May 2007

Report to the State Board of Regents Banner       






Overview:  The May Regents meeting is about moving forward – moving forward on Roosevelt, ELA achievement, the accountability enhancements approved with the State Budget, the Regents proposals for state aid in 2008-09, and many other topics.




        We intend to have a new superintendent in Roosevelt this summer to prepare for a successful school opening in September. A search panel will convene on May 23 to review candidates for the Roosevelt superintendent position.  We thank the members of that panel:  Senior Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier (Chair), Regent Milton Cofield, Roosevelt board chair Gale Stevens-Haynes, Superintendents Constance Clark, Ronald Friedman, and John Bierwirth, and Roosevelt board member Mai Cortes. This strong panel illustrates again the commitment to Roosevelt’s improvement being expressed by top educational leaders and institutions on Long Island.


        Here are some immediate events and actions:



        The Senior Deputy Commissioner will describe other short and long term actions which have been informed by conversations with members of the community, board, union leaders, teachers, parents and students.


Grade 3 through 8 test results - English Language Arts


The Regents will discuss student achievement in literacy, using 2007 test results in grades 3 through 8.  The Chancellor and I will conduct a press conference after Regents discuss the results during the meeting. The data will enable the Board to again focus attention on gains and remaining gaps.  We will also discuss actions to improve literacy by considering the answers to these questions: What do rapidly improving New York schools and districts do to improve performance?  Which states have improved the most as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and what are their strategies?  What are the essential policies and practices to improve literacy revealed in the research literature?  What New York assets could we deploy to make this professional knowledge available to all educators?  The answer to that last question may surprise people because the list is so long: BOCES,  library summer reading programs, Public Broadcasting, Literacy Zones,  The School Curriculum Development Network (SCDN), Teacher Centers, Adult Literacy Centers,  Special Education Training and Resource Centers (SETRC), the Committee of Practitioners on English Language Learners – in fact, many USNY institutions have the knowledge and capacity to improve literacy.  The task is to combine good practice with effective communications and professional development systems.  If we don’t like all that we see in the data, there is something we can do about it.


Article VII issues


        The 2007-08 State budget includes a new Foundation Aid formula that reflects long-standing Regents priorities; large new investments focused on high needs districts. The budget links those funds to practices that are likely to improve achievement.  It also includes an urgent implementation schedule.  The Regents policy work over several years helped create this opportunity.  Regents guidance is just as important now as the focus has shifted to implementation. 


        Over the next several months, the Regents will engage many policy issues and will act on regulations related to the implementation of budget language.  Topics will include: graduation rate targets; school review and intervention teams; creation of the distinguished educators program; alignment of various state aid provisions to Article VII;  student progress reports; use of ability to benefit tests to determine eligibility for student financial aid; review of alternative teacher certification programs; strengthening teacher preparation programs, and standards for teacher tenure. 


Contracts for Excellence


        The Regents adopted regulations in April to implement the Contracts for Excellence as part of accountability.  The Board acted under emergency rules, so the Regents will again act on these regulations in June and September to confirm their April action.  In April, the Board underscored its determination to hear from practitioners and others, and the discussion item summarizes the many comments received.


        Four words summarize the situation: practice, urgency, innovation, and consultation.  The power in the Contracts for Excellence is in the menu of effective practices that define approved uses of the new funds in 56 school districts.  The five practices are broadly defined to allow flexibility, but limited so that the additional spending is likely to produce results.  Urgency is evident in the Regents decision to act on emergency rules so that the 2007-08 local budgets support effective practice in the affected schools.  Were this not so, New York might lose the momentum for reform created with the State budget. Innovation can be seen in the State Education Department rejection of familiar paper plans in favor of a web-based alternative that simplifies local reporting and pulls the elements of the Contract together to support local planning. Consultation has been a strong point in our work starting in November, and it only became stronger as the budget was presented and debated. We responded to budget adoption with immediate and repeated guidance to the field and requests for comment.  Still ahead is creation of a protocol to ensure that only properly defined Contracts will be approved.


