Commissioner letterhead

March 2008





Two-Year Policy Calendar

The Policy Integration and Innovation Committee will discuss a draft of the Board’s two-year policy calendar. Later in the meeting, each committee will review the draft and make appropriate adjustments so that the Full Board can consider the calendar for approval this month.

The purpose of the policy calendar is to enable the Board, the State Education Department, members of the public, and our many colleagues in the field to anticipate when significant matters will come before the Board for discussion and policy action.

The intent is to forecast and schedule the important policy decisions in the months ahead. The two-year policy calendar will not include every item to come before the Regents. And the policy calendar won’t remain static because new issues will arise unexpectedly. Therefore, the committees and the Full Board will want to adjust periodically, just as they routinely review and approve budget variances during the year.

Teacher Tenure Determinations

At the December meeting, the Higher Education Committee approved an approach that aligns the Regents rules concerning teacher tenure with the requirements in Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007, and endorsed the use of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) evaluation criteria as part of any teacher tenure discussion. Preliminary draft regulatory language has been developed and will be discussed in the committee. With the approval of the Board, the draft regulation will be published for public comment. Board action on these regulations is expected at the June Regents meeting.

Data are central to accountability and school improvement today, and knowledge of how to do this well is indispensable to teachers and school administrators. The use of performance data is one important element of the draft regulations. Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 requires that evaluation of a candidate for tenure shall include “an evaluation of the extent to which the teacher successfully utilized analysis of available student performance data and other relevant information when providing instruction.” Some field leaders who commented on the Board’s approach called for more initial training and professional development on using performance data.

SLATE Regulations

The public has a right to transparency in student lending, and the right to complain about alleged abuses, and the State Education Department must investigate and seek to resolve those complaints. The Student Lending, Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act (SLATE), championed by Attorney General Cuomo, established these principles. The regulations required by SLATE are complex, and it is important to give interested parties adequate time to comment. Therefore, the draft regulations will come before the Board for decision in July.

The Higher Education Committee will discuss the preliminary draft regulations to implement SLATE. SLATE gives the Department significant new enforcement responsibilities and establishes due process and hearing procedures for violations. The proposed regulations would establish those procedures.

The State Education Department needs new resources to implement these new responsibilities. The Department did not receive any funding when the statute was enacted, although the Governor’s 2008-09 budget proposal includes language that would authorize the Commissioner and the Attorney General to enter into a memorandum of understanding for the Attorney General to support the Department’s necessary expenses. The Regents and the Department must continue to advocate for an appropriation to make enforcement of SLATE possible.

Confronting the Special Education Teacher Shortage

The Regents began discussing a proposal in December to consolidate 45 current special education certification titles into three: Birth to Grade 3, Grades 1-6 and a single interdisciplinary credential for grades 7-12. This is part of the Regents continuing review of teaching policy to ensure quality and address teacher shortages. To support the Board’s review, staff has consulted school and higher education leaders and has suggested refinements to the proposal for further discussion by the Higher Education Committee this month. The projected time for Regents action on these regulations is October.

State Education Department reviews of teacher supply and demand data have revealed statewide shortage of teachers of students with disabilities. The large array of specialty titles is unworkable in that there are not enough people in the teacher preparation pipeline to resolve the shortage as the field has been currently defined.

As the Regents pursue a solution, we will bear in mind the Board’s firm convictions that are the foundation for all Regents standards in teaching. Students with disabilities need to rise to high expectations. To do that, students with disabilities, like all students, must have well-prepared, effective teachers. Those teachers must know how children grow and develop, and must be accomplished in the use of effective practice. In the care of such teachers, children with disabilities must engage the general education curriculum and do so along with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. Regents have expressed concerns about the extensive resorting to alternative certification to prepare teachers in special education.

Professions-Clinical Laboratory Law

The Executive budget language would undermine the Regents authority over professional practice and the 16,000 individuals that the Regents licensed as clinical laboratory technologists. The profession was established by statute in 2004 and became effective in 2006. The Regents immediately created regulations to carry out the law. Budget language would allow the Department of Health to authorize individuals to practice in the clinical laboratory technologist profession. This proposal has broad implications to the Regents regulation far beyond this one profession.

