BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
Meeting in Brief: The EMSC-VESID Committee will continue the policy discussion on high schools. That committee will also discuss emergency regulations on aversive interventions, the Board’s family partnership policy, and the identification of persistently dangerous schools. The Committee on Higher Education and the Professional Practice will discuss regulations for CPA’s, and consider leadership regulations for adoption. That committee will also consider for adoption regulations for three new clinical professions. The Committee on Cultural Education will discuss a review of the recommendations of the Regents Commission on Library Services. All committees will discuss budget and legislative priorities for 2007. The Subcommittee on State Aid will continue development of the Regents state aid proposal. The Regents will discuss a report on health and mental health partnerships and talk with experts concerning the needs of families, current barriers, and recommendations for Regents action. The Regents will receive the monthly report on Roosevelt. The Board will talk with the co-chairs of the USNY Council on Technology. Regents will be meeting on Tuesday afternoon as trustees of the State Library, Museum, and Archives. On Monday, the Regents will recognize the 2006 Teacher of the Year.
Toward Higher Graduation Rates
The EMSC-VESID Committee will continue to lead the Board toward policy to improve graduation rates this month by raising three topics that could be part of the strategy: middle schools, Career and Technical Education, and the “community of practice” among educators in low-graduation rate high schools.
The Regents worked diligently to create new middle level policy, which is grounded on research and consultation with educators and the public. It provides three models to allow flexibility. A year after the Board’s decision, only two school districts applied for Model B and five for Model C. A staff report accounts for the sparse applications this way:
Middle level is part of any school leader’s plan to improve high school graduation. For example, leaders of the Big Five school districts have described their strategies to improve eighth grade performance to prevent high school failure. And our data show that level 1 performance on eighth grade exams is associated with low test-taking rates on the Regents exam in that subject.
Middle level results in mathematics are improving. English Language Arts is a major remaining problem. We need a tight focus on literacy in middle schools. What is the middle level curriculum in English Language Arts, who teaches it, what is the level of their preparation in teaching reading, and what would strengthen professional capacity in this subject? We also need a reliable transition from eighth grade to ninth grade so that students are ready for high school.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) responds to the demand for more relevance in the curriculum and so could be important to the high school strategy. Regents policy, again built on research and consultation, opened this pathway to a Regents diploma and an industry-respected endorsement. The Regents will discuss a report that presents data on enrollments, graduation rates, and test scores.
CTE enrollments overall in the big cities and the rest of the state are declining. New York City enrollments declined but appear to have stabilized in the last two years at 109,000. CTE enrollments in the rest of the state have declined to 18.5 percent of the students, down from 28.3 percent in 2000. CTE students in the cities and statewide outperform non-CTE students on Regents exams in English and mathematics and on graduation rates.
Some of the enrollment decline in certain CTE programs may reflect employment drops in related sectors of industry. There has always been concern about the course and exam requirements for CTE, but Regents requirements for approved CTE programs are rigorous because the requirements of the marketplace are rigorous. Particularly for the Big Five, we need a coherent, well-resourced strategy to build capacity and enrollment in Career and Technical Education.
The most promising strategy is to support the CTE approval process in the Big Five school districts. That will require Department staff commitments and district willingness to enter the approval process. The Regents CTE approval process is exacting and practical. It begins with self-study to determine alignment with the academic standards, industry requirements, and job market demands. Programs aspiring to approval must align their curricula with these requirements. An external review that includes business, labor, and representatives of approved programs keeps the standard high. Approval imposes a commitment to continuous improvement. Graduates of approved programs have a Regents diploma and proof that they meet industry standards as well. They are well prepared for work and further education.
And finally, changing graduation rates at the scale and pace we need is one of those problems that require participants to learn their way to a solution. We may have a platform for such learning in Destination Diploma. Teams from 127 schools have met for four two-day sessions since January 2005. These sessions are rich in opportunities to learn and plan. However, in my opinion we have not fully made the transition from a series of excellent conferences to a community of practice.
A community of practice is a relationship among colleagues who share continuous, intense opportunities to learn proven practice, apply that practice in their work, share results, modify what they are doing and keep learning. A small team returning to a large school with some new ideas faces obvious obstacles in putting what they have just learned in place. The community of practice has to emerge in their school as well as in the larger association with peers in other schools. The plans they bring back have to merge with the larger plans for the whole system.
The community of practice idea has potential. We have confirmed that all of the Big Five have assertive strategies to raise achievement. A tighter alignment between their efforts and ours may be the key.
