January 2006
Report to the State Board of Regents



The Meeting in Brief:  The Regents have asked for urgent action on the issues addressed in their Education Summit with USNY leaders. In January, they will discuss the Call to Action. The Regents are scheduled to decide policy on early education. The Regents will conduct their annual evaluation of the Commissioner in executive session, which the Board postponed from the December meeting.  The Higher Education and Professional Practice committee will hear a report from James Wyckoff and Daniel Boyd from SUNY Albany regarding the independent study being conducted that examines the different pathways for teacher preparation and their impact on student achievement. The EMSC-VESID Committee will discuss the proposed design for the Vocational Rehabilitation system in the context of the Board priority to prepare the State Education Department for the future. The Regents will review and act on charter school applications. The Regents will discuss their proposed federal agenda in preparation for a decision in February.


Call to Action


       The Regents have deplored the gap in achievement and challenged New York to raise academic achievement overall for many years.  Over a decade the Board deployed comprehensive reforms and performance has improved, as we can see in both NAEP and state test results, but we need still more improvement. To that end, the Regents convened the Education Summit and mobilized USNY to still greater action. They used data about the gap at every level from Pre-K through graduate school, and compelling testimony about the global stakes if we fail to raise achievement for all.


Summit participants accepted that challenge, agreed that in spite of recent improvements, current performance is not sufficient, and embraced three Regents priorities: early education, high school, and higher education. The Summit revealed broad commitment to action among USNY leaders.  The Regents built this commitment through months of regional meetings and also through their policy work in committee and full Board. In December, the Regents called for urgent follow-through, and many Board members are leading that follow-through in the communities they represent.


         Where do we stand now?  In response to the Chancellor’s request, we have A Call to Action, which presents a communication plan; a structure for state, regional and local action; and guidance for both policy and practice in early education, high school, and higher education.  Here are some of the observations Regents made about the Summit last month: The Summit advanced the related issues of raising achievement and closing the gap. We are starting the next generation of the reform effort, and we have begun to refine our message. Our standards, accountability, and State aid work provide the foundation for a Pre-K through 16 vision of education.  We will show the public and elected representatives results from the funds they invest from all sources: local, state, and federal.  And we are particularly determined to make urgent progress in early education, high school, and higher education.


Continuous communication to the educational community and the public is essential, and it needs to answer this question: Why is this performance gap my problem? Many leaders who participated in the Summit have followed through on personal commitments to communicate. In addition, I spoke to 20 groups about the Summit themes.


The material on policy and practice in A Call to Action builds upon recent Regents policy decisions and on-going policy discussions. To achieve urgency, the Call points to the most immediate, high-leverage actions to improve results. The Regents are about to decide policy on early education this month, and have already decided policy on higher education through the Statewide Plan for Higher Education. Their work on high school continues at an urgent pace, with new data that underscores the gaps in achievement and opportunity in the lowest performing high schools.


      The Deputy Commissioners and I established an internal steering group of senior staff. Their charge is to ensure rapid and coherent follow-through within the State Education Department on work from the Summit in response to Regents policy. The District Superintendents are committed to follow through regionally, as is The Business Council. The State Education Department staff members have participated in their own Summit, which enabled them to understand the same issues and data that Regents and other USNY leaders considered in November. The staff summit, like the USNY Summit, concluded with personal statements of commitment.


What can we do next? Again, in January the Regents plan to decide early education policy and discuss high school teacher data, starting with mathematics teachers. Chancellor Bennett and I propose that the Regents devote Regents committee and full Board meeting time over the next three months to discuss the three priorities, starting with a session on high schools and related topics with Chancellor Joel Klein in February, followed by similar discussions in March on implementing early education policy and implementing the higher education plan.  In April, we can again check from a Pre-K through 16 perspective to ensure coherence and rigor in both policy framework and implementation.  The full Board sessions, guided by the work of the Quality Committee, will keep attention on the links across USNY that appear in all three issues. These discussions build on the Regents desire for more full Board time and would focus on a vital few actions, supported by data. The aim is to build on the momentum created at the Summit.


Early Education: Policy Decision


      The EMSC-VESID Committee prepared the Regents for their policy decision on early education. A major strength of the proposal is that it is comprehensive and systematic.  In response to the December discussion, that committee will discuss two questions:



The State Aid Subcommittee will address: how to aid full-day kindergarten and Universal Pre-kindergarten.


