BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The July Regents meeting will not follow the usual monthly format.
The annual Board Retreat will occur on Wednesday and part of Thursday. Topics will include Board performance over the past year, progress toward goals, and the Board-Commissioner relationship.
The regular Regents meeting will be shorter to allow sufficient time for the Retreat. Instead of committee meetings the Regents will do their work in a series of full Board meetings. Professional discipline cases, which are normally taken up in executive session of the Professional Practice Committee, will be discussed at a full Board executive session on Friday morning. The Regents will take most other actions through the consent agenda.
The Commission on Library Services will present its recommendations to the Regents for approval this month, after two years of research, meetings, hearings and extensive consultation.
The Commissions Report recommendations move libraries to a central role in closing the achievement gap between those with easy and plentiful access to information sources and those left out of the electronic revolution. For the first time, State aid would drive significant funds to libraries in poor areas and to urban libraries which serve new immigrants, beginning adult readers, latchkey children, job seekers and those needing both skills and equipment to use electronic resources effectively.
If realized, the Commissions proposal would make library services available from any location. The extent and quality of materials from libraries, on-line journals, historic documents and other unique items would be far beyond what is available to most New Yorkers now.
School libraries would be the heart of learning in schools throughout the State, with qualified staff, current materials and programs developed with teacher, library media specialist, and public librarian teamwork. Students would have access at all times. Safe, comfortable, accessible libraries and materials designed to serve those with various disabilities would ensure that no one is left out.
Public Library District public libraries, with boundaries co-terminous with school districts and budgets and boards decided directly by the voters, would ensure that there were no New Yorkers without local library service.
The Regents Commission on Library Services asserts a compelling vision. Approval of that vision would set a course for higher education and the training of professionals, elementary and secondary education and the importance of producing information-literate graduates, special education and the need for full access to information, and adult learning. We will have further discussions about funding these initiatives in the context of the budget.
Recommendation: Regents approval
In May the Regents established the framework for school accountability and gave the Commissioner authority to define annual school accountability criteria. After staff examined several ways to do that, I approved a staff recommendation to create a School Accountability Performance Index to implement the Regents policy. The purpose of the report in July is to inform the Regents of the performance index concept and to illustrate how it will work. In September I will set the performance targets for schools.
Regents reviewed the situation in Roosevelt School District in detail last month. We examined low student achievement in middle grades English and also in middle and high school mathematics, high administrative turnover, continuing financial problems, and the Roosevelt boards lack of focus on student performance. This month the Regents will discuss actions to provide for the education of the children in Roosevelt.
We considered many options. The ones we propose reflect three criteria. First, protect the children and provide for their education. Second, use the authority we already have from the special legislation, our SURR process, and the statutory authority of the Regents and Commissioner. And third, aim for simplicity. Solutions with too many working parts are likely not to work at all.
Roosevelt has been unable to produce an acceptable redesign for the junior and senior high school. I will therefore set performance targets as we usually do for SURR schools. The Review Panel will help the Roosevelt Board revise the legislatively mandated Corrective Action Plan to improve English and mathematics. The Roosevelt Board will be required to fill specific administrative positions with the advice of the Review Panel.
If Roosevelt meets the performance targets by the end of 2000-2001, I will give them yearly performance targets for the future. If they do not meet the targets, I will recommend to the Regents the deregistration of Roosevelt Junior and Senior High in 2001-2002. I have in mind a specific plan for the education of the children should that be required and I will discuss this at the Regents meeting.
This is the last opportunity for Roosevelt to provide an appropriate education for the children and to demonstrate that by meeting reasonable performance targets. If they do not, I will recommend that they lose the opportunity to operate a 7-12 program.
Recommendation: Support for this course of action, which is consistent with Regents policy.
The Regents envision a new State Museum that is technologically rich and also provides the excitement of learning through contact with the objects and specimens from our history and natural history.
The first stage of that master plan is under way with a new exhibit program, and a carousel and dining place on the Terrace Gallery to open in the fall of 2001. By November 2000 the Gem and Mineral gallery and the Native American Peoples exhibit will feature interactive exhibits.
Obtaining the resources to make this Master Plan a reality is the priority. New exhibit techniques make it possible for people everywhere to tour the irreplaceable collections we hold in trust for them. Other institutions have found that virtual visits inspired people to make real visits. We will emulate that example. We also want to provide a gateway to historical sites and other museums in every region of the State.
As noted in the Report on Federal Legislative Activities that was faxed or e-mailed to Regents on June 16, the House of Representatives passed its federal fiscal year 2001 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. The Senate has yet to schedule action on its companion bill but is expected to do so soon. The subsequent conference committee may not convene until after Labor Day to avoid a presidential veto before the party conventions and accommodate the August congressional recess.
