BY STATE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER
RICHARD P. MILLS
A Challenge We Must Meet
This is the best education budget I have
seen in 30 years of service in three states. Governor Spitzer has embraced and
built upon major Regents priorities. He has brought to the task resources and
leadership that only a governor can bring.
The budget promises a four-year increase of $7 billion to be distributed
through a Foundation Aid formula that would vastly increase the opportunity for
poorest children. The budget includes big increases for Universal
Pre-kindergarten, cultural education, accountability, and the capacity of the
State Education Department. And with the commitment of funds comes an urgent,
insistent, and totally appropriate demand for accountability and improved
results. The Regents and the State
Education Department have the task of bringing that enhanced accountability
system into operation. We will meet this challenge.
The Article VII language that is part of
the Executive budget includes a long list of actions that are consistent with
the Regents P-16 Plan, and again, the Governor has expressed urgency through
the choice of delivery dates for key elements of the proposal. As the Governor was announcing his budget, we
assembled a first draft operational plan to get the work done. Budget proposals become enacted budgets only
after the legislative process. The accountability and reform timetable included
with this one, however, is so urgent that we must assume it will pass and begin
all the design and Regents policy work now.
To wait and see would be to wait and fail. We expect to succeed.
For example, we must set targets for
school improvement based not only on tests but also on high school graduation
and college attendance and completion.
Between now and the end of May we must establish a menu of approved
programs for the expenditure of new state aid; rules for the Contract for
Excellence plan that all schools must submit for the 2007-2008 year; a
Distinguished Educators program to help certain schools improve performance;
and convene a Task Force on Preschool Special Education. Five more major tasks are slated for the
summer months, including expansion of SURR, creation of plans for school
intervention, evaluation of teacher education, and creating the schedule to
review the learning standards. All of
this is consistent with the Regents P-16 Plan. All of it is consistent with the
Board’s own demand for urgency after what they learned at the USNY Summit.
Setting Graduation Targets
are approaching the moment for the Regents to set high school graduation
targets. There are several elements to consider. We will soon have new data on
the cohort of students who entered 9th grade in 2002 so that we can
compare with 2000 and 2001 cohorts as additional children from those classes
graduated. We also have an Executive
budget proposal that would provide large aid increases to schools in greatest
need, and $20 million to boost SED capacity to improve low-performing schools
through intervention teams. Later in the
spring we will also have a menu of promising practices and the Contracts for
Excellence in which certain school districts will show how they plan to spend
the new state aid.
Do effective practices exist in this area?
I am convinced that they do. Last year I
visited several urban high schools with low graduation rates. Those visits, which included long
conversations with some accomplished school principals, are reported in earlier
reports to the Regents. This week I
called some of those leaders again to ask what annual graduation increments
seem feasible, what tactics worked in reaching them, and how newer principals
could learn those tactics. These leaders
are among the masters of their profession. Their estimates of feasible annual
gains in graduation rates, based on their own experiences over three years,
ranged from 3-4 points in one case, 6-7 in another, and a whopping 15 percent
in a third.
Those same principals use many strategies
to improve graduation rates. Here is a combination of what several leaders do:
- Focus on improving the 9th
grade promotion rate. This starts with “bridge” programs in the summer for
students with low 8th grade scores. New
York City has been able to estimate the
probability of graduation based on a threshold number of credits upon
entering 9th grade. That
knowledge makes the summer bridge program an urgent matter.
- Figure out which children are
in which cohort at the start of school. This makes the challenge more
focused, less daunting.
- Know the data, know the children
personally, and make sure all the other adults do, too.
- Tell the entering 9th
graders that some will graduate in four years, and the others “have skills
that we will work on,” and they too will graduate in years five or six.
Let no one feel excluded or like a failure.
- Work on those skills through
morning, afternoon and evening sessions in flexible groups so students can
easily move to a new group to learn the next skill set as they progress.
- Use short diagnostic tests
often during the year to check gains in the skills measured by the
standards and the Regents exams. Keep reassessing to ensure that students
really grasp the content.
- By the middle of 9th
grade, the students needing intensive help get an “Advocate,” who is a
teacher committed to talking with each of the 15 students in that
teacher’s care every single day.
- In June of senior year,
identify the students who are just a credit or two away from graduation.
Assign someone to stay in daily contact with each of them and their
families, and support the students through summer school and the August
Regents. (August results are very
important to these principals, and they object to an accountability system
that doesn’t recognize these gains.)
