November 2002
Report to the State Board of Regents

The Meeting in Brief:  The theme of this meeting is strengthening connections between pre-K-12 and higher education. That theme will be visible in Regents visits to schools, BOCES, and higher education programs, and also in a discussion about the developing Syracuse Partnership Agreement. Meetings are scheduled with the District Superintendents’ Committee on Accountability and Low Performing Schools and with representatives from the Syracuse City School District and their community partners. Regents will meet the community in an evening forum.

State Aid

The conceptual State aid proposal is before the Regents in November in preparation for a policy decision in December, when the funding estimates will be attached. This is the fourth year in a five-year cycle of Regents State aid proposals, and again our proposal is intended to close the gaps in student achievement. Perhaps the best summary is simply to reprint here from the proposal two tables which define the research findings and the resulting policy directions.

Table 1. The Resource and Achievement Gap

  • The concentration of student poverty is associated with many educational needs.
  • There is a large number of students in New York State’s schools who have yet to meet State learning standards.
  • Districts with needier students tend to spend less.
  • Limited school district ability and willingness to raise local revenues results in limited educational offerings.
  • Less qualified teachers affect learning.
  • There is uneven support for career and technical education programs as a path to a high school diploma.
  • The cost of doing business varies around the State.



Table 2. Policy Directions for Regents State Aid Proposal

  • Focus on funding for high need school districts to close the achievement gap.
  • Strengthen student needs as a major State Aid factor.
  • Keep fiscal capacity as a major State Aid factor.
  • Treat local effort as a key policy concern, especially for high need school districts.
  • Treat recruitment and retention of teachers as a key policy concern.
  • Provide similar fiscal incentives for career and technical education programs around the State.
  • Provide State Aid in a manner that recognizes the cost of doing business.


I recommend that Regents approve the State aid proposal in concept.

Thoughts on Nonpublic School Aid

Nonpublic school aid was the subject of a joint meeting of the State Aid and EMSC committees in October. Regents are exploring this with great care.

The voucher issue is clouding the debate. The recent Supreme Court case (Zelman) is one reason for this. At least one Regent asked whether the discussion of nonpublic aid is an incremental continuation of prior discussions or something quite different.

The Regents think about State aid over the long term. They are, for example, at the fourth year of a five-year strategy. It was clear to everyone where they were going years ago. For the Regents, State aid is all about closing the gaps in student achievement – and has been for years. What is the long-term aim of proposals for nonpublic aid?

Here are some of the ideas suggested to the Regents: pay for public school teachers to provide Academic Intervention Services (AIS) to nonpublic school students in their own schools; loan computer hardware to nonpublic school students; pay non-public school teachers for training.

As we listen to advocates for proposals to create new nonpublic aid programs, one wonders if these are the first positions, to be followed in the coming years by still others. While it may be possible to craft proposals that will satisfy court scrutiny, where does this road lead?

The nonpublic schools face great financial pressures, as do all other parts of the University of the State of New York. If the long-term aim is to continue support for children in nonpublic schools consistent with long practice, and mindful of constitutional issues, then the discussion can be productive. If the aim is to create a new basis for fundamental support for nonpublic education with public funds, that is not a road to be on.

Here are some points to consider:

I recommend that the Regents again affirm support for nonpublic schools students by advocating for the increase for mandated services aid (already adopted by the Board in the Regents budget proposal) and continuation of other current aid programs, but I recommend against creating new programs.

NCLB: The Regents Prepare for Policy Decision on Accountability

In December the Regents will decide how New York schools will meet the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind. The item before the Board this month is a report of our staff discussions with the U.S. Department of Education and local educators. Our intent has been to afford New York schools the best possible opportunity to demonstrate "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) under the federal law and to maintain New York’s accountability system.

The discussions have been helpful but remain inconclusive until federal regulations are approved. It appears likely that our Performance Index and high school cohort approach will be approved. The combined effect of other federal decisions will make it harder than expected for our schools to demonstrate AYP. Examples include limits on the use of the alternate assessment in special education, the test of English as a second language, and the method of measuring performance at the district level. We continue to discuss these issues with federal officials.