Health, Mental Health, and Education Partnerships
At the Education Summit in November, the Regents and their USNY colleagues reached consensus on aggressive aims for the whole education system from pre-kindergarten to graduate school. By implication we also committed ourselves to removing the barriers to academic success wherever we find them. Many students face health and mental health barriers.
We are far from where we need to be even with instructional matters where we have direct influence. Yet even high quality curriculum, teacher preparation, and assessment are not sufficient. We must also engage our partners in health and mental health agencies at state, regional and local levels to create or expand systems to overcome health and mental health barriers. Fortunately, we have such partners. The Regents will discuss a report on health and mental health partnerships designed to identify and correct high incidence health and mental health problems. To help bring that report to life, Regents will talk with health and mental health leaders from New York City and Buffalo during the meeting.
Promising health practices include comprehensive school health programs, which have components specified by the Center for Disease Control; more school-based health centers, which currently serve 138,000 students; and community schools. Promising mental health practices include Positive Behavioral Interventions (PBIS) for children with developmental disabilities, and the New York State Office of Mental Health’s Achieving the Promise program, which has a new annual investment of $62 million behind it. These strategies are described in the staff report.
The staff paper recommends implementation strategies that include Regents policy on health and mental health in the context of raising achievement, interagency coordination, funding, and communications to all parties about what works. At each point, we must concentrate on a few programs that have been tested, on high incidence health and mental health problems, and on practical strategies to bring them to life. The list of ideas proposed is already too long in relation to the resources currently available. Success depends on honing our skills in joint venture, and expanding our knowledge of the perspectives of our partners. And we must think anew about implementation. Communication, for example, does not mean field memos. It means a sustained campaign using public broadcasting, training that includes all partners, and clear messages to the public.
Violent and Disruptive Incident Data
The 2003-04 and 2004-05 data on violent and disruptive incidents in schools are now public, and the media brought attention to the data statewide. We completed five monitoring visits and will conduct seven more before the Regents meet. We have a contract to begin additional training for school district personnel. Our next step is to identify schools that are “persistently dangerous” as required by No Child Left Behind. We will do that prior to the opening of school.
How to identify persistently dangerous schools is a policy question for the Regents. We propose a method that distinguishes the relative seriousness of various incidents, accounts for enrollment, and sets a threshold number of incidents beyond which a school is recognized as dangerous regardless of the average number of incidents per student. Schools that meet the criteria for two years will be identified. In practice, that means comparing 2004-05 data with 2005-06 data. The method should allow schools that are provisionally named to present information showing why they should not be. The resulting list must pass the test of reasonableness in the public eye.
The schedule for this decision is important. We will identify schools as persistently dangerous before the start of school. Prior to that, we must verify 2005-06 data and any claims that the school should not be identified. And prior to that, we must decide the method we will use. We need that decision no later than July.
Monthly Status Report on Roosevelt Union Free School District
The Regents requested monthly reports on progress and problems in Roosevelt School District. The Regents have a detailed report for June. Here are some of the highlights:
· We have two candidates for the fiscal administrator position and we will develop a wider pool with the New York State Association of School Business Officials.
· Superintendent Ronald Ross has identified a candidate for District Business Official and we are reviewing that recommendation.
· The second vote on the budget will take place on June 20, 2006. A defeat would reduce expenditures by $3.6 million, or 5.5 percent.
· Department staff has audited student cohort data and that work continues. This is relevant to the decision on whether or not the district has improved performance sufficient to be removed from the SURR list.
· There is extensive information in the report about the status of new school construction. In general, elementary school projects are progressing. The middle school costs are rising because of unexpected levels of buried debris on the site. The Department is working with the State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation, and with Nassau County to resolve these issues. The high school project is delayed by the middle school construction issues.
Aversive and Noxious Stimuli in Schools for Students with Disabilities
New York law and regulations do not prohibit the use of aversive and noxious behavioral interventions in schools, although other states do. In May the Regents discussed proposed regulations to prohibit the use of aversive and noxious stimuli in schools for students with disabilities, except under carefully defined and supervised conditions and for behaviors that pose significant health and safety concerns. The proposed regulations now incorporate Regents suggestions at the May meeting.
The Regents have received a summary of observations from two visits to the Judge Rotenberg Education Center, a Massachusetts school attended by New York students where aversive interventions are used. The summary showed reason for concern about the school’s use of aversive interventions. We have notified JRC that it must immediately stop using certain aversive interventions that threaten student health and safety. Failure to do so will affect the center’s approval to serve New York students. I have also informed the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education of the summary and provided a copy. And we have notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of our concerns.
