March 2003 The Meeting in Brief:
BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The Meeting in Brief:The Regents are scheduled to adopt a 24-month policy decision and review calendar and begin a new schedule of concurrent committee meetings – both changes envisioned at last year’s Board retreat. The Regents will begin a new series of consultations with experts when it hears from Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Director, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education on the federal perspective on scientifically-based research. Three topics from the 24-month calendar appear on the agenda: public television, financially stressed school districts, and the profession of pharmacy. In addition, the Regents will prepare for decisions in the near future on school leadership education and the higher education state plan, among other topics. As a companion piece to the look ahead provided by the policy calendar, the Regents will review this year’s draft annual report on the year completed.
The Executive Budget proposal would take education off the path to success, and therefore we urge the Legislature to restore the $1.2 billion cut in state aid, and to restore the proposed cuts in library aid, VESID and higher education programs. We urge rejection of the Executive proposal to remove Cultural Education, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Professions from the State Education Department because all of these elements have an educational mission and have performed it well. Further, these transfers would offer no cost savings to the State.
Since the February Regents meeting, we have presented the Regents recommendation at the Joint Fiscal Committees, with the legislative leadership, the chairs of the four education committees, the Assembly and Senate Education Committees, the Puerto Rican – Hispanic Task Force, and the Assembly Republicans. In addition, we have talked with many individual members. We have talked with college and university presidents, librarians, school board members, principals and superintendents, teachers and teacher aides, and leaders in the disability community about the Regents message and asked them to tell their stories to the Legislature also.
The severity of the proposed cuts has united the education community. The Long Island meeting on libraries included library system directors, trustees, school librarians and research librarians. It also included school superintendents and district superintendents. In the annual meeting of presidents of the Independent Colleges and Universities, there was talk not only about the necessity to restore reductions in opportunity programs and Bundy aid, but also discussion of libraries and state aid. The University of the State of New York is finding common ground in this budget season. Leaders in all sectors are talking not only about the budget numbers, but also about education’s extraordinary contributions to New York’s economic and cultural well being.
The intense communication must continue without pause. All the best arguments are on our side of the debate. And there are huge numbers of people out there making them.
24-month Calendar Adoption
Following the Regents retreat, the Board decided to adopt a long-term schedule for its policy work. The aim was to strengthen the Regents as a policy board by planning ahead, signaling all interested parties about the work ahead, and allowing needed time to inform policy decisions through research and expressions of opinion from all sides.
The 24-month calendar also gives greater visibility to the University of the State of New York (USNY). The calendar portrays the scope of action concerning higher education, professions, cultural institutions, schools, and vocational rehabilitation.
The calendar reminds everyone that not only will the Board undertake policy and regulations with care, but also the Board will review decisions on a predictable schedule based on the data.
The Regents committees discussed the draft 24-month calendar of policy decisions and reviews in February. The current draft includes the proposed revisions and is ready for Regents approval through the Quality Committee. The Regents decided that the Board would continue to follow the policy decision schedule included in the draft during their discussions of the whole document and we have done so for the last several months. For example, the two calendar items scheduled for March are on the Regents agenda.
Recommendation: That the Regents approve the Policy Decision and Review Calendar, with periodic revisions and regular updating to follow.
Public Television Funding Formula
The item on funding public television could support a long-term look at how digital public television can become a significant part of the Regents campaign to improve educational quality.
The item now before the Regents would revise the funding formula and has the support of all of the public television stations. The revisions would make it easier for stations to combine some functions and would protect the capacity of smaller stations by severing the relationship between funds and membership numbers. The 20 percent of funds reserved for education programs would be direct costs in place of the current indirect costs. The result will be more visible education programming.
Financial Stress in School Districts
The Regents will receive yet another report on district reserves, liquidity, and indicators of financial stress. The Regents will be interested in the developing ideas about indicators of financial stress. They have discussed these previously in Audit Committee meetings.
The analysis is based on audit reports and is of necessity about the recent past. The present is where we can act. The report includes a framework to help school districts control and manage financial stress, and this merits particular attention by the Regents. Here are some ideas that can make a difference in the short term:
There may be other things we can do. A few school districts present enduring patterns of financial difficulty because of local decisions about expenditures in relation to revenues. State financial rescue becomes unlikely in these uncertain times. It’s time to point out what is obvious to most school leaders.
We can have higher level discussions with leaders in these few school districts, with our questions drawn from the management letters of recent audits. We can project an expectation that even in difficult times, boards must govern. The vast majority of school boards do just that. We back their efforts by asserting the same expectations for all.
The Profession of Pharmacy: Challenges and Policy Issues
The Regents committed to engage a series of challenges and policy issues in the profession of pharmacy. The paper before the Regents this month sets the context for that work.
Pharmacy continues to change rapidly. Examples include rapid increases in the number of prescription drugs, internet and out-of-state pharmacies, expanded need for continuing education to maintain professional competence, medications errors, unlicensed staff, and the appearance of counterfeit drugs worldwide.
All of these involve public protection and professional education under dynamic conditions. During the coming months, the Regents will consider policy proposals involving continuing competence, patient counseling, centralized prescriptions, and out-of-state pharmacies.
