BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The clearest message we have heard from the public, employers, and students is the need for high quality career and technical programs. A small number appear to be expecting a low skill alternative to the Regents exams. The vast majority appears committed to a rigorous approach that produces graduates who meet both high industry and academic standards. That is what we propose.
All students are expected to meet the Regents standards and there must be more than one way to do that. At the June Regents meeting we will propose a career and technical path to the standards. Students who complete this program will have achieved the same academic standards as all other students and in addition they will have met industry-approved standards in their career field.
The proposal includes rigorous certification of career and technical programs. Certification will ensure that graduates can learn the knowledge and skills required by the workplace, and that these programs remain current as the workplace changes rapidly. Strong programs will be in the spotlight, students will flock to them, and their graduates will find rewarding careers. Weak programs will have to improve fast or close.
We are indebted to a distinguished panel of state and national experts who helped shape this proposal. Last fall, our Advisory Panel on Career and Technical Education began work on strategies and methods for integrating academic and technical instruction, assessing students, and on diploma options for students completing sequences in career and technical education programs.
Key elements of the proposal include: criteria for certifying and recertifying career and technical education programs; flexibility in core academic courses; a technical assessment component based on industry standards; a technical endorsement on a Regents diploma; and a work skills certification and employability profile for students successfully completing a technical assessment.
After the Regents review of the proposal, we would seek public comments and develop a detailed implementation plan, along with proposed regulatory changes if needed.
Results improved in elementary English in every category of school districts this year. This result reflects the extraordinary effort of teachers, administrators, boards, students, and parents over the last several years.
These second year results show that 59 percent of students are achieving the English standards by the time they reach the fourth grade, which is up from 48 percent last year.
The small cities and suburban schools made particularly large gains, as did some of the Big Five districts. For example, Yonkers improved from 33 percent meeting or exceeding the standards a year ago to 53 percent this year. Superintendent Andre Hornsby described the successful strategy this week: careful alignment of instruction with the standards, and clear expectations for principals, backed by professional development. Rochester also showed big gains from 24 percent last year to 38 percent today.
The statewide scores are significant. Some of the gaps are starting to close, notably the gap between the schools as a whole and the standards. Some groups of schools are improving rapidly. There is still a long way to go, however, and these data present yet another reason to study strategies that work in improving student learning.
We are concluding the fifth year of the States intervention in the Roosevelt School District. While performance at the elementary level appears consistent with the Regents standards, the problems that drew the State into Roosevelt were not at the elementary level in the first place. The junior and senior high school, which did exhibit serious flaws, has made little progress. Roosevelt has been unable to prepare an acceptable plan to correct the problems in the junior and senior high school.
There have been three superintendents during the last five years. The relationships between the Panel and the Roosevelt Board and administration are not productive. Parts of the curriculum, notably mathematics, remain very weak. The financial capacity of the district is weak and the district appears unable to do without a $4 million state aid advance that was to have been phased out. The creation of a charter school will remove an additional $1.3 million from the district.
The States District Review Panel has described student achievement, administration and governance and the financial condition of the district. The Panel recommends direct state operation of the district. I met with the Panel on May 24 to better understand their observations. The Panels recommendations are their own, not the Departments or my own. However, we must prepare for a major change in our approach in Roosevelt. I believe that there are many alternatives to consider. All of them should turn on a simple question: how best to educate the junior and senior high school students of Roosevelt.
At the June meeting, I recommend that the Regents discuss the problems fully. In July, I would like to discuss the most feasible alternatives to solve the problem. A Department work group is preparing and evaluating options for the Regents decision.
In April more than a thousand teacher education program proposals arrived at the State Education Department pursuant to Regents policy that raised standards for teacher education. We will act on every one of those plans in time for the coming academic year.
Nevertheless, there is a major lack of capacity to meet the need for teachers, which is most evident in New York City. The City has both a short-term and a long-term problem. The short-term problem is obvious in the high proportion of teachers in some fields who are either uncertified or over 55. The long-term problem appears in the high proportion of teachers who are between 45 and 55.
New York produces about 23,000 newly licensed teachers a year. New York City needs about 12,000 in September. In addition, New York City employs more than 11,000 teachers who are not certified and they tend to be in lower performing schools.
The best strategy for resolving the short run problem is recruiting. Fortunately, the Legislature and the Governor provided $25 million for teacher recruitment and I have ordered that these funds be deployed as fast as possible. Sixty percent are available to the City. The best strategy for the longer term is to build capacity. That will be accomplished only in part by the recent Regents actions concerning collegiate teacher education. We must also now give shape to a portion of the Regents policy that called for an alternative for career changers.
