BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
Meeting in Brief: The Regents will convene leaders from many USNY institutions in an Education Summit during the first day of the November Regents meeting. On the second day, the Regents Committee on Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education-Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities will discuss educators’ reactions to the draft policy statement on early education and the proposed schedule for new Regents mathematics exams. The Committee on Higher Education and Professional Practice will discuss three regulations. The Cultural Education Committee will review basic data about cultural institutions operated by the State, for which the Regents serve as trustees.
Regents Convene USNY for the Education Summit
The Regents will convene USNY in an Education Summit on November 2. How did we get to this day? The answer takes us back before the eight regional discussions this year. It started even before the Regents began talking about the potential of USNY in 2001. The Regents and their partners throughout USNY have worked toward this Education Summit for many years by strengthening each sector of the University.
Every part of USNY has changed to raise performance. The resulting gains are evident and the system is poised for still more change. Consider these examples. All four sectors of higher education joined in a Statewide Plan for Higher Education. The many library communities have united behind the New Century Library concept. The State Museum and State Archives have envisioned the future and defined practical steps to realize it. Elementary and secondary education systems have embraced high standards and recent data show the gaps starting to close. The professions have embraced new strategies to ensure public protection and address workplace shortages and practice issues. Disability issues are at the center of the system from early education through graduate school, and VESID is designing a future that ensures greater choice and more employment for persons with disabilities. The parts of USNY are strong. Now we must attend to the connections among the parts.
Where do we stand as the Summit convenes? Achievement at every level in the education system has improved, and we celebrate that result and the effort behind it. And yet the gains are not sufficient. Gaps exist at every level along lines of income, race, ethnicity, language and disability. These gaps are unjust, and also dangerous to our civic and economic vitality. We know we live in a dynamic global environment. Other nations understand the connections between education, work, and citizenship, and many of them pursue with intensity an education agenda like our own.
In facing these challenges, New York has an advantage in the educational and cultural institutions that together define the University of the State of New York. Our charge is to use that advantage to improve achievement to the benefit of all the people. To fully develop that advantage, we seek agreement on shared aims. We seek commitment to a few actions that if taken together, will improve results at three points: early education, high school, and higher education. Excellence at those three points will contribute significantly to New York’s vitality.
We have distinguished speakers, and yet the essential work of the Summit will be done not by the speakers but by all of us in discussions led by Regents and other leaders at each table. To prepare us for that work, Kati Haycock of The Education Trust will describe the achievement gap from early childhood through college, and the imperative for change.
David Gergen will lead a plenary session discussion of those issues, and then with former Governor Gaston Caperton, will help us reflect on the responsibilities of leaders – including all of us – given what we know about the achievement gap. Cooper Union President George Campbell will turn our attention to the global stakes in developing talent in mathematics, science, and engineering. He will introduce IBM Executive Vice President Nicholas Donofrio, who will give us a personal account of the global environment and its implications for educators.
With those perspectives as background, we will turn to one another in small group discussion to answer these questions: Do we in fact have common aims? Will we commit to a few joint actions to accomplish those aims? What are those actions?
The Summit was never just a meeting. As we listen to one another on November 2, we will be thinking about what we will do to make still greater progress. As the Summit concludes, we will call upon a few USNY leaders to speak briefly about what they and their institutions will do.
SED in the Future
One response to the issues developed in the Summit is our deliberate strategy to prepare the State Education Department for the future. The Regents reviewed that strategy in June, when we described “log jams” that we intend to break and how major categories of our work will change. This month, the Regents have a two-page chart following the same outline as the June report, which lists elements of the future SED that are now in use. All the Deputies and all parts of the State Education Department have contributed to this work.
Early Childhood Discussion
In November the Regents will receive a report on comments from the field about the Regents draft policy on early education. The Regents will decide whether there are elements of that proposal they would change. It is anticipated that the board will adopt policy in January.
Early education is one of three focal points for the Summit discussion, and one of the Regents priority issues. Improved systems and results in early education will have a long-term effect on the whole of USNY. It will also have significant financial implications and the Regents will want to examine them.
Math Regents Exams
The Regents asked the Department to summarize the views of local educators on the schedule for introducing three new Regents exams to match the revised mathematics standards. In October the Board considered alternative implementation dates in 2008 and 2009 for the new Regents Algebra exam. Both New York City and suburban educators are calling for the 2008 implementation. We asked presidents of colleges that prepare teachers to comment on the matter. There are, no doubt, other views. However, the prevailing view so far is that the gathering momentum favors early implementation. We could allow some extra time for later adapting districts by maintaining both Math A and the new exam for a year. We would have to contract out the development of test questions in the first year to cut a year from development, but we are already working on a request for proposals to do that in case the Regents choose the early implementation date.
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