June 2007

commissioner letterhead

Students with Disabilities

The Board of Regents will discuss results for students with disabilities for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years, and the Chancellor and I will conduct a press conference after the Regents discussion. The data will highlight improving ELA and Math results, very poor results for English Language Learners, and continuing low graduation rates, with high drop-out rates in high-needs districts. While there is progress in some areas, the data confirms that gaps remain. The data will help guide the Regents discussion of new strategies to raise achievement for students with disabilities.

The EMSC-VESID Committee will also discuss strategies for improving the performance of students with disabilities. In October 2006, the Regents discussed actions to improve the results for students with disabilities, and approved these actions in November 2006 in the P-16 Education: A Plan For Action. The Regents will hear a progress report on the Plan for Action and discuss next steps for continued progress in 2007-2008.

In addition, the EMSC-VESID Committee will vote on adoption of emergency regulations aligning New York with the updated federal regulations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The State must amend its laws and regulations to conform to federal regulations by June 30, 2007 as a condition of receiving federal IDEA funds. The Department relied on extensive comments from the field on the draft regulations when formulating the proposed regulations.

Contracts for Excellence

This month the Regents need to extend the emergency action you took in April adopting regulations on the Contracts for Excellence included in the State budget. Because the required 45-day public comment period on the regulations expires on July 2nd, after the June Regents meeting any revisions to the regulations that may be necessary will be addressed at the July Regents meeting. As part of the discussion this month, the EMSC-VESID Committee will hear an update on the Department’s implementation of the Contracts for Excellence, including the extensive consultation we have done with the field, the many opportunities to collect feedback from school districts and others that have been provided, the preparation of guidance and question and answer documents, and the development and pilot testing of a Web-based tool for the preparation and submission of the contracts by school districts.

Ability-to-Benefit Tests

This month, the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee has an emergency action on regulations that implement a provision of the State budget (Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007) concerning the use of federally approved ability-to-benefit tests to determine eligibility for financial aid for students who do not have high school diplomas. Under the federal Higher Education Act, students in college who do not have high school diplomas and who want to qualify for Pell grants and other Title IV student financial aid[delete comma] must demonstrate an ability to benefit from education by passing one of the approved ability-to-benefit tests (currently there are seven). Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 modified this requirement and requires that the Board of Regents identify which of the federally approved tests may be used in New York State and establish the passing score that is acceptable. Rather than set an arbitrary passing score that has to be used by all institutions, the regulations before the Regents this month establish a process that requires each institution to submit the passing score it proposes to use for each test and to show evidence of alignment between the college admissions requirements (including the pass point on the ATB test), the level of the academic program and the academic support provided to these students. This process will provide flexibility to institutions and retain college admissions as an academic endeavor for college administrators and faculty. The regulations also require that institutions have a system in place to assess this alignment over time and that the tests be independently administered.

Student Lending Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act (SLATE)

The Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee will discuss the new Student Lending Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act (SLATE) which was signed into law by the Governor on May 30, 2007. The law gives the Department extensive new responsibilities to regulate the student loan industry in New York State. The Committee will discuss its provisions, designed to protect students in higher education institutions and non-degree granting vocational schools. In addition, the Committee will discuss capacity implications and the resources necessary for its implementation.

Institutional Accreditation

The Board of Regents will receive a report on the Regents petition to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to continue its authority as a national accrediting body. The Board of Regents has held this authority since 1952. The USED analyzed the Regents petition in advance of a meeting between that agency and SED and determined that the Regents have met all the federal standards for accreditation. In addition, USED staff has recommended the maximum period of accreditation authority, five years, with no conditions or reports required.

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 approved in February. At that time the Regents directed staff to develop an implementation plan. The plan proposes a three-year [hyphen added and space closed] cycle of activities and identifies areas for which we will need additional resources or legislative action.

2008 Legislative and 2008-09 Budget Proposals

This month discussions of legislative and budget priorities for the coming year will take place in each of the committees of the Board. Each committee will have a list of proposed state and federal legislative priorities, including their history and current legislative status. The Regents will have the opportunity to discuss and amend the priorities. Similarly, you will have a packet of budget proposals, excluding State Aid, for discussion in each respective committee. Full board discussion of the proposed 2008-09 Budget and 2008 Legislative initiatives will occur at the July Regents meeting.


The Board of Regents will receive an information report on Roosevelt. The focus continues on critical issues, including fiscal stability, facilities and a smooth opening of school in September.

Trusteeship Committee Meeting

The Regents Committee on Cultural Education will meet as the Trusteeship Committee this month to carry out its responsibilities as stewards of the collections of the State Museum, State Archives and State Library. The Trusteeship Committee will discuss the status of the Museum renewal and the collection storage facility, the next steps for the records center expansion, the value of collections-based research at the Museum, and future funding of cultural education programs.