February 2007
Report to the State Board of Regents

   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 New York’s 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.[1]   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


      We 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.


      The New 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 them.   


New York Exceeds Targets for Least Restrictive Environment


 New 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 in 2008. 


      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 education.


      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


The 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 configurations.  


      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. 


      New 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.




The Regents will discuss the monthly report on Roosevelt Union Free School District.  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 financial improvement.


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


The 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 of funds.




The 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.


Library Funding


An 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 library facilities. 


Practice Alerts Protect the Public


What 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.


Trusteeship Committee


The 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.



[1] Attached to this report is a schedule of policy actions compiled from the Article VII language by Alan Ray, SED Director of Communications and Policy Development. In a separate report, the Regents will receive a copy of the operational plan that will guide the Department’s work.


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)


  • Begin reviewing 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.”


April 2007


  • Create 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 September 2007.)


April-June 2007


  • Create rules for Contract for Excellence that each district must submit for 2007-8 school year. Describe menu of approved programs new funds must be used for.


May 2007


  • Convene 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.


Summer 2007


  • Establish Distinguished Educators program to choose leaders who have improved schools consistently or those who have “demonstrated educational expertise.”


  • Expand “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.


  • Develop 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:


    • Appoint 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.


    • Appoint a “joint intervention team for schools…in restructuring or SURR status” that have failed to demonstrate progress as specified in their plans.


June 2007


  • Provide help, tell districts what teacher incentives are most effective in recruiting teachers in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. (Part of Contract for Excellence)


  • Decide on schedule for review and evaluation of the learning standards.


By Fall 2007


  • Districts must create, publish Contracts for Excellence.


September 2007


  • Evaluate 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.


Fall 2007


  • Name Distinguished Educators.


  • Begin to send school review and intervention teams into schools.


November 2007


  • Appoint Committee to review, evaluate English learning standards.


  • Present Preschool Special Education Task Force report to Regents, Governor, Legislature, DOB (deadline in draft language).


December 2007


  • Present to the Regents possible expanded, alternative pathways for teachers to become certified.


  • Adopt new regulations for response to intervention.


January 2008


  • Announce new SURR schools, first schools to be announced under the new budget.


February 2008 (no date specified in statute)


  • Create 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.


March 2008


  • Identify 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 literacy programs.


April 2008


  • Adopt regulations on superintendent and school board accountability.


June 2008 (deadline in draft language)


  • Regents approve new ELA standards.


By July 1, 2008 (deadline in draft language)


  • Create 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)


  • Create 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)


  • Create “interim, modified accountability system…based on a growth model” using current state assessments.




In addition, the Regents and/or Commissioner will:


  • Create a School Leadership Report Card (no date specified in draft language)


  • Create methods to support educators in use of data to assist student learning (no date specified)


  • Develop methods to help parents, teachers understand Regents learning standards, test results (no date specified)


  • Develop a value added assessment and accountability system (by September 2010)


  • Work to develop a P-16 data system (no date specified).


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Last Updated: February 12, 2007