BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The November Regents agenda touches every part of the University of the State of New York. Cultural education appears in the annual Archives luncheon, a tour of the State Museum, including a preview of the future and review of the three-year costs of our library initiative.
There are several related issues before elementary and secondary education: new student achievement data, a conceptual state aid proposal, student attendance, how to close the gap in student performance, and a discussion with principals from "beating the odds" schools.
VESID reports a drop in placements the first in a decade, and hard at work on strategies to reverse this. The Regents legislative priority list is up for a vote. Higher Educations focus is on institutional accreditation, and Professions has new data on nursing exam results.
This is no ordinary year for libraries. We have a plan, a budget, and a strategy. We have the Regents Commission on Library Services to thank for much of that. Now we must join forces to secure the funds we need.
Regents have said that our library initiative is as much an economic development issue as it is about libraries. We must talk to our many partners in the business community to make that case.
The library initiative is also an educational issue. I have talked with the District Superintendents about the leadership they can bring to this. High performing schools and colleges have libraries at the intellectual and physical center. Test data point to the urgent need for improved literacy. The Regents insist that all children read 25 books a year. There are still 1.3 million New Yorkers without access to a public library, and many schools dont have librarians.
Regents will discuss the conceptual framework for the state aid proposal this month. The numbers will appear in December. The Regents will have several items to inform their coming decision on state aid including an analysis of district spending and tax effort in response to changes in state aid, a draft conceptual proposal, and an oral summary of the November 8 Symposium on the Teaching Workforce.
The critical point is this: the Regents state aid proposal is designed to enable school districts to raise student achievement and close the gaps.
In October we released test results for elementary mathematics, middle grades mathematics and English. On Thursday I will release high school Regents data in English and mathematics. I am concerned about the middle grades results. Fewer than half the students are meeting standards in mathematics by the 8th grade and less than a quarter are in the Big Five school districts. We have discussed similar results before using both state and international data. Deputy Commissioner James Kadamus will describe the statewide test results.
The middle school results are troubling, especially for children in the highest need schools. While a few observers appear willing to dismiss the results by questioning the tests themselves, most are examining data and thinking hard about root causes. Accumulating evidence nation-wide suggests that there really are problems with middle grades. Understanding that is the beginning of a solution.
Communities that search for someone to blame will get nowhere. Instead, its time to ask probing questions and pull the whole community into finding the answers. Here are some examples: Does the curriculum match the standards? Do teachers have opportunities to plan together and share practices that work? How are parents involved? I am particularly interested in the questions about curriculum at the middle level.
We are notifying districts with schools that appear farthest from State standards (i.e., potential SURR schools) and giving them an opportunity to verify data and submit additional information. Staff encouraged school districts with improving SURR schools to petition for removal from registration review. I expect to decide on SURR status within a month. We will report results to the Regents in December.
Roosevelt Superintendent Horace Williams is focusing the attention of the school community on the requirements of the Districts new Corrective Action Plan and the urgent need to improve secondary-level student achievement. I met with Mr. Williams on October 6, 2000 to review his plans for the school year and to get his perspective on how the State Education Department can best assist Roosevelt to build the foundation to close the student achievement gap. I agreed to visit Roosevelt after the first of the year to communicate our expectations for the District and the Middle-Senior High School. Roosevelt has specific performance targets to meet in English language arts and mathematics by the close of the current school year. Recently, school superintendents in Nassau County met with Mr. Williams to discuss how they could help Roosevelt.
Students cannot meet high standards if they dont attend classes all of the classes. To make sure that they do, local schools need strong state policy on student attendance. We approached this issue as we have so many others. First, we got advice from people of diverse experience and perspective. The Regents will have their recommendations this month along with staff commentary.
Over the next few months we will ask the Regents to create a regulatory framework to define major attendance questions. Then the State Education Department will prepare guidelines to implement the new attendance regulations and standards for electronic attendance record keeping.
In July, Governor Pataki signed the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act that provides a wide-ranging context within which school districts must address safety. The SAVE legislation addresses student discipline and school violence by amending Education Law, Penal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Executive Law and the Family Court Act. The general effective date of the legislation is November 1, 2000, although school districts are not required to be in full compliance with some provisions until July 1, 2001.
Several provisions require amendments to Regulations. The Regents EMSC Committee will be asked to adopt on an emergency basis three regulations relating to school district-wide and building-level safety plans, codes of conduct, and approval of providers of coursework and training in school violence prevention and intervention.
The Regents Higher and Professional Education Committee will be asked to adopt on an emergency basis regulations relating to good moral character proceedings (penalty for removal of certification) and the requirement for teachers applying for certification after February 1, 2001 to receive training on school violence prevention.
In December, additional regulations will be submitted to the Board for action relating to the release of youth from residential facilities and a uniform violent incident reporting system. Later this winter, regulations will be submitted for the Boards action concerning the fingerprinting of school personnel.
We informed school districts about another provision: effective November 1, 2000, whenever a student in a public or private school is sentenced for a crime or adjudicated as a youthful offender, the Court must notify a designated educational official.