- Schedule twice weekly
“level-alike” meetings of teachers to examine student work, teacher
practice, and the interim assessments that gauge student progress. Share
the notes from these professional conversations.
- Make sure the support systems
are in place: attendance taking and analysis, social services, guidance.
That list only begins to describe what the
most accomplished school leaders do.
Where can a new or even not so new principal learn these tactics? That’s the problem. In New
York City, the Chancellor’s new organization will
offer each principal a choice of three entities that will provide professional
development and other services. BOCES, Teacher Centers,
and the School Support Centers
are potential sources elsewhere in the State. But the leaders I spoke to did
not report a robust system existing now to teach these effective
practices. A stopgap solution would be
to assemble several of the most able practitioners and ask them to define what
works for the rest of us. A practitioner’s guide to improving graduation rates
could be a voluntary training tool statewide. But as one leader told me,
context is important, and principals in different situations have improved
graduation with quite different strategies.
York City reorganization is relevant to the target
setting question. The sources of information about good practice in the City
may be available after midyear when the three support centers are established
and all principals have selected one of them. Chancellor Klein and I are in
continuing discussion about his plans for supervising principals, providing
professional development, and improving graduation rates. We are also resolving
differences in how the State and the City have defined graduation rates.
Defining the targets requires careful
judgment about the data and continuous consultation with experts and
practitioners. Graduation results for
the 2000, 2001, and 2002 cohorts can give us clues about the four-, five- and
six-year graduation rates and can direct us to the schools and school districts
that moved faster than others, possibly because they had better strategies. But
the past is an inadequate guide when so much new urgency and capacity is added
to the situation. At this moment, the
best course is to set demanding graduation targets, and at the same time
promote practices that we have reason to believe will enable schools to meet
New York Exceeds Targets for Least
York exceeded all three targets for school age least
restrictive environment. This refers to
the federal requirement under IDEA that children with disabilities be educated
in settings as close as possible to those of their non-disabled peers. The occasion for reporting these data is the
first Annual Performance Report required by IDEA. The Regents set the targets
in late 2005, as part of a set of 20 measures, most of which we will report on
The results are important because they
show that disciplined effort can move outcome measures in the right
direction. These results have
significance far beyond special education, however. The context, of course, is that we are
entering a new phase of our accountability in which major investment in state
aid will be conditioned on meeting performance targets. Our Annual Performance Report shows that New York earned the higher performance on least
restrictive environment measures by using effective practice. Specifically, SED special education experts
provided professional development and technical assistance, used quality
assurance reviews, and exerted continuous and effective pressure to cause
schools to provide more instruction space in non-restrictive settings. We will consider VESID’s use of effective
practice and apply the similar approaches more generally to meet targets in general
There are twenty targets in total, and New York fell short of
some of them, while still others will be reported later when data become
available. Here are some examples: The target for resolving compliance issues
within one year is 100 percent, but actual performance was 84 percent. The
target for resolving complaints is also 100 percent, and performance was 95
percent. The largest gap is in secondary
transition planning, where the target is 100 percent completion of appropriate
transition plans, but the actual baseline data shows 32 percent.
Reexamining the Special Education Certification Structure
Executive budget proposal includes language that would if adopted mandate a
review of teacher preparation programs.
When the Regents adopted their Teaching Policy in 1998, they committed
to monitor and evaluate the policy and to make modifications when necessary. The Regents and SED have been conducting that monitoring concerning
special education certificates for two years.
The Committee on Higher Education and Professional Practice will review
data that suggests the certification structure itself may contribute to the
shortage of teachers of special education.
The 1998 reforms made many improvements in
teacher preparation, including elimination of temporary licenses, creation of
alternative pathways, program accreditation, a required major in the subject to
be taught, passing a Content Specialty Test, and 175 hours of professional
development every five years. One change
that now appears problematic, however, is the expansion of the special
education framework from one certificate to as many as 45 possible
Data before the Regents reveals a mismatch
between the proportion of students at particular levels and the teachers
earning certificates for those levels in 2005.
For example, 47 percent of special education students are in grades 7-12
but at most only 19.5 percent of the new certificates issued would equip teachers
to teach at those levels. The real
number is far lower because teachers of special education must be certified not
only in special education but also in a particular subject.
