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You are here: Home Schools Assistant Superintendent Lynne Shain Looks Back on a Decade of Improvements to the Scarsdale Curriculum
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Assistant Superintendent Lynne Shain Looks Back on a Decade of Improvements to the Scarsdale Curriculum

Lynne Shain1When you consider Lynne Shain’s 27 years in the classroom and 24 years as an administrator, it’s impossible to calculate the number of students she has influenced over her lengthy career as an educator.

But it is clear is that she has had an enormous impact on the education of almost all the children who have attended the Scarsdale Schools in the last decade. She will retire at the end of this school year and agreed to an interview before she leaves town.

Shain came to Scarsdale in 2008 as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum after serving in a similar role in the Westport Schools for 14 years. A resident of Weston, CT, Shain has been commuting to Scarsdale daily, often staying late into the night for Board of Education meetings. During her tenure here, she made far-reaching changes to elementary education and impacted the curriculum in all of Scarsdale’s Schools.

Under her leadership, the Scarsdale Schools were one of the early adopters of the Singapore Math program that has now become a model for other districts in this country and abroad. Shain explained that Singapore Math is distinctly different from the district’s former program, Trailblazers, in that it uses concrete tools to visualize abstract math concepts. In its simplest form, children utilize manipulatives, i.e. small objects such as pennies to make groups that represent numbers, and then learn to translate these visual groups into numbers or numeracy. The program has been highly successful at giving young children number sense and the framework for understanding mathematics.

The district has also implemented the Metamorphosis Program for professional development in mathematics. Currently 18 elementary teachers have completed the program, designating them as math leaders who can share their expertise with other faculty members.

Similarly, under her leadership the district adopted the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project which provides professional development for teachers using a workshop approach. The workshops prepare teachers to teach reading and writing through conferring, iterating, editing, and building upon student feedback. The program uses materials at instructional levels rated A to Z as well as performance assessments to allow for individualized instruction based on each student’s ability.

Shain was also successful at getting funding for a reading support teacher at each of the five elementary schools to diagnose reading issues and assist struggling readers.

The district is now working on gathering and using individual student achievement data to strengthen instruction. Shain explained, “We are creating data dashboards for teachers, giving them access to individual student learning data.” This data can be used to assess student’s strengths and weaknesses and inform instruction.”

Asked about how the new learning commons at SHS would be used, Shain explained that many of the existing courses in the high school were already designed for collaborative learning spaces, saying, “form follows function.” She said that the district is promoting collaborative learning from one classroom to the next along with project based learning at the elementary and middle school levels. These programs will integrate the efforts of the librarian, computer and classroom teachers. Shain said that much of the program improvement funds that are used by teachers to do research and development during the summer will be used for curriculum integration.

The district’s decision to move from the standardized AP curriculum to a deeper AT curriculum was made shortly before Shain came to Scarsdale. Asked whether that had been a success, Shain quoted former SHS Assistant Principal Kelly Hamm, who reported on students’ performance after the change, saying, “Not only have we done no damage, but key metrics, such as SAT scores, AP scores, and percent of students admitted to “most selective” colleges and universities, have edged up.”

About the New York State tests, Shain said at the elementary and middle school levels, Scarsdale’s math and ELA programs are now aligned with state standards. She said, “Our scores are always up there compared to our peer districts. Since the State changes the tests every year, longitudinal comparisons are not possible. We’ve tried not to let the state test scores get in our way.” She quoted former Scarsdale Superintendent Michael McGill who said, “Teach a deep rich Scarsdale curriculum and let the scores take care of themselves.”

What advice would she give to her successor? Shain said, “Personal relationships are most important. Nothing gets done unless people want to work with you. I would tell him to find the time to meet with faculty and hear what they have to say.”

Scarsdale will surely miss knowing what Shain would have to say. After helping to transition the new assistant superintend Edgar McIntosh into his role, she is hoping to spend more time with her three grandchildren, one who lives in Virginia and the other two in London. Is more work in education on the horizon? She says she can’t rule that out.

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