December, 2003 The Meeting in Brief:
The Regents will take up several items from their 24-month policy calendar,
including some items for decision and others that will launch policy
development during the coming year. The Regents will adopt a recommendation to
the Executive and Legislature on state aid to schools, and a report on the
implementation of the charter school law. The Regents will complete a final
review of its Federal Legislative Agenda. The Regents will adopt a performance
agreement with the Commissioner for 2004.
BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER RICHARD P. MILLS
The Meeting in Brief: The Regents will take up several items from their 24-month policy calendar, including some items for decision and others that will launch policy development during the coming year. The Regents will adopt a recommendation to the Executive and Legislature on state aid to schools, and a report on the implementation of the charter school law. The Regents will complete a final review of its Federal Legislative Agenda. The Regents will adopt a performance agreement with the Commissioner for 2004.
A Foundation Proposal for State Aid
The Subcommittee on State Aid will recommend to the Full Board a state aid proposal based on a foundation approach in accordance with the Regents unanimous decision at the November meeting. A foundation formula will establish a direct link between the education that all children need and the funds required. The proposal will include a recommended amount for 2004-05 and projections for future years. These will be working numbers and the subcommittee will continue to reflect on the research of other groups as the state aid debate develops during the legislative session.
The Regents Federal Agenda is before the Board for adoption this month and distribution in January. The Congress has many pending reauthorizations that were not concluded in the first session of the 108th Congress including Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and must begin work on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the Perkins Act. These fundamental laws affect many parts of USNY and also state education agency operations, which are so heavily dependent upon federal funding.
OCE Fund Sunset
The State Museum, Library, Archives and Public Broadcasting are now supported by Local Government Records Management fees, and not through the General Fund. The law governing these fees is scheduled to sunset in December 2005. The cultural education institutions under the Regents care must not be subject to the possibility of loss of all funding every five years. Such uncertainty would undermine the quality of these vital institutions. The Local Government Records Advisory Council has proposed the permanent lifting of this sunset provision. The Regents Cultural Education Committee has come to the same position and will review a potential advocacy position with the Full Board.
Recommendations on Charter Schools
The Regents discussed a draft report to the Governor and Legislature on the educational effectiveness of the charter school approach. That report is legally required by December 31. The draft report finds no basis for raising the limit on the number of charters issued by the Regents, but would allow school boards as chartering entities to create charter schools without limit. The report also finds no basis for terminating the charter approach. It does include several recommendations to modify the charter school law to improve the application and review process. The Regents will make any further revisions to the draft and then vote on the report this month.
Early Childhood Education
The EMSC-VESID committee will discuss a staff paper this month which outlines the history of early childhood education, lists relevant literature, and proposes a series of forums during the spring leading to a Regents decision to renew policy. The forums are a good idea.
The paper describes significant gains over the last decade, including rising elementary reading scores, and dramatic increases in the number of children who attend full day kindergarten, children with disabilities educated in integrated settings and pre-kindergarten. How can we build on this success to secure still more benefits for more children?
The forums will certainly attract practitioners in early childhood education, but we must expand the audience far beyond. Early childhood is an obvious point of contact with health and human services, and with parent groups. The brain research that has been so important to early childhood educational practice points directly to new thinking about teaching reading. With the new reading funds, we can now ask, "What will it take to enable every child to read?" With still better reading results, we can ask, "What will it take to enable all children to reach or surpass the graduation standards? And whenever we think of reading, we are reminded of the growing alliance in support of New Century Libraries.
Early childhood education is part of the Regents strategy to close the achievement gaps, raise the achievement of children with disabilities and part of the capacity that will get all students to 65 or above on the Regents exams. Early childhood education can no longer be thought of as a program apart from the rest of education. Rather, it is the foundation for USNY.
The Regents and State Education Department are responsible for enormous and irreplaceable library, museum, and archives collections. We recognize that responsibility in our goals and strategic plan. The Office of Cultural Education has commissioned an expert review of collection space and environmental controls and drawn our attention to very serious issues that we must address. Our collections have outgrown the facilities, and uncontrolled temperature fluctuations and other environmental issues threaten parts of those collections. Creating policy guidance to resolve this problem is initially the work of the Cultural Education Committee but ultimately will require the attention of the Full Board.