We recommend that the Regents adopt the proposed regulations on an emergency basis.
Preparing a Technology Vision and Policy
The USNY Technology Policy and Practices Council will report to the Regents in November 2007. The discussion this month with the Council co-chairs will be one of several conversations to prepare us for action when that report arrives.
The Council has engaged professional help to identify technology use throughout USNY. The Council meanwhile has identified federal and state funding, gaps in broadband connectivity, emerging technologies, and the need for a compelling vision as important issues. The Regents will explore the Council’s thinking on these issues.
The widespread availability of information technology is transforming the global economy. Technology alters the costs of production, allows millions of people to enter the economy, and is changing education at every level. Information technology accelerates almost any change one can imagine.
Technology is part of our vision for USNY, the State Education Department of the future, and the Regents campaign to improve educational results. Therefore, we must have a deeper understanding of this force.
The Council will no doubt prepare a thoughtful report. The task for us is to prepare ourselves to receive that report and act upon its recommendations. An illustration of the challenge before us might help. The Regents acted within minutes of hearing the full report of the mathematics panel report because we understood mathematics, standards, assessment, and curriculum. The question I will have for the Council co-chairs is this: “How will you help us be just as prepared to act on your technology recommendations?”
Regulating Certified Public Accountancy
The Regents have discussed the need for legislative and regulatory reforms in public accountancy since 2002. There is nationwide awareness that oversight of the accountancy profession should be strengthened to align with the new federal regulatory model under Sarbanes-Oxley and the increasing amount of interstate practice that requires reporting to state and federal regulators. In March, the Committee on Higher Education and the Professions asked for three revisions to proposed amendments to the regulations. These revisions would update the list of entities that promulgate generally accepted auditing standards and accounting principles; establish revised reporting requirements; and establish definitions of unprofessional conduct based upon disciplinary actions of the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The proposal now includes those revisions.
We recommend that the Regents approve the amendment at their June meeting.
Clinical Laboratory Technology Professions
In 2004, three new licensed professions under the authority of the Board of Regents were established in statute: Clinical Laboratory Technologist, Cytotechnologist, and Clinical Laboratory Technician, bringing the total number of professions licensed, regulated and disciplined by the Regents to 47. The State Board for Clinical Laboratory Technology has been appointed by the Regents and this month the Regents will discuss regulations that establish the licensure requirements in these three new professions including education and examination requirements and “grandparenting” provisions for current practitioners, as well as requirements for registered college preparation programs for these new professions. Over 30,000 new licensees, who perform millions of vital laboratory tests each year, are anticipated as a result of this new law.
Well-prepared leaders are indispensable to raising student achievement. In 2003, the Regents established new standards for programs that prepare educational leaders. Forty-nine colleges and universities across New York State modified their educational leadership preparation programs (totaling 116 programs) to meet the new standards by September 2004. Consistent with the new program standards, this month the Regents will act on regulations that establish new certification requirements for educational leaders. Those requirements include completion of an approved program, certain experience requirements, and professional development requirements consistent with that already required for teachers. In response to comments, the regulations have been revised to postpone the new testing requirement for educational leaders to allow for time to consult with the field and ensure that the assessments are appropriate. The regulations before the Board this month permit experienced school district and school district business leaders who are certified in another state and have served for three or more years, to receive certification in New York State without taking the NYS certification examination. These regulations are an important step in assuring that educational leaders are appropriately prepared.
Family Partnership Policy
The current Regents policy on parent partnerships is 15 years old, and as the Regents item this month reports, conditions have changed significantly. It’s time for new policy. The proposed new policy statement is brief and clear, but now we need more public reaction. The accompanying report points to potential elements of implementation: Shouldn’t it leverage USNY institutions other than schools – libraries and museums, for example? Don’t we need resources? Should we hold schools accountable for effective parent involvement? How will we make the web of parent rights and resources transparent to all concerned?
Second Trusteeship Meeting
The Cultural Education Committee will have its second trusteeship meeting following the Regents regular agenda. New legislation that provides $40 million for renewal of the Museum and for a new collections and research facility requires the appointment of a Cultural Education Trust Board. Reviewing the legislation, the status of the projects it supports and the relationship of the Trust Board to the Regents will be discussed.
 Ronald A. Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass. 1994. Professor Heifetz describes what he calls “problems of the third kind,” which are difficult to define as problems and also difficult to resolve. Defining and solving such problems requires extensive learning on the part of leaders and whole organizations.
A monthly publication of the State Education Department
Back to Report Home Page | Return to SED Home Page