BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The Meeting in Brief: The Regents will consider for adoption their budget proposal (exclusive of state aid to schools), the SUNY Master Plan, and the general framework for accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act. The Board will continue monitoring the implementation of its testing policy and further develop its advocacy strategy for New Century Libraries. The Regents will prepare to advocate for IDEA reauthorization by discussing the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education.
Reading First, Reading for ResultsReading has been central to the Regents standards from the beginning. The gaps in reading achievement have been part of every Regents discussion on test results and the gaps in performance. Now through the federal Reading Excellence Act we have significant resources -- $81.8 million -- to support local efforts to improve reading. The No Child Left Behind Act will provide still more funds for a major New York effort to improve reading.
These funds support professional development, models of effective instruction, and monitoring of results. In September the Regents will review the work so far and what is ahead.
NOVEL and New Century Libraries
If the New Century Libraries proposal could be said to have a central core, NOVEL might be it. NOVEL is the New York Online Virtual Library. This component already provides more than 250 databases – journals, health, medical, business materials, and much more – to 3600 libraries statewide.
So in one sense, that part of New Century Libraries would seem to be up and running. The problem, however, is that NOVEL now depends on temporary federal funds. We must make this vital resource even more visible to the public to build the case for long-term public investment in library resources of all kinds – buildings, collections, skilled professionals, library systems, academic research libraries and all the other elements of New Century Libraries. The purpose of the discussion is to increase visibility for the proposal.
Regent Review of Assessments Continues
If policy decision is the first task of the Regents, a close second is monitoring the implementation of policy. The Regents have monitored the implementation of policy on student assessment at the April and June Regents meetings and will continue that work in September. This time the focus will be on scoring the exams, and specifically on scale scoring and standard setting. In this instance, standard setting refers not to the academic standards in mathematics or English, but to the decisions about what level of performance constitutes achievement at a level of 65 or 85 on the exams.
There are two brief but important items to read in preparation. The first is a section on scales from Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, known as the "Joint Standards." These are the generally accepted standards for the entire testing industry, and the courts in evaluating what states do in student assessment accept them. It is important for the Board to become generally familiar with the Joint Standards. The second item is an article about standard setting written by a local participant.
To make this part of the review more concrete, Regents will go through a sample version of the standard-setting process.
School Accountability – NCLBA
The Regents will consider a policy decision on accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) at the September meeting. Deputy Commissioner Jim Kadamus proposes that the Regents make that decision in November after reviewing public comment. By January 2003 we must send New York’s accountability plan to the United States Department of Education. Amendments to our regulations will follow.
NCLBA is in many ways familiar ground for New York. Regents and local action on standards, assessment, curriculum frameworks, teaching, leadership, special education, and accountability are consistent with the new federal law. There are still adjustments needed to comply with the law.
The Department analysis compares NCLBA with our policy framework and recommends additional actions. For example, the Regents must define in policy the meaning of "proficiency" under the Act. We recommend level 3 on the elementary and middle grades exams. Here is another example: Regents must establish a single accountability system for all schools. Our existing accountability system will serve provided that the Regents amend it in ways specified in the paper.
I recommend that the Regents approve in principle the policy direction described in the staff paper, with a formal policy decision by the Regents to follow after public comment.
SUNY Master Plan
The master plan of the State University of New York is before the Regents for review and, if approved, incorporation into the Statewide Plan for Higher Education.
Deputy Commissioner Duncan-Poitier and her colleagues have reviewed the SUNY Master Plan using the same criteria applied to the Master Plan for the City University of New York. A Department analysis of the plan provides details in relation to these criteria to assist the Regents as they study the Plan and raise whatever questions they have. The Regents earlier received the full text of the Master Plan.
Deputy Commissioner Duncan-Poitier recommends approval by the Regents and I concur.
President’s Commission on Special Education
No Child Left Behind Act builds on deep foundations created by efforts around the nation and over many years to improve results. In New York, it also builds on much of the Regents recent policy action. The next challenge before the Congress is reauthorization of fundamental law on special education, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The combined effect of these two acts could be very beneficial for children.
The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education produced a report that is likely to be influential during reauthorization. Deputy Commissioner Larry Gloeckler testified before the Commission. Their report includes recommendations that are consistent with Regents policy.
For example, the report stresses results, not process. We have worked hard to ensure that children with disabilities have access to the academic curriculum and we pay attention to their achievement. To cite another example, the report recommends prevention and early identification. We know this works for our children.
The matter comes before the VESID committee during the September meeting but given the importance of IDEA reauthorization and our intention of playing a part in that advocacy, I wanted to bring it to the attention of all Regents.
The year ahead
The Regents reflected on the year just past and the one ahead at their annual policy retreat in July. At the September meeting we will discuss our new priorities and I will propose a new performance agreement for the year ahead that matches those priorities.
The Regents create their budget proposal step by step through the year. In September, the plan calls for Regents to adopt the budget exclusive of state aid.
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