I suggest that a career changer or alternate route would provide for the following:
This approach reflects the successful New Jersey Alternate Route program begun in the mid-1980s and also reflects the essence of the Regents teacher reform in higher education.
The need for teachers is so great in some places that some may want to attempt the alternative immediately. That would be very difficult although possible. The main challenge would be to create and certify high quality summer programs to ensure that teachers begin with the basics of what works, and to create solid mentoring systems to guide the teacher candidates during the year. To permit shortcuts on these two essentials would be to perpetuate the situation of the uncertified teachers under another name.
Recommendation: Adopt and implement a high quality alternative path as soon as possible.
At the April meeting the Regents approved targets for the eleven strategic measures in the Strategic Plan that also correlate with the five areas my performance agreement with the Board. In June the Regents will decide on about thirty additional measures from the strategic plan.
The power in your earlier decision on this matter has become evident. For example, Department staff concentrated on the cycle time targets and has already improved results in some areas, such as the time it takes to approve facilities plans.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that each state develop and implement an alternate assessment for students with severe disabilities. A Task Force of experts in assessment and students with severe disabilities has developed this assessment. The Board will receive a report which will include information about the participation criteria and piloting of the alternate assessment.
The Congress has made little progress on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Many predict that work on this important measure will not be completed this year. We were concerned that the legislation would have been folded into the funding negotiations, resulting in last-minute decisions behind closed doors with little or no input from the education community. However, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has said he will not consider the bill in this manner. According to a statute that is frequently bypassed, changes in program operations cannot be made through appropriations legislation. We will monitor the situation to advocate for Mr. Lotts position. We have continued to press our positions on these bills with letters and phone calls to members of our delegation and congressional leaders.
The House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations and Senate Committee on Appropriations completed their markups of Federal fiscal year 2001 spending bills. The Chancellor and I sent a letter to select members of the New York State delegation outlining our funding recommendations. The education community generally supports the Senates higher funding levels but urge some significant changes in the distribution of money among programs. One major point of contention is the lack of separate funding streams for class-size reduction and school construction.
The State Library, Museum and Archives all have major facility renovation projects planned over the next several years. These projects will significantly increase and improve collection storage space, consolidate staff and programs within the Cultural Education Center and improve customer service for research and education in basic ways. During the coming year, the Office of Cultural Education will:
Carrying out the monumental move is requiring a level of teamwork only made possible by a concerted effort over the past several years to break down institutional boundaries to develop collection management, disaster preparedness and security plans. Three different professions with different vocabularies, standards and approaches have cut though those traditional barriers to make this transformation of the CEC possible. We have learned recently, in looking for benchmarks to help us go further, that we appear to be a benchmark for achieving consistent approaches in institutions that house archives, libraries and museums under one roof.
The Office of Management Services is a full partner in planning and executing this renovation. Management Services level of teamwork with Cultural Education is also a real demonstration of the Education Department acting like one agency.
Why would we consider adopting more than forty regulatory changes in the coming year? If these were forty reductions, that would be another matter entirely, but that is not the case. Each committee of the Regents and each unit in the State Education Department contributes only a little to the total but the sum reveals an approach to improvement that raises questions. Does this regulation square with our initiatives to raise standards in every area we touch?
The Office of Facilities Planning was committed to reviewing by June 1 all capital projects submitted prior to April 1 to allow school districts to take maximum advantage of the summer construction season. Through a combination of staff overtime and consulting architectural and engineering firms, approximately 600 projects were reviewed by May 17. Through this effort, the review period was reduced from 14-16 weeks to the currently posted 6 weeks. For the future, school districts will be encouraged to submit projects in the summer or early fall to experience a shorter review period.
On June 1, Deputy Commissioner James Kadamus representing me, along with Regent Oquendo, Carmen Perez-Hogan, Thomas Hogan and Senator Olga Mendez met with the Puerto Rico Secretary of Education, Victor Fijardo, and his senior staff to discuss common areas of interest. The two agencies signed a formal agreement for cooperation. The first item on the agenda will be: electronic transfer of student records between Puerto Rico schools and New York State schools; crosswalk of New York State standards and Puerto Rico standards to determine the possibility of students who arrive in New York State schools in 11th and 12th grades may be eligible for a Puerto Rico High School diploma; and an analysis of teacher certification requirements in New York State and Puerto Rico. This cooperative agreement will benefit the education of the scores of students who transfer back and forth between New York and Puerto Rico.
A monthly publication of the State Education Department
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