As we prepare for the forums on Closing the Gaps in Student Achievement, lets look again at our paper on gap-closing strategies. We know a lot more than we did even a year ago. Its not too early to ask, are the gaps closing? The gap between current performance and the standards is beginning to close in elementary and Regents English. It is not closing yet in the middle grades. The new data may help us improve our implementation and policy work.
In addition to the new testing results, we have experience -- and even progress -- with each of the strategies in that paper. For example, we have stayed the course on the standards. The teacher policy is in place and we have rich data on supply and demand. The Board and the Department made key decisions about accountability. The leadership initiative is now well launched and well funded. Our state aid strategy is even more tightly aligned with the gap-closing goal. How do we use a years hard won knowledge to press on even more effectively?
The Education Department and the New York City Board of Education are working together to ensure that students in the SURR schools have certified teachers. I have agreed to provide approximately 75 temporary licenses for the remainder of this year. The Board of Education will create a mid-year alternative certification program for approximately 100 teacher candidates who will complete their training for placement by the end of February 2001. The Board of Education will also prepare 1,500-2,000 more alternative certification candidates by the end of June.
State Education Department staff and Regents have participated in an extraordinary number of meetings with people interested in the Career and Technical path to the Regents diploma. An interesting development this month is an alternative proposal from the District Superintendents. Their alternative includes most of the elements of the proposal already before the Regents and also provides more time for technical course work while still retaining the five Regents exams. Their solution to the problem is specific, thoughtful and worth serious attention.
The United States Department of Education is reviewing our application for renewal of recognition as an accrediting agency. Twenty-six New York institutions depend on this accrediting authority. The matter is scheduled to go to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity at its December 11-12 meeting. Our federal colleagues believe it is essential for the Regents to take two steps before that meeting. The first is to endorse the standards for institutional accreditation. The second is to act on at least one application for accreditation or renewal of accreditation.
We are planning to present, for approval in principle, the Standards for Institutional Accreditation by the New York State Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education. Most of these standards are identical to the standards for registration set forth in Parts 50, 52, and 53 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. To comply with the criteria for recognition in 34 CFR 602.16, standards have been added under the headings "Institutional Mission," "Assessment of Outcomes," and "Student Complaints." These are explications of requirements in Part 52, not new requirements.
After Regents policy decisions on the registration of teacher education programs, we promised to act by September 1 on all program proposals from colleges and universities that we received by April 1. We kept that promise. Faculties and administration in the colleges and universities worked with us and the result was the re-registration of 1,188 teacher preparation programs consistent with Regents policy. I thanked the faculties at a meeting this week. I have already thanked my colleagues in the State Education Department for their hard work.
For the first time in ten years, we had a real decline of 2% in our vocational rehabilitation placements. Two years ago we had what appeared to be a drop but was actually caused by a change in the definition of employment by the United States Department of Education.
Some of the recent decline in placements can be attributed to the turnover in counselors in the past two years. The VESID team is aggressively pursuing improvements to its placement strategies to move the results back up and reach the 20,000 goal we have set.
A longstanding aim of the Board of Regents, the State Education Department, and the State Board for Nursing has been realized. The Office of the Professions is now providing to schools of nursing the individual results of student performance on the national licensure examinations.
To achieve this goal, we began a pilot study with 17 schools of professional nursing representing all education sectors and regions of the State. The pilot succeeded and on that basis, the Office of the Professions will report candidate-specific results to all professional and practical nursing programs in New York State beginning in January 2001. This is a step toward providing similar information for other professions.
Over 350 consumers, licensed professionals, legislators, and policy makers from across the United States and Canada joined the Board of Regents on October 3 for their Conference on the Professions 2000Professional Regulation in the 21st Century.
Participants rated the Conference high on quality, and especially appreciated the Regents focus on emerging issues.
State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer joined me in announcing an enhanced partnership between our offices to deter the unlicensed practice of the professions. We described increased enforcement, enhanced compliance agreements and increased public awareness. From October 3 forward, the Department will make public all compliance agreements reached with individuals who were found to be practicing illegally but agreed to cease activity.
In October, members of the Board visited educational programs in two correctional facilities. All of us were concerned about the extent and quality of education offered to students. Regents asked about Department plans to ensure quality. We are pursuing several strategies: a pilot program early in 2001 to introduce distance learning; Even Start family literacy grants to help connect parents with their students during periods of incarceration; transitional opportunities through the Workforce Investment Act; and joint work on accountability with staff from the Department of Correctional Services, Office of Children and Family Services and county jails.
The Congress failed to adopt a budget and recessed until after the elections.
The distinguishing mark of the most recent Strategic Plan is the performance measures related to the goals. These discipline our work in implementing policy and help the Board gauge progress.
This month we present the final set of performance measures to complete the work begun months ago. We have 34 performance measures in all. In July, the Regents will review results in relation to the targets and consider any variances in the annual Board Retreat. I thank the Quality Committee, Rebecca Kennard, Thomas Sheldon, and all members of the leadership team for their hard work on this.
The Regents and I have included a subset of these measures in my annual performance agreement. I talk about these constantly and can report that my colleagues have already met or exceeded many cycle time targets.
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