While early education implementation won’t be discussed in detail until March, we begin now to consider cross-USNY issues. For example, pre-kindergarten capacity will include teacher preparation. We will want to know how many more teachers the policy will require when fully implemented, and where they will come from. Capacity building also involves encouraging teacher preparation programs to embrace the pre-kindergarten program performance indicators in the policy so that new teachers are ready when they start.


Another cross-USNY issue involves transition from pre-kindergarten to elementary school. There are many issues here, including differences between early education and elementary school teacher pay scales, teacher preparation and certification, assessments, and parent engagement practices.  We will look for ways to encourage local school leaders who are building stronger transitions. For example, school superintendents who can quickly tell you how many children are born each year in the communities they serve obviously have built connections with agencies beyond the schools. As those connections—and that dimension of leadership—become commonplace, it will be an indication that we are gaining the benefits of pre-kindergarten.


Improving High School: The Essential Next Step


      In New York, fewer than two-thirds of the students who entered 9th grade in 2000 graduated in four years. The problem is concentrated in 127 schools with graduation rates below 70 percent.  In December, the Regents examined data that compared those schools with all others.


Demographic Characteristics of Selected High Schools and All High Schools in 2003-04




Percent Eligible for FRPL



Percent Disabled



Percent Limited English Proficient



Percent Repeating Grade 9



Student Stability



Percent certified teachers



Books per 100 Students



Computers per 100 students



Suspension Rate




      These data underscore Kati Haycock’s message at the Summit: what happens to children once they get to school is a big part of the problem. The data also echo Perform or Perish, a prescient report to the Regents in 1994. The students in these schools are more likely to have teachers who, while certified, are not certified in the subject they teach.


       Regents demand urgent improvement in high school performance.  The Board considered seven actions they could take to accomplish that, and they are restated below.  These actions would build on existing Board policy: higher standards, assessments, accountability, course requirements for graduation, the SURR process, a governance system with a pre-K through 16 reach, teacher standards and improvements in teacher education, and the foundation formula proposal for State Aid. This month the Regents will discuss data about the certification of mathematics teachers in low performing high schools.


In addition, the Destination Diploma series of workshops created a professional community among faculty and administrators in the 127 schools.  School teams devoted eight days this year to work on promising practices with a high probability of success, including:


·       Transition from middle to high school

·       Expanding Career and Technical Education

·       Improving literacy across the curriculum

·       Effective extra help

·       Better strategies for students with disabilities and English Language Learners

·       Transition from high school to college and careers


Here, again, are the seven actions that can advance the Regents work on high schools.


Text Box: Set targets and measure results. The Regents can direct that the 127 high schools set targets for graduation and attendance and describe what they must do to meet them. The Regents would accept these targets or require other targets. The school boards would report results to the Regents annually. The Regents would define consequences for school boards that do not make reasonable progress. 
Make local school boards accountable for high school performance.      The Regents could require reports from school boards on results in the 127 high schools, and meet with the presidents and vice presidents of those boards to hear what they will do to gain further improvements. In the case of New York City, the meeting would be with the Chancellor of New York City. The responses may lead the Regents to define new policy.
Check teacher qualifications and order changes where necessary. The school boards responsible for the 127 schools would report the proportion of teachers who are certified in the subjects they are teaching, with particular attention to the subjects required for high school graduation.  Regents could require necessary improvements.
Strengthen teaching.  Faculties and administrators in high performing schools often conduct continuous professional development focused on proven curricula and lesson plans with opportunities for colleagues to further develop subject matter knowledge. If the Commissioner determines that this is necessary in any of the 127 schools, he could provide modest financial support and require schools to provide professional support.
Ensure safety. The Commissioner would review safety plans for the 127 schools and the data about incidents, including suspensions. Where necessary, the Commissioner would require immediate corrective action and evidence of follow-through.



Text Box:        Here are two other actions that would provide information essential to new policy on high schools:
Engage the public.    Using expert help, engage the public in these school communities to build a willingness to change the school for higher achievement. Many of the changes that will be needed to produce dramatically better results are likely to seem “not high school” to parents and other members of the public. The public owns the high schools, knows what they are supposed to look like, and will withhold support unless we engage and listen.
Meet the students. What do the students say? We haven’t asked them in a systematic way in New York, but the Public Agenda report called Getting By: What American Teenagers Really Think About Their Schools reported that 65 percent of students surveyed said they could do better if they tried. They wanted higher standards, something done about disruptive students, and teachers who treated them with respect. 
One student said, “You can just glide through…I mean you can do whatever you want…” That report was written in 1997. Unfortunately, it’s all too current. A student at the 2005 Regents Education Summit used almost the same words. In addition to all the other things we will do to improve high schools, let’s hear from the students in a systematic way. And let’s let the people of New York in on that conversation. 
What about the highest performers? These proposals are about some of the lowest performing high schools. What about the highest performers? Our global competition pays particular attention to the most proficient students. Higher education and business leaders who think about preserving our lead in innovation also think about our top students. We should recognize the highest performing schools, meet their students and teachers, encourage their continued reaching for still higher achievement, and we should make manifest what they do.














