December 2006
Report to the State Board of Regents


Meeting in Brief.  This month the Board will hear a presentation by Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Mr. Canada is also the author of Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun. The EMSC-VESID Committee will continue their discussion on health and mental health and also strategies to close the achievement gap for ELL Students. The HE/PP Committee will take action on proprietary college regulations. The Cultural Education Committee conversation will focus on the 2007 Regents priority legislative initiatives.


The Standards, USNY and a P-16 Perspective


       Students and their parents see education differently from many leaders who work in school, college, or library.  As one college president said at a regional meeting prior to the USNY Summit, of necessity we focus on the one organization where we work – on its mission, clients, challenges and risks. Students and parents are more likely to think of the whole system. How else can we explain the 80 percent of New York high school seniors who plan on post secondary education, or the report that New York students lead the nation in the proportion who sit for College Board examinations? Students who succeed go very far indeed. They expect to go the whole distance and we must encourage them.  Other students may not see themselves beyond high school. They are the students in the gap, the ones who cannot negotiate the transitions from one part of the system to the next.  We must do all we can to enable them with new skills and confidence.


       The Regents have taken a whole-system or P-16 point of view. They have pressed others to see the situation that way in the Summit and in their subsequent plans and budget proposals.  In October the Regents approved a P-16 plan, with revisions as the Board directed. Recently school leaders have asked what USNY and the P-16 perspective have to do with the standards-based reform. The answer is that these concepts are part of a coherent whole.  The standards defined what students should know and be able to do and performance improved as educators changed practice to lift students to the standards. But many students aren’t succeeding and in addition, high school graduation is not sufficient. So we expand our perspective, as the Regents have insisted, to include the whole educational system from pre-kindergarten through higher education. 



       The preparation for the Summit and its aftermath showed that enabling all students to meet the standards requires all the institutional capacity available in USNY. The big picture view may seem radical to us, but to students, parents, and employers, it is practical.  We engage USNY and the whole system because we must.  We have not abandoned the standards but seek to renew them and bring new institutional resources to the task.


Health/Mental Health Partnerships


       The first USNY aim is: “Every child will get a good start.”  Those words may bring pre-kindergarten to mind, but people working directly with children in many schools will think first of the health and mental health conditions that weigh down both child and parents before learning is possible. 


       In their P-16 plan, the Regents committed to reducing the barriers to teaching and learning in high need schools by creating a vision and leadership framework for an integrated education, health and mental health collaboration. They also committed to actions that build upon some opportunities right before us. The Regents in December will discuss a paper that describes those opportunities.


       Among the concepts that we agreed to create in cooperation with others are these: an interagency health and mental health council,  the Children’s Mental Health Plan required by new legislation, guidelines to incorporate social and emotional development into elementary and secondary school programs, and a family partnerships policy.


       By the time the Regents meet, we will have also talked with a diverse group of leaders who share our concerns and have created solutions to parts of the problem.  We have invited them to help define that vision and leadership framework.  The Regents will have their advice just prior to the Board meeting.


       There are many good ideas and promising actions. Our challenge is to find the few most likely to improve outcomes for children.  And the outcomes we seek are dramatically improved student achievement, which becomes possible when the health and mental health barriers are overcome.


Gap Closing Strategies for English Language Learners


       The Regents P-16 strategy to raise achievement and close the gaps points to certain groups of students who need more help.  English Language Learners (ELL) are one such group. The Regents will discuss results from the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT), and the actions that these results demand.  The test measures three dimensions of language acquisition: listening and speaking; reading and writing; and overall proficiency.  Students must achieve overall proficiency in English to leave ESL and bilingual programs. This year, only 15.4 percent of the 192,425 ELL students attained proficiency.


       The P-16 plan outlines actions to improve ELL results, and the Regents item this month is consistent with that plan. It describes four actions, which include holding schools and districts accountable for meeting improvement targets for English Language Learners, increased monitoring to ensure that students receive the required time and services in English, improved instruction through teacher recruitment and professional development, and increased outreach to parents to help them improve their own reading, writing and speaking in English.  Regents discussion of this item might focus on whether or not this approach is sufficiently robust, given the data.  In my opinion, we must concentrate on these few actions and with greater intensity than in the past.  The measures that matter are improved student achievement. This year, the percentage of students achieving proficiency increased only slightly and from a low starting point. This is not sufficient.


