January 2002

Report to the State Board of Regents

The Meeting in Brief:

Regents Meeting in New York City

The Regents continue their practice of convening three times a year in local communities. In January, the meeting is in New York City. These regional meetings build bridges between the policy work of the Board and the local efforts they are intended to support.

This month, the Regents will visit a large number of elementary, middle and high schools. Some are clearly high performers while others are struggling. Some are on the SURR list but on their way up. One group of Regents will visit an educational program on Rikers Island, which is expression of the Board’s interest in education in correctional facilities. The Regents will also meet Presidents of Community School Boards. This discussion is part of a series of discussions Regents have had in recent years – with parents, college presidents, school principals, superintendents, and so many other partners in education.

The Regents are realizing their wish from last fall: The Board will recognize and celebrate the conduct of New York City educators on the morning of September 11 -- educators who protected the children under their care under most difficult circumstances. Finally, the Regents will listen to the views of parents and other community members.

Action Items

Schools Under Registration Review

For the first time in New York City, more schools came off the list (19) than were added (12). This is an opportunity to recognize the City’s growing success in improving the lowest performing schools. Their knowledge and experience can help other communities. Statewide, I added 20 schools and removed 20.

The SURR strategy also continues to demonstrate success. There are now more former SURR schools in operation than there are current ones. Turning around low performing schools is difficult, but the strategy works.

Buffalo has four more schools under registration review for a total of ten. Deputy Commissioner Kadamus and his colleagues, District Superintendent Donald Ogilvie, and Buffalo Superintendent Canedo are working through the details of a Buffalo plan to support improvement in those schools.

More than half of the new additions to the list statewide are middle schools. This is one more reminder that New York must engage the issue of quality in middle school education. The regional sessions to highlight successful middle school practice begin this month.

State of the State Message

In his 2002 State of the State Message, Governor Pataki spoke of the need "to throw out the existing school aid formula and to achieve equity –without pitting one school district against another." He proposed flexibility in the use of resources and "schoolwide performance incentives for teachers that show the most improvement in meeting our high learning standards." In this context – as it is further amplified by the Executive Budget message to come – we will advocate for the Regents comprehensive proposal on state aid.

The Governor set a goal of "ensuring that every child—not just some children, but all children—pass the standardized tests in fourth and eighth grades, as a foundation for graduation with a world-class diploma."

He also called for mayoral control of education in the big cities.

The Governor will be proposing a new initiative which will use SUNY and CUNY campuses to provide students with "additional learning opportunities, and provide our teachers with the tool they need to achieve our educational goals."

The Meaning of the New Federal Legislation

It was long in coming, and there will be a lot of work ahead to implement all of it, but much of the Elementary and Secondary Reauthorization reinforces familiar strategies for New York. The focus on standards, steady improvement, assessment, reporting – Regents and New York educators have been at all of that for a long time. The new requirement that there be a qualified teacher in every public classroom by 2005 is an important backstop to Regents policy. The new funding and the new opportunities for funding flexibility will help schools, and particularly urban school districts. Reporting student performance by groups of students will add new leverage to local efforts to improve results.

Most significant is the better alignment among local, state and federal education policy on raising performance and closing the gaps. It is an unending task for leaders at every level to sustain coherent strategies. The new legislation supports this work and is welcome.

During the development of this legislation the debate was intense, and many of those arguments linger in the minds of participants. Some are still concerned, for example, about new testing requirements in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7 in New York. We all had our say and New York’s delegation worked hard to convey those ideas in the debate. Now it is law and we are going to make it work for our children. We will implement the annual reading and mathematics assessments in ways that cause the least disruption for the greatest educational benefit. I know that we can count on the expertise and commitment of New York’s education community.

Superseding the Roosevelt Board

The Roosevelt Board has refused to act on two items in the Commissioner’s Order concerning the urgent need to align spending with available resources. Therefore, I will supersede the Roosevelt Board of Education on these items, and the Oversight Panel will act in place of the Board to comply with the Order. The Panel is one member below the statutory minimum because of a recent resignation. Therefore, I recommend that the Regents add three members to make up a total of five on the Panel. The three are Richard Cate, Chief Operating Officer of the State Education Department, Edward McCormick, past president of the New York School Boards Association, and Laval Wilson, former superintendent of schools in several communities in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The Panel will meet in a public session in Roosevelt at 7:30 p.m. on January 15 to describe the financial situation and then take action on the Commissioner’s Order.

New Help in Closing the Gaps

Closing the gaps in student achievement is one of the highest priorities for the Regents, one that touches on more Regents initiatives than any other. Leadership, teaching, libraries, state aid – all of these along with so many other topics are connected to the campaign to raise student achievement and close the gaps.

After the Regents committed to this issue, I convened an advisory group to advise the Board on this matter in December 1998. They served long and to good effect. The Regents adopted their recommended strategies, and the advisory group concluded their work with our thanks. Now we are about to convene a new group with a new, two-part charge. We need advice on implementation, and the two subcommittees of the Statewide Gap Advisory Committee will address 1) communication, advocacy and support, and 2) improving classroom instruction.

High-leverage Actions to Close the Gaps

Kati Haycock of the Education Trust has suggested three strategies to close student performance gaps and I invited her to a work session this month to develop the ideas with members of the State Education Department. Here are the strategies:

The yield from last week’s day-long session will support the work of the Regents Task Force on Closing the Gap and discussions with colleagues in higher education and the schools. Look for the details.

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Last Updated: November 01, 2004 (mcf)
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