informed by research. (See below for links that will give you more detailed information.) 


The need for this change is detailed in a June 2011 NYSED report called "aspirational performance measures" or New York graduation rates based on college and career-readiness performance standards. Only 30.9% of the 2006 cohort of students in New York State graduated with a Regents diploma with Advanced Designation, and only 36.7% of the graduates in the cohort scored at least 75 and 80 on their English and Math Regents exams, respectively. Getting a 75 or 80 in ELA and Math are considered to be the minimum necessary for college-readiness. (Getting a score below 75 in ELA and 80 in Math Regents exams does not necessarily determine college acceptance, but it does indicate the need for college remediation classes.) These sobering high school outcomes make it even more important that our new Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Common Core assessments provide educators and parents with early indicators of the path to college- and career-readiness long before our students enter high school.

The CCSS demands significant shifts in the way we teach. All of our teachers are adopting these shifts, which have required learning new skills and reflecting upon their classroom practices. For example, ELA teachers must ensure a balance of literature and informational text and a dramatic increase in the amount of time and attention students spend in evidence- based analysis of what they are reading. Our Junior Great Books© program in grades K-12, with its emphasis on shared inquiry, is a perfect tool for teaching students to analyze text and mine the evidence to support a theory. Additionally, the implementation of the
Fountas and Pinnell© guided reading program, leveled assessment and reading remediation program used in conjunction with Fundations© (a phonics-based curriculum by Wilson Reading System©) are supporting our elementary-aged students to be better readers. 


In Math, our teachers are now spending more time on less content, driving toward true mastery through a new level of fluency with math facts as well as a new comfort with
real world applications. In grades K-5, we have implemented the Go Math© curriculum and have been working with educational consultants from Bank Street College of Education to support our teachers in teaching the new standards. In middle school, our math teacher and math skills teachers have adapted their curriculum to meet these new goals for math proficiency.

Specific changes to the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math tests include the following:


  1. Increases in Rigor - Many of the questions on the 
    Common Core assessments are more advanced and complex than those found on prior exams that measured prior grade-level standards.           
  2. Focus on Text - To answer ELA questions correctly, 
    students will need to read and analyze each passage completely and closely, and be prepared to carefully consider responses to multiple-choice questions.  For short-answer writing passages, students will need to answer questions with evidence gathered from rigorous literature and informational texts. Some texts will express an author's point of view, with which not all readers will agree.         
  3. Depth of Math - Students will be expected to understand math conceptually, use prerequisite skills with grade-level math facts, and solve math problems rooted in the real-world, deciding for themselves which formulas and tools (such as protractors or rulers) to use. There will also be multiple steps involved in solving these problems so students will need the skill to follow a more complex problem with more components from start to finish and show this work as evidence of this understanding.


You need to remember, as parents, that student scores on the new exams will not be directly comparable to scores from prior-year tests because, as the Deputy Commissioner of K-12 Education at NYSED states in a recent memo to principals, "the assessments are based on different, more rigorous standards. As such, the number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not necessarily be interpreted as a decline in student learning or as a decline in educator performance. Instead, the results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school."


This shift in instruction has been challenging on many fronts, because the state education administration has been on a sharp learning curve along with our teachers, and most educators in all levels, administrators and teachers alike, are feeling the stress of not knowing how these new exams will be handled by our students. This year will be the baseline year for gauging the progress of the important curriculum and instructional work taking place, but from all accounts most educators agree that this new way of teaching and learning is much more in line with what the world will, and in most cases already does, expect from our children.

As always, your support is the first line of success in your child's education. If you feel your child needs tutoring, please contact your child's teacher. There is active test-preparation and tutoring going on now in all grades, sometimes during after-school and sometimes in the classroom, in small-group reading, writing and math skills classes and tutoring sessions. Tutor.com, a service provided for free to all our students, is also available to support students in many different subject areas while they are working at home.

 It is never too late or too early to start reading with your child. Try reading simple non-fiction articles from magazines or newspapers and discussing them afterwards. Engage your child in real-world math problems, such as helping you budget for the week, or measure your living room for new carpet, or calculate how much paint is needed to paint a room! You can find tools and suggestions on various websites, or you can speak to your child's teacher for resources to check out at home. 


Here are some of the links that will explain the Common Core Learning Shifts:


Find grade-specific resources to support your child's learning of the Common Core at home:


PTA News - More CCSS Information Available
Stacey and other members of the School Management Team will be attending the March PTA Meeting (Tuesday, March 19, 6:30 PM) to discuss the upcoming exams and what all K-12 parents can do to support your child with this important academic shift. We hope to see you there!

PTA General Meetings



Tuesday, March 19 - 6:30pm

Wednesday, April 17 - 6:30pm

Thursday, May 16 - 6:30pm

Garden Party - Wednesday, June 19 - 6:30pm

Upcoming Dates & Events  

  • HS Parent-Teacher Conferences - Thursday, March 14, 6-8 PM;  or Friday, March 15, 1-3 PM.   
  • Spring Recess - March 25th- April 1st (note: we return to school on Tuesday, April 2nd.
  •  Honor Society Inductions - Thursday, April 11, 6:00  
  • NYS ELA Exams - 3rd through 8th Grades - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, April 16-18
  • NYS Math Test - 3rd through 8th Grades - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday April 24-26 
Helpful Hints and Cool Links

Check out the new link on the Parents page of our website called "Supporting Your Child."



This page includes many helpful documents and resources to support your child both academically and emotionally, from experts in the field and our own staff. Currently, there are several documents (a few linked here) that will help you help your child, by understanding our discipline code, our commitment to an anti-bullying culture, and by understanding what our communication protocols and our philosophy of student counseling.


Also check out the NY Charter Center website to keep up-to-date with what is happening within the charter school community. Here is a link to their News Page, which has articles on state exams, new schools opening, and more:  



Make an investment in children, education and the future of our world.  Safer, better-educated communities are great for business; they improve the quality of life for everyone. Renaissance's hard-working, high-achieving students strive to make that happen and with your help that goal is closer to being a reality:  Please visit our website for more information, and lick on the red DONATE button on the bottom of each page: http://www.renaissancecharter.org/.  Thank you!


The Renaissance Charter School