York City has a high proportion of special classes for
students with disabilities taught by teachers who are “not highly
qualified.” New York City has shortages in special
education teaching, as we have reported to the Regents previously. The new data
shows that for 2006-07, 54 percent of newly hired special education teachers
are from the Teaching Fellows Program.
The Regents item is based on consultation
with many groups and it proposes a thorough process of consultation to resolve
particular policy questions.
Ensuring Higher Education Standards
The Committee on Higher Education and Professional
Practice will take up two more issues in the series it defined in May 2006 to
respond to the Board’s concerns about poor practices and possibly fraudulent
practices in certain proprietary colleges. This follows forceful action at the
December Regents meeting to strengthen oversight, and SED’s closure of Taylor
Business Institute last year. This
month, the committee will begin work to differentiate remedial and
developmental coursework from credit-bearing coursework, and to require
proprietary colleges to strengthen admissions policies, particularly regarding
students without a high school diploma.
While the immediate issue concerns practices at particular institutions,
the Board’s work here will contribute to raising high school standards because
it will help signal what students need to know and be able to do when they
enter higher education.
Early Education Actions
The Regents will discuss a brief item that
recounts SED staff actions to implement the P-16 Plan relative to early
education. Several of these actions have
positioned us well should the proposed $99 million increase in UPK funding be
approved. For example, there has been
initial preparation to define pre-kindergarten standards using practitioners
and scholars, strengthen interagency relationships to improve services, and
survey other states to improve parent training.
Regents will discuss the monthly report on Roosevelt Union
A continuing issue is the operating deficit, which we have reported in
previous Regents meetings. The deficit
has both revenue and expenditure components of about equal amounts. We are
close to resolving the revenue shortfall, largely through billing payments owed
the district from earlier years.
Superintendent Ross proposed various expenditure reductions, some of
which are acceptable and others of which are not because of the anticipated
effect on middle and high school instructional programs. I asked the
superintendent to make a number of specific administrative reductions on his
list immediately, and sent SED financial experts to help district leaders draw
up additional reductions to resolve as much of the remaining expenditure
deficit as possible. The Office of State
Comptroller audit that I requested last year has resulted in a draft audit
report that has been presented to Roosevelt
officials for comment prior to public release, as is the normal practice. That
audit will come before the Regents Subcommittee on Audits as soon as it becomes
final, and will be a material help in planning the Roosevelt
Preliminary Plan for Perkins Career and Technical Education
New York receives $60 million annually for
this program. While a final five-year plan
is not due until early 2008, the preliminary version is due in April and
requires Regents approval. The elements
of the plan are consistent with previously expressed Regents views, including:
academic rigor, successful transitions to higher education, high skills
content, reassessment of technical skill requirements in the workplace, and
accountability. Regents also have called
for increasing the opportunity for CTE, particularly in urban districts, which
should be included in the plan as it develops. This important federal program
and its planning component can be a lever to remove obstacles to a Regents goal.
Saturday Hours at the State Library and State Archives
Regents Cultural Education Committee will decide whether to begin a pilot to
add Saturday hours to the current operating schedule of the State Library and
State Archives. The pilot would be
conducted in the coming fiscal year and last for at least 6 months. This would allow us to measure the demand.
Staying open for our customers on Saturday long-term will require a new source
New York Knowledge Initiative includes a request for $10 million to support
NOVEL. Many New Yorkers, however, are
unaware of the information resources available to them through NOVEL. To alleviate this problem and encourage
support for NOVEL, the State Library has contracted with a consultant to
develop a communications plan. The CE
Committee will review this plan.
estimated $1.7 billion is needed to renovate and modernize New York's crumbling library
infrastructure. Last year, the Budget
included a one-time allocation of $14 million for public library construction
grants, which has been recommended once again in the 2007-2008 Executive Budget
proposal. The CE Committee will hear an update on the status and use of this
funding and will consider strategies to extend the program in the coming years
to systematically deal with the very serious problems affecting New York's public
Alerts Protect the Public
constitutes best practice in a profession?
