July 2002
Report to the State Board of Regents

The Meeting in Brief: The July Regents meeting will be in two parts. On the morning of July 18 the Regents will have a brief full Board meeting to adopt the consent agenda and consider other items described in this report. For the rest of the two-day meeting, the Regents will conduct their annual policy retreat.

The State Education Department in the years ahead

In the April Report to the State Board of Regents, I described the current state of the Regents policy agenda. The piece that follows is a reflection on the future of the State Education Department. Both the April report and this one may be relevant now because one purpose of the Retreat is for the Board to reflect on the work ahead. The State Education Department must be an instrument of Regents policy.

This statement about aspects of the future State Education Department is only one person’s perspective, although my colleagues suggested improvements to an earlier draft. Obviously, there are many other ways to envision the State Education Department of the future, but one thing is certain: We cannot assume that the present state of things will endure into the future.

Standard setting – Standard setting in the future will be highly visible in most areas of the University. There will be continuous evaluation of results in relation to standards and periodic evaluation of the standards themselves.

Technology – The State Education Department in the future will live in a technology rich environment. We will use large databases, both national and in concert with institutions within the University. These data bases will include scientific, cultural, historical and many other materials. We will have numerous direct links to teachers, licensed professionals, presidents, and most other groups and individuals. We will use the next generation of the web, e-mail based videos, electronic data collection and publishing, and many other systems to connect with the people we serve. In the mid term we will have a very complex environment because some of our users will be amazingly sophisticated technologically while others will be just the opposite. We will have to engage people whatever their skills.

Speed – The public and the field will be intolerant of anything short of immediate in the area of basic services such as issuing licenses, and responding to information requests. Communication within SED staff will be continuous and much faster than today. We will communicate effectively and our spoken and written words will be brief.

Time to think -- In the future the State Education Department will combine speed of execution with time for reflection. The problems before us now and likely in the future will require reflection, consultation with others, research, and exploration of options. We will become known for our skill in convening groups of experts to create new knowledge.

Research and the generation of performance data – One of our strategic advantages will be continuous development of data on how the educational, professional and cultural systems are performing in relation to standards. We will also create and share other kinds of information demanded by the public. The public will tend to hold us accountable for the performance of institutions and individuals within the University.

Melding systems – The State Education Department will combine skills, perspectives, and systems from many parts of the University. For example, those working in secondary curriculum will need library and research skills. Our school reform will continue at the intersection of federal, state, and local strategies.

People -- We will have fewer staff – probably many fewer. We will become more diverse, and will serve an increasingly diverse population. The skills required of all who work here will be much higher than today. The Department will become a university to its own staff. Much of the work year of every staff member will be allocated to organized education to build internal capacity. Succession planning and leadership development will be relentless.

Testing and assessment – The State Education Department will continue to be a major public sector test development entity, but the tests will look very different. We will invent systems that do not depend on local security systems or centralized publication on paper. The computer will be the testing station.

Regional systems – We will become expert at brokering connections to get work done. The State Education Department has built and continues to build regional networks to do work in partnership with local educators. The boundaries between these networks and "SED-central" will blur.

Regulations – Our approach to regulating will be highly differentiated. The basic strategy will be to "win compliance" rather than to force it. Where performance is very far below standard, however, the State Education Department will enforce Regents standards aggressively.

The Board – The Regents will become even stronger and will be seen as the Trustees of the University of the State of New York. That is, the Regents will continually enhance the capacity of the University to raise the knowledge, skill, and opportunity of every New Yorker.

Preparing School Leaders

The University of the State of New York prepares school leaders through its many members. Many institutions participate, including colleges and universities, libraries and other cultural institutions, and local schools. The Regents responsibility is to set standards for who becomes a school leader and how they are to be prepared to lead. The Board’s commitment to enable all students to meet the academic standards is part of the context.

The Regents have an item this month that summarizes the comments from five forums on the draft statement of what we know and believe about the preparation of leaders. It mentions regulation of leadership education, assessment of leader candidates, continuing education, and review of leadership programs.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to consult with higher education, particularly presidents and deans, practicing school leaders, school board members, and people who are leaders in other fields. We have done that all along but the Regents are coming to a point of decision.

The traditional next move at this point is to adopt regulations. I suggest a light touch. We have seen that many alternatives to traditional leadership education are emerging as we have discussed this, and the most impressive examples link distinguished school leaders with colleges and universities. We do not need to compel people to do what they have already invented. Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to discourage, even prevent, practice that does not produce leaders capable of moving all children to high standards. Are there ways to encourage more of what looks promising? Can we regulate in a way that protects the public but avoids micro-management of a creative process that seems to be evolving rapidly? Might the Regents begin by adopting a brief statement of their policy on school leadership education?