We have worked with major stakeholders and the Greater New York Hospital Association, which represented Sloan Kettering, Mount Sinai, New York University, Columbia, and all of the major teaching hospitals, to create alternatives to address possible shortages until the professional programs produce sufficient numbers of qualified professionals. Both the Assembly and the Senate are expected to introduce bills to remove the pertinent budget language. Continued legislative advocacy is needed.

OCE Security Update

The Cultural Education Committee will receive an update on security in our collections. The State Library and State Archives took immediate steps to upgrade security on the 11th Floor of the Cultural Education Building. A panel of security experts is convening to review security in the Library, Archives and Museum.

Charter School Report

Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 doubled the cap on the number of charter schools authorized in New York State, from 100 to 200. As applications for new charter schools, as well as renewals and revisions to charters continue to come before the Regents for action each month, members of the EMSC Committee have asked for some general information on charter schools and in particular, their impact on small cities. This month, the Board will receive a report on the rules that apply when it is asked to take action on direct applications to the Regents and the rules that apply to applications from other chartering entities (SUNY, NYCDOE and Buffalo Board of Education). The Board also will receive information related to charter schools in small city school districts, which includes summaries of fiscal impact and academic performance. Because of the significant number of charter schools within the Albany City School District (the ninth charter school will open in September 2009) and the frequent applications for revisions to those charters to either decrease enrollment or add new grade levels, members of the committee were particularly interested in information concerning the performance of charter schools in Albany and the impact of these schools on the school district.

Reporting Education Data

The Board reaffirmed the centrality of performance data to school reform in the P-16 Plan, which says in part, “We will confront the data, share it broadly, and use it to define as precisely as possible where resources and energy should be applied. We will recognize the achievements and also declare the problems as clearly as we can.”

During 2006-07, the State Education Department released no fewer than 14 separate data sets. With the exception of the May and June reports on ELA and mathematics scores, there was no scheduled announcement of more than a few days in advance of the release. The Board and the Department concludes that the public, policy makers, and educators would be better served by an annual data release schedule that is developed in consultation with the Regents and published for the year ahead. A schedule would enable all parties to prepare to use data to improve achievement. There are many precedents. For example, national economic data routinely appear in such a planned way.

We will propose a schedule for Regents consideration in April, with completion planned for a future meeting to be selected by the Board. The discussion in March will develop Regents expectations for that schedule. Here is a suggested framework. An annual data release schedule would:

The two data releases of grade 3-8 ELA and mathematics results is of special interest to the Regents. Board members asked for data to be released earlier than in May and June respectively. These dates result from a series of operating assumptions and practices, for example, that tests will be scored locally. It is possible to make different assumptions, which could produce a different schedule and also different costs. We will discuss these issues with the Board.

Johanna Duncan-Poitier and her colleagues are focused on solving the performance problems with nySTART, which is the portal for superintendents to access their data to confirm its accuracy. We have been able to secure an expert to help us and a vendor to correct nySTART through one of the consultants working with the Regents. Human resources is working on securing waivers to fill two leadership vacancies and we also have the assistance of a core group of users that includes two superintendents. We are listening to our customers.

Regulating the Contracts for Excellence

The Contract for Excellence regulations come before the Regents for a seventh time this month. Final adoption will be possible at the May Regents meeting or in June if further refinement is necessary. The revisions since the last Board action on this topic include clarification of several requirements, including “students with the greatest educational needs; ”75% of the contract funds to be used to benefit students having the greatest educational needs; the public process for developing contracts; and the complaint process. Staff has continued to meet with school districts and other interested parties to discuss these regulations and other issues concerning the contracts. It is possible that based on those discussions and possible changes in the statute, additional revisions in the regulations may be necessary.

At this month’s EMSC Committee meeting, staff will provide some preliminary information about implementation of the Contracts for Excellence in the contract districts.