There has been no further action on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. There still is talk that the measure will be extended in the appropriations bill with debate resuming next year. Some are expected to try to add amendments opposed by the education community, including a "Straight As" demonstration project.
The Professional Standards and Practices for Teaching Board will report to the Regents and Commissioner on its proceedings and accomplishments for 1999-2000. Among the highlights are: review of, and recommendation for the teacher education program application, draft protocols for collecting data from teacher education programs, Part 80 and Part 52.21 regulations, and the approval of three new Teacher Resource and Computer Training Centers.
Periodic discussion with the Standards Board is a good opportunity for Regents to ask probing questions about how the quality of the profession is changing and how we know this to be so.
New York annually certifies more teachers than are hired. There are shortages in specific regions and in certain certificate titles. The State Education Department has created some measures to help distinguish between immediate problems and those we must face in the longer term.
Immediate problems are visible in high numbers of unlicensed teachers and teachers above age 55 and eligible to retire. Longer-term problems appear in high percentages of staff in the 45 to 55 age group.
Different public policy responses are more likely to be effective in resolving different aspects of the problem. Recruiting strategies are more likely to fix short- term shortages. The longer term requires building new capacity.
Deputy Commissioner Patton will present an overview of the data. The report will highlight short-term versus long-term problems and will specifically look at the situation in New York City.
The use of unlicensed teachers is a barrier to children trying to meet academic standards. The data indicates a strong correlation between low test scores and the use of unlicensed teachers. It should be troubling to all New Yorkers that children in poor and minority communities face this additional obstacle. It is also contrary to Regents policy.
Regents policy provides that schools may not employ unlicensed teachers after September 2003. Regents have further decided that no unlicensed teachers may be employed to teach in Schools Under Registration Review after September 1999. As of last month, State Education Department records show over 400 teachers were employed in the New York City SURR schools in violation of that policy. I refused to grant temporary licenses for those teachers.
In a series of letters and direct conversations, I informed Chancellor Harold Levy of this problem, required action to resolve it, and informed him that this must be resolved by August 2000. In response to my meeting with the Chancellor in June, he informed New York City superintendents by letter that unlicensed teachers could not be used in the SURR schools and that all such individuals were advised to register for the state teachers exams in July. We arranged for sufficient additional seats for the July test administration. The State Education Department and I have taken many steps to help the City resolve this problem and so have the Regents.
To support the Chancellors efforts to find qualified teachers for these schools we proposed and the Regents approved a rapid change in regulations to enable teacher recruitment in states with standards comparable to New York, and we assembled the deans from the ten largest producers of teachers. When I learned that the requirement to appear in Brooklyn for fingerprinting was an obstacle to recruitment, I sought and immediately received help from State Police Superintendent James McMahon to enable candidates for New York City teaching jobs to meet fingerprinting requirements in locations upstate. After the Regents and the Department advocated for teacher recruitment funds, Governor Pataki pressed for a $25 million Teachers of Tomorrow Program and the State Education Department expedited those funds to help recruiting. Finally, we have proposed an alternate route to the credential, which is consistent with Regents policy on teaching and put this on a fast track to provide an additional source of able candidates this fall.
We have provided New York City warnings over seven months, regulatory flexibility, and help from many sources. The Legislature and Governor provided the funds. What we cannot do is permit the schools with children farthest from the standards (i.e., the SURR schools) to have unlicensed teachers in September 2000
The City University of New York has adopted and submitted for approval to the Regents a master plan as required every four years by statute. Our Office of Higher Education will provide an overview of the schedule for this master plan review, a summary of the statutory requirement and the actions required of the Board. We are holding September 6 for a Regents hearing on the CUNY proposal.
Regents will recall that many issues that might commonly arise during master plan reviews are included in the review schedule that Regents adopted late last fall and so need not be addressed at this time.
This matter is scheduled for Regents action in September. The item for information in July is intended only to outline procedure and schedule.
The Regents and the State Education Department oversee 38 licensed professions. We are responsible for protecting the public. What was once an embarrassment is now an award-winning model of good government.
The Regents have a report this month laced with data on the results achieved by our Office of Professions. It shows extensive public outreach, more discipline cases opened and closed, more inspections, faster cycle time for professionals and members of the public, and lower unit costs. This did not require additional funding.
What it did require was inspired leadership in the Office of Professions, committed staff who are relentless on quality, redesign of every process, new technology imaginatively deployed, careful stewardship by the Regents, and good relationships with many partners. How can we make everything work this way? Answer: See above.
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