Knowledge of best practice protects the public and helps prevent
situations that could lead to charges of professional misconduct. Under Regents
direction, the Office of the Professions and the State Boards have developed
practice alerts and guidelines. This month, the most recent practice alert will
be shared with the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee. This practice alert, which was developed by
the State Boards for Psychology, Social Work, and Mental Health Practitioners,
in collaboration with staff and professional associations, has received
nationwide and even global recognition.
members of the Cultural Education Committee will meet on Tuesday afternoon in
their role as trustees of the State
Museum, Library and
Archives. At this meeting, Regents will
review the revised Regents Statement on Governance and discuss its implications
for Regents as Trustees of the State's Cultural Education institutions. The Board will also discuss policy issues
around our stewardship responsibilities for materials that are in digital and
electronic formats, including redefining the scope of stewardship as well as
the knowledge and skills needed by stewards of information in the modern
technological age. Finally, Regents will
be briefed on the status of, and we will seek guidance on next steps for, both
the Museum renewal and the new facility.
Major Regents and Commissioner’s Actions
under the 2007-2008 Executive Budget
Following are major decisions
and actions of the Regents and the Commissioner that are cited in the Executive
Budget language. Department staff have begun on them so that we are prepared.
Most of these provisions are consistent with the Regents P-16 Plan.
Winter 2007 (deadline July 2008 in draft language)
targets for school improvement, based on performance on State tests
and establishing targets based on “other indicators of progress, such as
graduation rates or college attendance and completion rates.”
a menu of “allowable programs and activities” on which districts may
spend their increased State aid. (No date specified but districts will work
on their contracts after budget is passed and have them in place for
rules for Contract for Excellence that each district must submit for
2007-8 school year. Describe menu of approved programs new funds must be
Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education, chaired by the Commissioner of
Education, includes members from State agencies, counties, school
districts and preschool providers.
The Task Force will address issues including transition from early
intervention, tuition rate setting methodology for preschools and a
comprehensive study of preschool special education in other states.
Distinguished Educators program to choose leaders who have improved
schools consistently or those who have “demonstrated educational
“scope and effectiveness” of SURR for 2007-08 school year “to
significantly increase the number of schools required to restructure or
reorganize.” Goal: up to 5% of schools in 4 years. First new SURR schools
under this provision would be named in January 2008.
plan to intervene in schools in “restructuring or SURR status” that
fail to demonstrate progress on targets and could be closed. Use
Distinguished Educators. This plan has a two-step process:
school review team to conduct “resource program and planning audits” and
help “any school in school improvement, corrective action, restructuring,
SRAP, or SURR status” in developing a plan to improve.
a “joint intervention team for schools…in restructuring or SURR status”
that have failed to demonstrate progress as specified in their plans.
help, tell districts what teacher incentives are most effective in
recruiting teachers in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. (Part of
Contract for Excellence)
on schedule for review and evaluation of the learning standards.
By Fall 2007
must create, publish Contracts for Excellence.
teacher preparation programs, decide what revisions must be made to
the teacher data system, decide additional actions to strengthen teacher
preparation programs. Report to Regents what new methodologies might be
used in future evaluations and revisions needed in data system, with cost.
to send school review and intervention teams into schools.
Committee to review, evaluate English learning standards.
Preschool Special Education Task Force report to Regents, Governor,
Legislature, DOB (deadline in draft language).
to the Regents possible expanded, alternative pathways for teachers
to become certified.
new regulations for response to intervention.
new SURR schools, first schools to be announced under the new budget.
February 2008 (no date specified in statute)
uniform standards for pre-K programs, set minimum qualifications for
teachers, require districts to adopt strong curriculum and instruction
integrated with K-12, prescribe standards for performance, set procedures
to assess performance, create mechanisms and track progress, report to
parents and public. Take measures to promote implementation in other
settings, including community based organizations.
districts with high classification, separate sites and
disproportionality in special education, and require such districts
to implement research based programs such as response to intervention
regulations on superintendent and school board accountability.
June 2008 (deadline in draft language)
approve new ELA standards.
By July 1, 2008 (deadline in draft language)
a “student progress report card” for all students to show progress on
State tests over multiple years.
By July 1, 2008 (deadline in draft language)
rules for tenure determination made after this date. To include
“analysis of data and other information on the performance of the teacher’s
students” where available, peer review, and principal evaluation.
September 2008 (deadline in draft language)
“interim, modified accountability system…based on a growth model” using
current state assessments.
In addition, the Regents and/or Commissioner will:
a School Leadership Report Card (no date specified in draft language)
methods to support educators in use of data to assist student learning (no
methods to help parents, teachers understand Regents learning standards,
test results (no date specified)
a value added assessment and accountability system (by September 2010)
to develop a P-16 data system (no date specified).
A monthly publication of the State Education Department
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February 12, 2007