2003-04 State Aid Proposal

In December the Regents will decide what to recommend to the Governor and Legislature about state aid to education. State aid is extremely complex and technical from an operational point of view. The politics of state aid is also complex, but in other ways. The legal perspective offers still other complexities, but the court action on state aid will continue and is not the matter before the Regents now. The policy questions on the Regents agenda are complex enough but the Board has confronted them anew each year and they must be resolved again in time for the practical matter of budget making to go forward for 2003-2004.

The Regents item on state aid begins with a summary of what has been achieved. We are in the third year of a five-year strategy on state aid. More of the aid increase is now going to high need school districts, although less than the Regents have proposed. The central strategy is to align state aid to help close the achievement gap. The decisions before the Board include recommitment to the goals of the proposal, and adoption of the framework of the future proposal.

Attachment B in the item states several policy questions that only the Board can resolve, and in fact must resolve one way or another to have a finished proposal. Some of these involve topics that have not arisen in this context in prior years: helping districts avoid financial distress, responding to changes in New York City governance, special act school districts. The Regents have addressed one other topic before in state aid discussions – support for nonpublic students – but recent court decisions have changed the context.

Professional Standards and Practices Board Report

David Caputo and Jean Rose, Co-Chairs of the State Professional Standards and Practices Board for Teaching, will report this month to the Regents on the work of their Board. This Board exists because of a Regents policy decision on teaching standards. This annual discussion is one opportunity for the Regents to reflect on the implementation of their policy.

The Standards and Practices Board dealt with a long list of issues in the last year. Among them was a code of ethics for teachers, review of the alternative certification program, our leadership initiative, and teacher recruitment and retention.

The Regents might begin the discussion with fundamental questions: Is the quality of the teaching force getting better? How do we know? Are the policies of the Regents taking hold? What else should we do to find and prepare the teachers that the children need?

Statewide School Improvement

The Regents have an agenda item for discussion on the elements of a statewide school improvement strategy. A useful Regents response would be guidance on how the Board would like to see this completed.

Several obvious changes in the environment will affect our future action. Mayoral control of New York City schools is the most significant of these. A strong and supportive relationship between state and city leaders is the critical goal now. It has to be founded on good data and clear communications. All early signs indicate that we are on that path together.

The No Child Left Behind Act is the second most important event affecting school improvement. While many educators around the nation seem concerned about the implementation, we need not be. New York anticipated most of the changes brought by the law. The U.S. Department of Education approved our Consolidated Application for funds under the law this month. That gives us $1.25 billion – thanks to the good work of our cross-Department team. No Child Left Behind gives new force to standards, assessment, reporting, and school improvement. Schools not meeting reasonable performance levels for all children will face very serious consequences. While discussion continues around the nation on how to amend the law or change it in practice through Department regulation, I think those approaches are pointless. The President and the Congress meant what they said. Let’s get on with it. In fact, we are getting on with it.

Yet another change is in our own financial condition. It will not be possible for low performing districts to budget more than the state aid system will provide and hope for rescue. The funds won’t be there in the immediate future. Neither they nor we can afford to make errors in our choices about where to apply the resources we have.

In the months ahead, the Regents and the State Education Department, along with our many partners and advisors, might devote attention to reducing our strategies to the core actions where we intend to persist over time no matter what. Among the likely strategies are those that identify children performing at the lowest levels, recruit the best teachers and leaders for the worst schools, and focus the funding on those in greatest need. We might also take the parents’ point of view. Parents want their children to be safe and to learn the fundamentals. No matter what else we do at a policy level, if parents don’t see their children getting those basic things, it’s all for nothing.

Finally, we might reexamine our focus on schools. There are 4000 schools in New York, and a sizable fraction of that number will be identified as not making adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. There will be too few Department staff to visit each school. We could do more to build the capacity of districts. Our work with Buffalo and with the Urban Forum suggests two promising directions. Let’s check into the details to see for ourselves.


Superintendent Horace Williams and the Interim Board of Education in Roosevelt have prepared the three plans required by the new law: an education plan, a five-year financial plan, and a facilities plan. On July 11, I will meet with the community to hear their views on those three plans. The Regents will receive these reports prior to the Regents meeting. I will also conduct the first quarterly review of the Superintendent’s performance.

A monthly publication of the State Education Department

Back to Report Home Page | Return to SED Home Page

Last Updated: November 01, 2004 (mcf)
URL: http://www.nysed.gov/comm/reg0