Emergency Regulations




        The State budget, again in a manner consistent with Regents aims, includes significant new funds for pre-kindergarten. As school districts take their proposed budgets to the public, it is necessary to define in regulations the standards, criteria for program design, application requirements for the funds, procedures for selecting collaborating agencies, and facility requirements for pre-kindergarten. This is proposed for emergency action in May. If adopted, the rule will become effective on May 29 and will guide district use of these funds in time for the 2007 school year. The Department has received numerous comments to inform the development of the proposed regulatory language. There will be a 45-day comment period following the May action of the Board, which may warrant further amendments to the language prior to confirmation as a permanent rule. 


Instructional computer hardware and criteria for the loan of computer hardware to nonpublics


        This is a second set of regulations proposed for emergency action.  This rule provides for apportionment for approved school district expenses for computer hardware or technology equipment, or for repair of such equipment or staff development for instructional purposes. A district plan approved by the Commissioner will allow funds to be spent on the instructional hardware needs of the district’s public and nonpublic school students. The rule requires school authorities to loan instructional computer hardware to an individual or a group of individuals legally attending nonpublic schools located in the district. The Department has received numerous comments to inform the development of the proposed regulatory language. There will be a 45-day comment period following the May action of the board – comments may warrant further amendments to the language prior to confirmation as a permanent rule.  The emergency rule will become effective on May 29.  A second emergency adoption will be necessary at the July meeting and adoption as a permanent rule in September.


Teacher Preparation and Student Outcomes


        The Regents changed many elements of teacher preparation, certification, and placement through regulations based on the work of their 1996 Task Force on Teaching.  For example, all teacher education programs were newly registered to match the requirements, teachers majored in the subject they would teach, programs had to become nationally accredited,  an alternative path to certification was opened, and temporary licenses were no longer permitted. The Regents have repeatedly sought and received reports so that they could evaluate the effectiveness of these policies.


        In May, Professors James Wyckoff and Hamp Lankford will again report findings from their long-term study of pathways to the teaching profession in New York.  Their January 2006 report to the Regents showed that more teachers with strong academic qualifications were now attracted to teaching in New York, and that teachers pursuing alternative certification were more effective in mathematics than English Language Arts and more effective in middle grades than in upper elementary school.  In May, they will describe how elimination of temporary licenses changed the allocation of teachers and with what consequences to student achievement.


Implementation of the Statewide Plan for Higher Education:  Strengthening Retention.


         One troubling finding we discussed at the USNY Summit concerned college completion: the United States and New York do not perform as well as some of our global competitors in college completion rates.  There is, however, a body of research and practice that has allowed some institutions to produce far better results.  The Regents can draw attention to these effective practices and keep the pressure on for their application by continuing to highlight college completion rates.  In some cases, these results have been an insufficiently celebrated product of the New York Opportunity Programs.  In other cases, scholars have demonstrated that some well-established elements of courses required of freshmen are actually barriers to learning and graduation.  For example, large lectures, the lack of immediately available reinforcement from technology, and the absence of small study groups and ways to learn study skills contribute to poor outcomes.  There are alternatives that often do not cost more than the ineffective practices they replace. Some institutions have used these findings to draw ahead of their competitors in serving their students.  If more widely applied, these practices will allow New York to draw ahead of our global competitors.


        As part of the discussion, CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor Selma Botman will be describing a new initiative at CUNY to help working adults complete an associate degree program in an accelerated fashion.  Also at the meeting, Elizabeth Regosin, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs of St. Lawrence University will talk about the University’s ongoing program for student retention.


Regents Priority Legislation.    


At the May meeting, the Regents will begin developing their 2008 priorities for State and federal legislation.  The Governmental Relations staff, now under the Office of Innovation, has provided scorecards showing the status of the Regents 2007 State and federal legislative priorities.  In June, Regents committees will discuss their priorities, and a July Full Board discussion will create a combined agenda. These priorities will take into account any actions taken in Albany and Washington prior to the end of the 2007 legislative session or summer Congressional recess. In September the Regents will decide both their budget proposals and legislative priorities.


        In addition, the Governmental Relations staff, along with the Legislative Coordinating Team, and program specialists from different SED teams, has adopted new procedures to maximize everyone’s efforts to accomplish the Regents legislative agenda. These changes involve Regents more directly with legislative advocacy.


Parent and Family Partnerships


        The EMSC/VESID Committee will discuss actions that USNY will take to implement the Regents policy on Parent and Family Partnerships that was approved in February. When the policy was approved Regents directed staff to develop an implementation plan.  The plan proposes a three year cycle of activities and identifies areas for which we will seek additional resources or legislative action.