March 2002


Report to the State Board of Regents


The Meeting in Brief:

Action Items



Thank you, Carl Hayden

Carl Hayden concludes twelve years as Regent and seven years as Chancellor. His contribution to the education of New Yorkers, and especially our children, is unmatched because of his work with schools, colleges, libraries, museums, and public broadcasting, licensed professions, archives, and vocational rehabilitation. Setting standards – and then seeing that they are brought to life in practice – has been the fundamental task of the Board of Regents since the early days of the Republic. Carl Hayden fulfilled that task by the power of his personal example. On his watch, he set standards by living them.

Carl used his Chancellorship to look over the horizon to on-coming challenges. He declared the need to rethink teacher education and school leadership, and he set in motion the task force on the gaps in student achievement, and then he enabled others to devote their energies and ideas to these problems.

In 1995, the major newspapers published editorials calling for the abolition of the Regents. Carl Hayden responded by taking the Regents on the road to listen to the public and then act on what they heard. The Regents as a result are a respected voice in policy. In the years since, Carl missed no opportunity to build the Board. A strong Board built the foundations for local action that improved results for all New Yorkers.

Carl Hayden has the knack of knowing when to check the fine print and when to scan for the big themes. One could not outwork this Chancellor.

If one appears at the podium with Carl Hayden it is best to speak first. Following him is too hard, because few can match his wit or eloquence. Often people ask for a copy of his remarks only to discover that there is no text beyond a few notes on a legal pad. So there is some justice – he then has to write it up. Monthly press briefings after the Regents meetings are a delight for me, and also a challenge because of Carl’s irrepressible gift for the quote.

For almost seven years, Carl Hayden has been a friend for me in all seasons, ready for any challenge 

steadfast and faithful to his charge as Regent. We argued the issues in almost daily discussions, but there was never daylight between us in our public positions. In fourteen years as Commissioner in two states I have worked with many fine board leaders. Carl, you are the finest I have ever known.

What do the data say about finding leaders?

This year the Regents will probably make policy decisions on the preparation of school leaders. The Board never decides without data so this month’s discussion of research by Frank C. Papa Jr., Hamilton Lankford, and James Wyckoff is timely. The State Education Department commissioned this research in partnership with RAND and the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds. Here are some interesting findings, together with the questions they provoke:

There are many other findings concerning salaries (in New York City, comparisons of real salaries of inexperienced principals and veteran teachers now favor the principals), academic background (a declining proportion come from competitive colleges), and age (people are coming to the principalship later in their careers.) These data can help the Board shape policy to resolve the leadership shortage.

Changes in the testing schedule for 2003

Last November Deputy Commissioner Kadamus convened a Summit on Middle Grades Testing to hear once again the contending views on when to schedule the middle grades tests. The Summit produced recommendations that have led to the revised schedule that will come before the Regents Committee on Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education this month.

The new schedule follows the Summit recommendations in all but two areas. First, the participants in the Summit asked that results for science and social studies not be reported publicly for two more years. We had decided earlier not to report results in the first year – except to parents and teachers – to avoid adding pressure to schools. Now in the second year it seems appropriate to begin public reporting because schools will improve performance and the public should see this as it happens.

The second departure from the Summit recommendation is in the scheduling of mathematics exams. The educator perspective was to test as late in the year as possible to maximize instruction time prior to the test administration, but to report results before the end of the school year. These are contending objectives. The schedule provides for a late April or early May mathematics exam which will increase the likelihood of reported results before the summer.

A major change reflected in this schedule, which is consistent with Summit recommendation, is to make the technology test a local option. The prevailing local view is that there are too many tests in the middle grades. Technology educators may not agree with the recommendation. I am convinced, however, that this schedule is appropriate given the challenges to improve middle grades achievement in mathematics, English, science and social studies.

Roosevelt School District

The State Oversight Panel brings to the Regents for approval a revised Corrective Action Plan for Roosevelt as required by statute. The Panel is also acting under the Commissioner’s order issued in January to prepare a budget for action by the voters in Roosevelt. Local action on the budget is a critical next step.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has not agreed on a bill that includes the necessary changes to resolve the problems in governance, funding, or student achievement. The necessary actions, again, are these:

The legislation providing for state oversight in Roosevelt sunsets at the end of this month. We will use the SURR process in that event to continue the Regents effort to support improved results in Roosevelt.

Closing the gaps with new data leading to new knowledge about what works

Two years ago the State Education Department promised to report student achievement results by racial and ethnic groups. At the end of March, we will do that in the latest School Report Cards. Reporting results in this way has contributed to improved performance in states that have adopted this strategy earlier. In New York this will change how we perceive the gaps.

No longer will gaps in student achievement be an issue for the cities alone. Many communities may find unacceptable disparity in performance right in their backyards. If that happens, we can be confident that educators will exert themselves all the more to close these gaps. Their efforts will create new knowledge about how to improve student achievement, and powerful examples of how minority students can reach the same standards. Once that happens in enough places, who will be able to deny that all children can get a good education?

Simplicity in the search for teachers

I have had several opportunities recently to listen to student teachers, superintendents, deans and college presidents. On the problem of our teacher shortage, here are some thoughts:

Lots of people want to teach.
I get e-mail every day from them. I send a quick note back thanking them for their interest, then immediately refer them to Deputy Commissioner Duncan-Poitier for answers to their questions.

We need a simpler explanation of how to become a teacher.
Most people write to ask what they have to do to become a teacher. Why don’t we have a pocket card that lists three main paths with a few steps in the path? The answer may be in our regulations, which deserve another look. The cumulative effect of all the regulatory action over many years is an answer that is too long for a pocket card. But how complicated should it be?

We could work backwards from the answer to solve the problem. In New York City, for example, the answer is approximately 18,000. The City needs 18,000 teachers to meet the goal of no uncertified teachers. Working back from that fact, there are probably three or four combinations of traditional candidates, returning retirees, and alternate certificate candidates. I’ve asked my colleagues for a page that spells that out. We can’t hire the teachers but we can help by encouraging new alternative programs and faster certification.

Teacher certification shouldn’t take more than three weeks. The Office of Teaching is under a new 

Deputy Commissioner who led Office of Professions to two awards for public protection and rapid cycle time in licensing 39 professions. Johanna Duncan-Poitier and her team are attacking the backlog in teacher certification.

Supportive relationships between schools and higher education will help resolve the shortage.
In recent months, the District Superintendents and I met with leaders from the State University System and the Independent colleges and universities and the subject was teaching. The result was commitment to bring presidents and superintendents together regionally. Those who prepare teachers and those who hire them have common interests.

Federal update

The U.S. Department of Education has requested comments on the regulations that will guide implementation of the No Child Left Behind legislation. New York is well along in a reform effort based on high standards, so we will offer our views.

Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act will begin late this year. Deputy Commissioner Gloeckler and I are part of a work group jointly convened by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. We are drafting a statement of guiding principles now.

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Last Updated: November 01, 2004 (mcf)