BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The Meeting in
Brief: The Regents will convene in
High Schools Graduation Rates Can Improve, Must Improve. Thatís Only the Beginning.
The Regents administered a catalytic shock to the system by highlighting the facts: only 64 percent of the ninth graders of 2001 had graduated four years later. It may not yet be shocking enough. Not everyone sees the urgency that the Regents see. Employers see it, of course. The employers are contenders, not observers of the global arena. They were our partners in the USNY Summit, and continue to engage educators about what graduates need to know. Higher education sees the need for urgency. Higher education institutions in the top echelon are global institutions themselves in terms of student admissions, faculty recruitment, and establishment of new campuses abroad. Students see it in part, although many of them still think that some students canít achieve. There is a growing literature about what students think is missing in their education. But school leaders tell me that many of their peers do not yet see the need for urgency. Our communication task is still urgent, and we refresh our message by seeing more high schools in action, and by listening to parents and students.
graduation rates must improve because low skills jobs are evaporating in this
economy. Anthony Carnevale of the
The Regents have
changed the policy framework in
While Regents and
State Education Departments do not teach children or administer schools, there
are many concrete things that only we can do. The Regents decide who may and may not
teach. Many children have teachers
who are not certified in the subject they are teaching. By a date certain, the
Regents can end this practice in one subject after another, starting now. There are high schools in
The Syracuse Superintendent of Schools observed that knowledge to support high school improvement is abundant. Stated more bluntly, we donít need to make this up. There are many expert practitioners and scholars, we are consulting with many of them, and can bring them to the Board. The leaders of the Big Five schools systems are doing just that in their communities. Most people agree that no one has figured out the whole problem, but we can ensure that we use the best of what we do know.
Here are the
common threads in the national literature about high school reform: Widespread
understanding of performance data among faculty and administrators drives
improvement. Instruction must improve, and when teachers observe teachers, and
have continuing opportunities to discuss practice, this improvement occurs. Curriculum must be rigorous, engaging
for all students, and pitched to the demands of work, citizenship and further
education in the 21st century, where global factors affect all of
us. Every student must be and feel
known by a caring adult in the school. Smaller schools or smaller communities
within schools make that more likely. The school culture must reinforce high
performance for students and teachers. The aim must be high school completion
and more: postsecondary completion.
Students need jobs and internships while in school to learn and practice
what the modern, high skill workplace expects. As we visit schools in
Regents meeting will provide one model for a productive discussion about higher
performance in high school.
Regents-led meetings in the other cities might develop different
approaches that work in those places. Itís important to engage the leaders.
Chancellor Klein in
Regents might find it useful to consider the high school problem from three perspectives simultaneously. First, stop the potential high school performance problem before it starts. That means extending and building on Regents policy and the gains of recent years through more pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, early reading practices, and good follow through on middle school policy. If we do that right, students will arrive at ninth grade ready to do high school work. Second, enable students in high school now to stay in school and graduate with a Regents diploma. That means intensifying the strategies of Destination Diploma: good transitions from eight to ninth grade, a curriculum that is both more rigorous and more engaging, expanded Career and Technical Education, fast and effective help for students, effective teacher support. And third, imagine and build the high schools of the future. This means estimating the skills and knowledge needed for citizenship, work and further education in the near future, defining multiple models of new high schools, and making the right changes in state policy to allow such models to start and flourish.
Teachers Certified In The Subjects They Teach
Four years ago the Education Department was issuing more than 14,000 temporary licenses a year. The commitment to stop allowing uncertified teachers was the right policy direction for our children. As we work on closing the achievement gap, we still face a challenge with securing teachers certified in the subjects they are teaching. There are shortages especially in mathematics, science, special education and foreign languages.
Next month Johanna Duncan-Poitier
will provide teacher supply and demand data in
The Regents 24-month calendar, once it is adopted by the Board, defines the important policy decisions. It signals to the public and all USNY communities what the Regents consider most worth doing. As one Regent put it, the policy calendar is the Regents performance agreement. And by defining in advance the work they will do, the Regents summon others to begin their own analysis, options development, and advocacy. Committee chairs and Deputy Commissioners collaborate on what the committees and later, the full Board will do to decide policy and monitor and evaluate existing policy.
The draft 24-month calendar reflects discussions with committee chairs and deputies. The draft also reflects these decision rules: All items listed for discussion will be followed at some point by a Board action or decision. Policy issues go to the appropriate committee for action before appearing on the Full Board. Other items appear as monitoring reports, which may or may not lead to policy discussion and decision, and if they do, the Board will modify its calendar accordingly. Monitoring reports are important, but need not be presented orally to the Board.
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