Statewide Plan for Higher Education
The Regents are about to begin a new cycle in higher education. In May we will issue a call to all New York colleges and universities to renew their master plans for 2004-2012.
The Higher Education Master Plan for New York is really the sum of the system and institutional plans and Regents initiatives. Higher education in New York is diverse by design and both our budget advocacy and the statewide plan will respect that diversity.
We have discussed the preparation of the call for the next series of master plans with the Commissioner’s Advisory Council and with other higher education leaders. Portions of the paper before the Regents this month reflect revisions suggested by presidents and others. We also reflected on those conversations in preparing the draft Regents priorities. Discussions with higher education leaders will continue as we complete the document, and will continue throughout the eight-year period of the new master plan. This will make this master plan a living statement of the condition of higher education, and one vital part of our higher education agenda.
Superintendent Horace Williams and Board President Edward McCormick will speak to the Regents about the progress of the Roosevelt School District. The purpose is to inform the Regents about the actions and results in Roosevelt pursuant to the special legislation. Roosevelt School District has a Five-Year Financial Plan, an Education Plan, and a partially completed Facilities Plan. The Superintendent has a performance agreement that is consistent with these fundamental documents. His priorities are: ensure safety and order, improve academic performance, improve the learning environment, improve instruction, evaluate performance, guarantee district financial integrity, improve facilitities, and provide leadership. In our performance reviews, we concentrate on data related to these areas. At the Regents meeting, the Superintendent and Board President will speak to these points.
The State Education Department work force has been productive, as these monthly reports have recounted over the years. That work force is also becoming older and fewer. The proposed Executive Budget would reduce it even more through an $8.7 million cut in operations. If the proposed dismemberment of USNY were to take place, we would lose about 1,500 staff to other agencies.
Human Resources Director Gayle Bowden will describe the changes in our work force, and the reasons. Then she will discuss our commitment to succession planning. Many changes in staffing are predictable and so we must prepare. We do this in part through continuous training.
Late last year, the Regents met the first class of the Leadership Academy. While they are still in training, we are about to select the next class. The "Commissioner’s School" continues to meet monthly. Many of those who were part of the College At Work program in partnership with SUNY-Albany are continuing to pursue higher education degrees and some are within a year of graduation. We continue to develop greater diversity even during a hiring freeze through our internship program.
Doreen Ryan is the project manager for this year’s annual report. She will introduce the team that worked with her and briefly present the draft for Regents comment. The report describes actions and results in relation to the six Regents goals in our strategic plan. The format is similar to last year’s report. We will publish the final report in April, but in view of financial constraints, we will publish only an electronic version.
The preliminary draft regulations on the education of school leaders come back to the Regents this month with revisions suggested in the public hearings. We will send this draft to the field for one more look, and then expect to recommend that the Regents start the clock in April leading to formal adoption of regulations.
Among the issues discussed in the hearings – and now reflected in the draft – are these:
TEAC Regulations Change
Regents policy on teaching requires accreditation of teacher education programs, and provides a choice of accrediting bodies. As Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier has reported to the Regents, 30 colleges and universities chose the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). TEAC has yet to receive recognition as a national accrediting body and so we must make accommodations for the 30 institutions. Neither the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) nor the Regents can add additional institutions to already full schedules. The resolution proposed to you last year: extend the final accreditation deadline two years to December 31, 2006 and maintain the interim steps including institutional self-study in preparation for accreditation.
Recommendation: Amend regulations to extend the schedule.
Least Restrictive Environment
The VESID committee will again address the question of how to enable children with disabilities to be educated with their non-disabled peers. New York has made slow but steady progress in this matter in recent years and the vehicle has been the space planning required by state law. The next cycle of plans will be due next February. In previous meetings, the Regents have reviewed data, which show that New York still segregates children with disabilities at higher rates than most of the country. We have been improving and can do better still.
The draft middle school policy statement will be on our web site to seek additional comment. We will continue the series of regional meetings to discuss middle school policy from March through June, with the intent to bring a statement to the Regents for approval in July. In July we will immediately begin the discussion of implications for regulation or other guidance to the schools.
Report Card on Student Achievement
The State Education Department will release the seventh school report card in early April and it will include results from an improved data collection that will tell us more than ever before about student achievement in relation to the standards. For example, we will have results for students who entered the 9th grade in three consecutive years (1996, 1997, and 1998), which will allow us to see how fast the gaps in performance are closing. We will have high school results reported by race, ethnicity, and disability. We will be able to associate middle school and high school results with differences in the proportion of certified teachers. Regents will need this information to continue the deliberations on middle grades, teaching, closing the gap, the Regents pass score, and many other issues.
In the 24-month Policy Calendar, the Regents committed to revisit their policy on the Regents passing score for graduation. For this school years seniors, the policy is that all students must pass five Regents exams at 55. The policy calls for a passing score for three exams to rise to 65 for next year’s seniors. A decision isn’t expected until late in 2003 to allow for the most complete data possible.
The data are starting to accumulate, however. Last month, the Regents received a report on the performance of two cohorts of English Language Learners. This report showed a 4.5 percentage point gain from one class to another on the Regents English Exam, but it also showed that significant numbers were in the gap between 55 and 65. Later this month the Regents will receive additional data in the STEP reporting. In June we expect a second report on English Language Learners.
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