BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The Meeting in Brief: The Regents will continue their review of assessments. The Regents will vote on the middle level proposal and on revisions to regulations concerning teacher preparation. The Regents will consider for adoption the proposed PreK-8 grade-by-grade mathematics standards. The Board will discuss policy decisions that will be needed as a result of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Data we published in December show that students who entered the 9th grade in 2000 and took all five Regents exams tended to pass all five. 92 percent passed at 55 and 77 percent passed at 65 or better. More are graduating, fewer repeat ninth grade, and fewer score at level 1 in middle school. However, the data also show that many other students entered high school unprepared to do high school work, failed to earn the 22 credits needed to graduate, did not take the Regents exams, and did not graduate.
The Regents have already put in place many strategies to close the gap in achievement, including universal pre-kindergarten, research-based reading and mathematics instruction, enhanced services for children with disabilities, intensive English instruction for students who are learning English, and a new state aid proposal. These data press us to build on that foundation with new action at the high school level for particular students in particular schools.
We need to take three actions:
1) Identify all students in academic difficulty, notify their parents, and require a report on what the schools are doing to help them succeed.
2) Expand and strengthen our statewide initiative with high schools that have the lowest graduation rates, the highest proportion of students taking three or fewer Regents exams, and identification as needing improvement. We will do this by bringing together 12 school districts to evaluate and implement strategies to improve graduation rates and performance.
3) Create an appeals process for certain students who pass their courses and are close to passing the Regents exams but may have difficulty demonstrating their knowledge on a particular test.
The data reveal three markers of students in difficulty: students who score at level 1 on an 8th grade test, those who repeat 9th grade, and those who complete two years of high school without having taken a Regents exam. Local educators have improved outcomes for many such students. However, we must do more to help these students who are not learning what they need to know for citizenship, work, further education, and the other responsibilities of adult life – in other words, what they need to know to earn a high school diploma.
Where are the students? There are 136 high schools in New York with four-year graduation rates below 70 percent and the highest proportion of students taking three or fewer Regents exams. These facts demand an aggressive intervention, starting where the problems are greatest. Here are some details on what we would do:
Identify all the students in academic difficulty throughout the State. This will elevate the problem and compel action. All the students who score level 1 on an 8th grade exam, repeat 9th grade, or complete two years of high school without taking a Regents exam would be identified by school authorities, and the parents informed. We would require the schools to report what they are doing to help these students succeed.
Expand and strengthen our statewide program with the 136 schools with the lowest graduation rates and the highest proportions of students taking three or fewer Regents exams. This will link local and state educators in a common cause. We will expect schools to implement strategies that respond to student problems and that reflect research.
Working with local educators, we would start with these strategies, evaluate their promise, and then implement them, adjusting as we go:
· Develop individual academic plans, based on diagnostic screening, for students in academic difficulty.
· Develop the curriculum and instruction that will enable students to catch up in reading and mathematics.
· Hold schools accountable for failure to carry out state assessment requirements for students who have taken no Regents exams after two years of high school.
· Create attendance improvement strategies.
· Break up large comprehensive high schools into smaller units.
· Expand the proven Career and Technical Education model.
· Accelerate implementation of the Model B middle level program to improve the academic core.
· Provide summer school for children with disabilities.
· Increased English instruction for English Language Learners.
· Educating district and school leaders on how to implement these strategies effectively.
Many of these schools already have corrective actions underway, and we will support their efforts. In addition, we will enlist the help of urban educators who have raised the achievement of students in schools that are similar to the ones in greatest need, and preferably, from the same school districts. The aim is to create capacity to help local educators in the affected schools devise and implement strategies that work.
Make no mistake about the difficulty here. There are many promising strategies, but the problems facing these students and schools are challenging in the extreme and many local educators have already worked hard to resolve them. At many points, we will have to learn our way together to a solution.
Create an appeals process for certain students who pass their courses and are close to passing Regents exams but may have difficulty demonstrating their knowledge on a particular test. While students who take all five Regents exams overwhelmingly pass them, there may be some students who in fact know the material at a Regents standards level and come close to passing but nevertheless fail a particular test. We have investigated the experience of other states with appeals and we suggest the Regents consider an appeals process under rigorous conditions that would include the following:
· The appeal would be for students scoring within three points of the required minimum passing score on the exam. Students must have taken the Regents exams twice.
· The students must have a course average in the subject under appeal that meets or exceeds the school’s required passing grade.
· The students must have availed themselves of all relevant academic help offered.
· The students must have maintained at least a 95 percent attendance record, exclusive of excused absences.
The local superintendent would be responsible for conducting the appeals process under state guidelines, a panel of teachers would review the appeal, and the number of appeals requested and granted would appear on the school district report card.
Again, the assessment data that the Regents reviewed in December show that 77 percent of the students in the 2000 cohort who took five Regents exams passed all five at 65 or better. It seems appropriate, therefore, for the Regents to consider raising the minimum passing score for graduation to 65 for the class entering 9th grade in 2005.
In summary, the approach outlined here would respond to the data. It would identify the students in academic trouble, and require a local accounting of what is being done for them. It would create a practical strategy to provide a better education to particular students, together with new capacity for educators who work with the students. On the basis of the 2000 cohort results, the Regents can consider raising the minimum passing score for the 2005 cohort. Finally, we would enable students who know the material and are close to passing the Regents exam but nevertheless may not do as well on a particular test to show that they meet the standards through an appeals process conducted under rigorous quality controls.