       We present this item in the context of an on-going disagreement with the U.S. Education Department over one aspect of the implementation of No Child Left Behind.  According to USED staff, New York and four other states tried to use their ELP/ELL assessment for Title I purposes; none was accepted. USED has required New York to administer the ELA exams to ELL students who have been in the United States for more than a year.  We strongly objected to this requirement in discussions responding to the peer review of our assessment, which is a process required of all states under NCLB.  USED, however, is the agency responsible for administering No Child Left Behind. 


       The USED would have imposed financial penalties of 10 percent of New York’s administrative aid if we had not provided an approvable plan, with an additional loss of 25 percent of the aid to follow if New York did not comply with that plan by July 2007. They already withheld funds in other states. In addition, New York depends on flexibility in the use of federal administrative funds from all Titles. Because 54 percent of SED’s operational funding is from federal sources, USED can grant or withhold that flexibility annually.  Without an approved plan in response to the peer review, USED will withhold the flexibility, which would have a $4 million negative impact. We have provided a plan and we will make that plan work.   Meanwhile, I have spoken repeatedly with Assistant Secretary Henry Johnson about the matter, and followed with a letter proposing at least a two year opportunity for the children.  We will continue to advocate publicly and with our Congressional representatives for a change in policy.


Proprietary Colleges


      The Regents will consider strengthening their policy on the regulation of proprietary colleges to protect the public and the integrity of this sector of higher education.  The Regents item proposes regulatory amendments that would require a transition period before new proprietary colleges receive final authority to award degrees. Further, the amendments would require that the sale of degree granting colleges be approved prior to purchase and that the new owners demonstrate the capacity to meet educational and financial standards to operate the institution.


       These proposed actions follow a Regents review of policy, with a report to the Board in May, and a series of aggressive actions by the State Education Department to investigate certain high risk proprietary colleges.  The Department recently closed one such institution and, with the help of nearly two dozen other colleges, provided alternative placements for 650 students who otherwise would have had no education and would have lost at least a portion of their Tuition Assistance Program eligibility.


       We recommend that the Regents adopt the proposed amendment to the regulations.


State Aid


       The Court of Appeals has decided the 13-year-old legal challenge to the state school aid system.  The Court finds an annual increase of $1.94 billion in 2004 dollars to be a reasonable minimum for New York City, and found that New York has an acceptable accountability system. The majority opinion repeatedly cites the Regents contributions.  The Executive and the Legislature now will establish a state aid figure.  The Regents have recommended a statewide increase of approximately $1.5 billion, pending the November 15 revision of the data, which will result in a proposed adjustment in that figure as we anticipated in October.  The Regents will consider the new data, and the Court decision, and make any adjustment they think appropriate. 


       The Regents have a thoughtful state aid proposal that reflects what successful education programs cost.  It uses appropriate adjustments for student need, regional cost, and local capacity that have won the support of many participants in this debate.  It is transparent so that all citizens can understand it. It is paired with a robust accountability system, which the Regents propose to strengthen even further to ensure that new funds are spent to good effect.  It is a solution ready at hand, just when needed.


Roosevelt School District


       The Regents will discuss the monthly report on Roosevelt School District.  As you will see, I am not satisfied with current results.  Here are some of the important points:



High School and College Alignment


       The Statewide Plan for Higher Education commits the colleges and Regents to stronger alignment between high school and higher education, and the Regents built on that in the P-16 plan, which includes renewal of the learning standards to ensure that high school completion means college readiness. 


       The Regents Policy Integration and Innovation Committee will begin a series of discussions on high school and college alignment this month with three higher education leaders.


A Future Topic: Strengthen Teaching


       This month, the U.S. Department of Education approved our plans to ensure that all teachers become highly qualified, as defined in No Child Left Behind.  An important component in that plan is the school-by-school accounting of how many teachers are highly qualified. The Regents are on top of this problem. Their P-16 plan requires that all teachers in core academic subjects become certified in the subject they are teaching by July 2007.  Our plan further promises reports on the percentage of low income and minority students, as compared to other students, who are assigned unqualified, out-of-field, and inexperienced teachers in core subjects.  The Regents and the State Education Department have documented an unequal distribution of teaching talent in New York schools.  The problem they have identified is a contributor to the achievement gap. The task immediately ahead is to solve this problem.





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Last Updated: November 27, 2006