Consider our new situation. The Archives celebrated a 25th anniversary this year that was marked by numerous professional awards. The Museum created powerful exhibits on the World Trade Center attack, which have drawn national attention, and also created joint art exhibits with the great museums of New York City. The State Library has united the library communities behind a visionary New Century Library proposal. This display of excellence has created a condition of special advantage for the Regents as they think about the future of the collections but we will have to act boldly. Excellence will help draw the resources we will need. But excellence is threatened by failure to secure those resources.
A good place to start might be for the Regents to hear from the members of the expert panel.
The Regents completed their evaluation of the Commissioner in November on the basis of the 2003 performance agreement between the Board and the Commissioner. In December, the Board and Commissioner will decide on a performance agreement for 2004.
Guest Speaker – Karen Pittman on a Youth-Centered Vision of Education Reform
The Regents guest speaker this month will have comments that are relevant to the gap closing effort and especially timely in the light of the continuing debate about middle level policy and regulation.
Think about a time when you were learning fast, growing in competence, trying new skills, developing new perspectives on the world – all with an intensity that was surprising. Then think about where this happened. Odds are that it wasn’t all happening in a formal school setting. School or college or some other formal learning setting was probably part of it, even a big part, but there were probably also complementary experiences in the workplace, with family and friends, with sports or music, with social organizations, libraries or other cultural institutions. The impression I get from reading two papers contributed by Karen Pittman is that we ask too much when we expect schools alone to deliver those peak learning experiences for young people. It is difficult, but possible, however, for communities that include schools to sustain the conditions necessary for that kind of learning. What would it take? Karen Pittman is Executive Director of the Forum for Youth Investment, and our discussion with her offers a chance to seek answers to that question.
Vocational Rehabilitation for the Future
For many years, VESID has led in using data to achieve continuous improvement in vocational rehabilitation. For example, VESID regional and state offices share effective practices, build relationships with partners, examine performance, and above all, find jobs for more people with disabilities. Several factors have made this quest of quality more challenging. Rising numbers of consumers, resource limitations, retirements among VESID staff, and changes in federal programs all suggest the need for a comprehensive look at the vocational rehabilitation system in 2004. Regents have discussed these issues in Committee and in Regents Policy Conferences.
As always, our aims are to increase the number of placements, ensure financial viability, and improve quality. We will engage our many partners including consumers, advocates, staff in VESID and elsewhere in the State Education Department, service providers, Independent Living Centers, community organizations and other state agencies.
We will build on recent achievements to improve outreach, service delivery, outcomes, and consumer satisfaction. The Regents can expect progress reports in the spring, and recommendations for implementation in November 2004.
Preparing Mathematics Teachers
The Committee on Higher Education and Professional Practice will review the Independent Panel recommendations on preparation of math teachers and the plans to continue discussions with the higher education community on this issue.
Preparing for University Convocation
The Quality Committee has called for a USNY Convocation in late 2004. We have identified a planning group representing many parts of the University. Their task will be to advise the Regents in shaping the work of the Convocation. This will be a celebration of the USNY Centennial, and an opportunity to focus the vast talents of the University on the most significant challenges.
Major Development in Professional Regulation
This month the Regents will hear about a new law giving the Regents additional authority to prosecute the illegal practice of the professions. This discussion will include a description of the law, implementation challenges, and next steps. We will also describe the views of participants at the Department's December 10 leadership forum with each of the professional associations representing the 44 licensed professions.
Thank you, Brian McLane
Brian McLane has announced that he will retire at the end of December. Brian has unmatched gifts as an advocate, a student of the legislative process, and as a builder of alliances and joint ventures to help other people build better lives. Thank you, Brian, for doing your part in this great work with such energy and care. Thank you for the productive relationships you created among so many partners. And thank you for what you taught us about how to do our own work to greater effect.
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