Policy Issues Relating to Persistently Dangerous Schools


      The EMSC-VESID Committee will discuss a proposal to improve reporting of violent and disruptive incidents in schools.  This is an essential step for ensuring safety in all schools, but it is particularly timely to the Regents debate about low performing high schools.       The proposal describes the policy issues and ways to resolve them. Here are the policy issues:


·       Timely, accurate and consistent reporting of data by school districts.

·       Establishment of an incentive/sanction system that promotes the accurate reporting of incidents and effective interventions in schools.

·       Identification and weighting of incidents used in designating a school as potentially persistently dangerous.

·       Elimination of reporting bias due to large or small enrollments.

·       Process to determine which schools that have been preliminarily identified should be designated as persistently dangerous.

·       Support to be given to schools participating in violence reduction initiatives and those identified as persistently dangerous.


In June the Board will consider the potential designation of schools as persistently dangerous for the 2006-07 school year.


A New VR System


       VESID has produced a design for a renewed vocational rehabilitation (VR) system that responds to the global economic challenge, expands capacity, and helps realize the potential of USNY. It is a particularly thoughtful example of the emerging State Education Department of the future.


      The EMSC-VESID Committee will discuss this design in preparation for a May full Board review of the timeline and strategies for implementation.


      The Regents have espoused a compelling vision about the independence of persons with disabilities and with the State Education Department they have pursued strategies to bring that vision to life in pre-kindergarten, state aid systems, teacher policy, regional facilities planning, access to the regular curriculum in school, advocacy for Independent Living Centers, and higher education access. Approximately 300,000 New Yorkers of working age have a disability but no job.  Having a job is part of independence for most people.  New York has not yet made significant inroads into the employment of persons with disabilities. 


      The VESID design for a renewed vocational rehabilitation system promises a much higher level of achievement.  Among the many attractive features are:


·       Rapid access to services

·       Transition services from school to employment

·       Enhanced collaboration with other public agencies

·       Expanded one-stop access for consumers

·       Linkage with the Workforce Investment Board system

·       Electronic records

·       More efficient use of the critical skills of VR counselors though a team concept

·       Better milestones to assess system performance

·       Comprehensive marketing


This design responds to Regents priorities and public needs at many levels, and it merits support leading to rapid implementation.


Re-engineering the SED Grants Process

      Here is another response to the commitments we made to prepare the State Education Department for the future: redesign grants management. Grants management involves all parts of the Department and $2.6 billion.   This has a huge effect on the work and effectiveness of USNY institutions. A cross-Department team has developed a single comprehensive assurance package, a standardized Request for Proposals (RFP) template, streamlined budget formats, and expedited payment and financial reporting systems. All five Deputies will use these new practices.

      The new system shifts the focus from overseeing the grant application to monitoring results for effectiveness. It removes pointless variations among different grants programs, and accelerates delivery of funds to where they can do the job intended. Additional stages in this redesign will deliver on-line application and review, and fully electronic records management.


Regents Federal Agenda


      The Regents will discuss a draft statement of their priorities for federal legislation this month to prepare for a decision in February.  The draft reflects Regents policy priorities and the aims developed at the Education Summit.  This USNY oriented draft underscores the connections among federal, state and local financial commitments. The 109th Congress will take up reauthorization debates that mirror many of the Regents policy discussions and prior decisions.  No Child Left Behind reauthorization is scheduled for the 110th Congress, but important preparations will probably begin this year. Workforce Investment Act reauthorization is important to the Regents work on closing the gap and developing the vocational rehabilitation system of the future.  The Higher Education Act has not yet passed both houses. If it does, that material will not appear in the February draft.  The Regents policy discussion on early education will have a federal counterpart in the Head Start reauthorization.  Regents interest in the congressional debates on cultural education will focus on continuation of federal funding.


      The Regents decision on their federal agenda will frame our advocacy during the 109th Congress, both in New York and especially in Washington, DC.  We will share it with members of the Congress, congressional staff, and the many interested groups.



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Last Updated: January 19, 2006