Fundamental to the issue is the Regents decision on what constitutes proficiency. The Regents accountability system identifies proficiency as level 3 on the exam. In the short run, this will lead to more schools identified as in need of improvement. A retreat to level 2 would be short-sighted, however, because the only way to meet improvement gains would be to secure still more decreases in level 1 – and schools have already made the big gains in that area.

There is a more important reason to reject any suggestion to retreat from level 3. We know that level 3 represents meeting the Regents standards. To deny that now because of a federal law that arrived many years after the Regents pioneering effort would not be supportable.

Policy Decision on Priority Legislation

In October the Regents again considered legislative priorities, this time in the light of the Policy Conference. Now the matter is ready for decision. The proposal includes seven items for legislative action and two additional pieces that would enable New York statutes to conform to new or anticipated federal law.

The seven proposed priorities are:

All of the priorities reflect our Strategic Plan and extensive work by Regents committees and the full Board. I recommend adoption of the proposal.


With a report from five former and current college presidents, we have fulfilled an important condition of the Regents 1999 decision to approve the CUNY master plan amendment to change admissions standards.

The presidents, all from out of state, concluded that the CUNY policy on admissions was "implemented reasonably;" an impressive array of programs is in place as a result; the policy should continue; and the data are reliable. However, they also conclude that the policy has not been in place long enough to reach a definitive conclusion about its effects. As is so often the case with research reports, this one recommends more research over the next three to five years. It is notable, however, that all of the recommendations involve research that the presidents believe CUNY should conduct. The Regents, of course, will want to see the fruits of that further research.

There is one area where Regents attention could be helpful: advocacy. The presidents report that the funds devoted to implement the policy are modest and need to continue. Regents have asserted their intention to advocate for resources for higher education. Over the coming years, this would be a good place to act on that intention.

Use of Board Time

The Regents decided after their policy retreat this year to commit to a 24-month policy decision and policy review agenda. That agenda is still under development. This strategy has many advantages. For example, with such advance planning, all interested parties will have a greater opportunity to develop data, engage in debate, test assumptions, and hear from experts before the Board decides. To secure those advantages the Regents will want to use their committee and full Board time carefully.

The Regents have before them two options for their monthly schedule. The aim is to select one and then use the same format every month, except for the regional meetings. That decision would eliminate uncertainty and repetitive planning now caused by the need to redesign the schedule every month.

The Quality Committee discussed this in October. After hearing their views, I recommend the option in which all communities including, the Higher Education and Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education Committees, meet concurrently. This option would provide the most time for full Board discussion, while also offering ample time for committee work, listening to stakeholders, visiting experts, training, and Board advocacy with the Legislature and Executive.

Some members expressed concern about their need to be fully informed about the work of both Higher Education and EMSC and so favor an option without concurrent meetings. Here are some things to consider about that position.

If those two committees are not concurrent, they become, in effect committees of the whole. Instead of the Regents having two committees doing their work, they take on what should be committee tasks as a full Board, except that some participants can vote and some cannot.

The need for all members to be fully informed on key issues must be met, but that can be done without every member attending both committees. For example, Deputies and I can ensure that all Regents have concise briefing materials (similar to what we use in Regents development sessions and in advocacy documents) to ensure that they are prepared for decision points and also able to speak effectively to the important issues in their communities.

An additional way to keep all Regents informed of committee action is to provide for an oral report by committee chairs to the full Board, together with a written committee report, at each Regents meeting, with sufficient time for members to question committee chairs.

Only the Regents can decide how to use the time of the Board. The aproach outlined here will enable the Regents to prepare themselves to decide a greater array of complex policy issues – issues that cannot be resolved anywhere else.

Partnership Agreements to Improve Student Achievement

The State Education Department is developing partnership agreements with certain urban school districts to support their efforts to improve student achievement. The first such agreement was created in Buffalo.

Syracuse leaders are working on their own version of a partnership agreement. In November, the Regents will talk with the Syracuse leaders and various stakeholders and partners who are formulating the draft partnership agreement between Syracuse and the State Education Department. This is not intended as a presentation but as part of a serious and continuing search for actions and relationships that will raise achievement for Syracuse children.

Department staff has also begun work with Rochester on a similar agreement.





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Last Updated: November 01, 2004