The Regents have before them for adoption a draft annual report to the Governor and Legislature on the implementation of the charter school legislation. The report contains the recommendations for changes in the statute that the Board advanced last year.
Recommendation: That the Regents approve the report and request that it be sent to the Governor and the Legislature.
The Regents have before them a decision paper that would implement the Board’s policy on middle level education. The paper defines design principles for middle level programs, and three models from which schools can choose under certain conditions. The paper represents the conclusion of a long process of engagement with the public and educators, consideration of research findings, and debate among the members of the EMSC-VESID committee. The result is worthy of the importance of the problem. We congratulate the co-chairs, Deputy Commissioner Kadamus, and the countless others who helped bring this matter to decision.
Recommendation: That the Regents adopt the strategy to implement their policy on middle level education.
Adult Work Readiness Credential
The State Workforce Investment Board is participating in a multi-state effort to create a national credential or assessment that signifies “work readiness.” Work readiness is taken to mean possession of a particular set of academic and other knowledge and skills needed for the entry worker.
The Regents have before them a paper that defines the issues surrounding this credential. A primary issue is whether or not such a credential would weaken the incentive to complete a high school diploma. The Workforce Investment Board members support the Regents learning standards and do not intend that a work readiness credential take the place of the diploma.
The Regents Universal Foundation Skills, which are contained in Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Learning Standard 3a, are comparable to the Equipped for the Future Work Readiness Skills under consideration by the Workforce Investment Board. Four different Regents exams include questions that assess the Universal Foundation Skills.
The high school diploma issued on the basis of passing the five required Regents exams must guarantee that the holder is ready to work, as well as ready for citizenship, further education, and other adult responsibilities. However the Regents decide to proceed concerning the Workforce Investment Board’s interest in the national work readiness credential, we must redouble our efforts to guarantee to students, parents, and the employer community that the diploma means “ready to work.”
A Teacher Policy Decision
The Committee on Higher Education and Professional Practice will vote on a proposal to modify the requirement in regulations for a fixed percentage of full-time faculty in teacher education programs and the number of hours those faculty may work in the programs. What follows is essentially the advice on this matter that I provided to the Regents in November.
The proposal would provide flexibility on the fixed percentage requirement (50 percent of courses taught by full-time faculty) and the limitations on faculty workload for teacher education programs that meet two performance-based requirements: program accreditation and the Regents requirement for an 80 percent or better pass rate of graduates on the state teacher certification exams.
Those who oppose the change say the policy is a quality guarantee, which has allowed teacher education to improve and build capacity. They say it is too soon to change the policy. Those who support modification say the policy has had unintended consequences, including larger class sizes, reduced opportunities to expand programs or create new ones, and lost opportunities to improve faculty diversity. They say having full time faculty is important and so is respect for institutional judgment when results are positive.
The Department’s opinion is that the stronger arguments favor modification. While the proposal before the Regents continues to require that programs have sufficient full-time faculty to meet the mission of the program, it recognizes that no other profession has a fixed percentage requirement for the use of full time faculty either in regulation or in accreditation requirements. In view of the unintended consequences noted above, the fixed percentage substitutes a regulatory judgment for the deliberation of faculty and presidents within higher education even for institutions that have a proven record of performance. Accountability defined by two performance measures would be the better approach.
A third component of the proposal before the Board would allow teachers with initial certification to complete their Master’s degrees within 5 years rather than 3 as now required in regulation. The Board has heard extensively from the field that additional time is needed for teachers to meet this requirement
Recommendation: That the Regents adopt the proposed amendments to Regulations.
Adjusting Policy to Comport with IDEA
With the signing of the reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Regents and the State Education Department face a challenge similar to the work we did in response to the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. As in that earlier case, the Regents have already established a policy framework that is consistent in many ways with the new federal policy. There are a number of adjustments needed, however. Some adjustments require Regents policy decisions and amendments to regulations, while others will require the State Education to change administrative guidelines and practices. In some instances, recommendations for the amendment of current statutes will be necessary.
The Regents have before them a summary of IDEA provisions, related New York positions, and a brief analysis of the implications. We will concentrate the discussion on the policy decisions facing the Regents.
Key questions: Are the policy issues clear? What information does the Board need to make these policy decisions?
PreK-8 Mathematics Standards
After the Regents discussed the report of the Mathematics Standards Committee, we took that report to the public and the educators as both the Regents and the Committee requested. A statewide conversation about mathematics ensued. We received over 2000 comments, many of which represented the views of entire faculties. The comments raised many issues of substance and the Mathematics Standards Committee considered all of them. The Committee now has a further report to the Regents, which responds to the public comments. In some cases, the Committee members modified their original recommendations, but in others, they decided to stand by what they said in their earlier report. A Regents item provides a summary of the comments and the Committee’s response.
The Regents now have before them a strong set of proposed PreK-8 mathematics standards. These standards will be the foundation for improved student achievement in mathematics. Board approval in January will enable us to complete the design of the new grade-by-grade assessments in time for field-testing this year. The Committee will complete its review of recommendations on the 9-12 mathematics standards for Regents discussion at a future meeting.
Recommendation: That the Regents accept the revised recommendations of the Mathematics Standards Committee and adopt the PreK-8 mathematics standards.
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