sed letterhead

September 2007





Overview: The annual board retreat, which will include the semi-annual evaluation of the Commissioner’s performance, is scheduled for September. Committees will not meet and items will come before the full Board.

2008-09 Budget Recommendations

The enacted 2007-08 budget was an achievement because it embraced the Regents Foundation school aid proposal and other elements of the Board’s P-16 Plan, increased State Education Department capacity, and added significant resources to cultural education. The Foundation proposal linked educational improvement and accountability, effective practice and funding directed to students in greatest need in a way never before done in New York. The budget represents a new partnership among the Executive, Legislature, and Regents, which has great promise for improved outcomes just when education has emerged as the indispensable strategy in the global economic competition. The budget proposal for 2008-09 must build upon this success.

The Regents have discussed potential budget proposals in committee for several months. The following framework may be useful in deciding the full budget recommendations:

Contracts for Excellence

In the matter of the Contracts for Excellence, the Regents provided quick regulatory guidance while allowing all to be heard before locking in permanent regulations. More specifically, the Regents acted immediately with emergency regulations upon the adoption of the 2007-08 budget to enable affected schools to develop Contracts for Excellence for the new school year. The Board decision to use the emergency basis allowed an intense engagement with educators and the public, and they demonstrated that they had listened by amending emergency regulations twice. So that the regulations may remain continuously in effect, the Regents will be asked to again adopt the regulations on an emergency basis, in anticipation of adopting a permanent rule in October.

Renewing the Standards

The Regents committed in the P-16 Plan to renewing the learning standards. The 2007-08 budget embraced that idea. The Chancellor has established a Steering Committee with Regent Cohen as chair to oversee the work. That work begins in September as the Regents consider the principles to guide the renewal, and reflect on the implications for assessment, curriculum, and teacher preparation. When the Regents adopted the current standards in July 1996, few states had ventured into this field. Now, virtually all states have standards as No Child Left Behind subsequently required. And now most states have begun to renew their standards, sometimes alone but often in concert with other states. Other nations are reviewing their standards also. Today, more experience is available to inform the Regents policy than when New York began. We will inform ourselves of that experience and adapt the best to our purpose.

State Aid Conceptual Proposal

The Regents will discuss the conceptual proposal for State aid to school districts. The proposal is to continue the Foundation formula enacted in the 2007-08 budget, and to expand the implementation of Pre-kindergarten programs using a streamlined, equalized approach that uses a separate formula but one that is aligned with the K-12 Foundation formula. The proposal also includes flexibility to support full day Pre-kindergarten where half-day programs have already been established. Consistent with the Regents policy on early education, the State aid proposal recommends continued support for mandated full-day kindergarten statewide.

The State aid proposal again responds to the fundamental Regents priority to raise achievement and close the gaps. It would provide aid directed to students with greatest need, and would be the second year of a four year phase-in.

New Beginning at Roosevelt

Roosevelt has had a successful opening of school. Students have schedules and textbooks, and a physical plant with many improvements. The middle school site remediation is all but complete. We have responded in detail to questions from the Office of State Comptroller on improvements in financial controls. With Regent and Interim Roosevelt Board involvement, we have completed interviews for the superintendent’s position, and we are completing due diligence on the finalist. The Interim Board has projected leadership through its work to develop the budget, set goals and develop educational plans, and in the search for a new superintendent. We will continue our close support. Meanwhile, the new school year marks a new beginning and we are grateful to all who worked so hard to provide this opportunity to the children of Roosevelt. I especially want to commend the efforts of Interim Superintendent William Brosnan, Board Chair Gale Haynes, and Senior Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan Poitier.

Pre-School Special Education

In September the Regents will discuss a report on the progress of the Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education, which was created by Article VII of the 2007-08 budget. The Task Force which is co-chaired by SED and DOB is on track to meet its deadline of November 15. This discussion is important because of the potential for budget and legislative recommendations. Regents will want to continue to express their views as the Task Force completes its work.

The Task Force will make recommendations on transitions between preschool special education and other early education programs, tuition rate setting, and cost-effective delivery systems. The Regents item on this matter includes purposes and principles, selected findings from the national study, and a preview of final steps in completing the recommendations.

The national study reminds us that other states solve similar problems differently than New York does, which may suggest alternatives. Among the principles are: parents as partners in decision making, measurable outcomes, rates that support quality and encourage efficiency, and seamless transitions across program boundaries for children and families. Many of these principles reflect the Regents P-16 plan.

The Task Force has engaged parents, service providers, State agencies, country representatives and many others – 600 individuals in all so far.

USNY Technology Council Recommendations

The USNY Technology Council comes to the Regents with findings based on a survey of digital capacity, content and use in the University of the State of New York. The Council also recommends policy actions to the Regents to address their findings.

The Council finds that New York lacks a vision and strategy for how technologies can advance learning, and lacks also a state-sponsored broadband network to serve schools and other USNY institutions. Further, the Council finds that limited use of technology in student learning in school, and relatively few teachers using technology beyond word processing and email. Consequently, the vast resources within USNY institutions are inaccessible to most elementary and secondary students.

The Council recommends development of a statewide network that builds upon existing network infrastructure, creation of standards for technology acquisition and use, as well as standards for establishing and publishing digital content in museums and cultural organizations. The Council also calls for changes in teacher professional development. Finally, the Council reaffirms its recommendation to create and staff an USNY Office of Instructional Technologies with leadership that reports to senior SED management.

The Council’s work responds to a long-standing Regents priority. Council recommendations are far-reaching and could advance the development of USNY. I have asked the Council co-chairs to advise us on the costs associated with their proposals.

The Regents appointed the USNY Technology Council.

Transfer of Ownership of Proprietary Colleges

In May the Regents approved new regulatory requirements for transfers of ownership of proprietary colleges in order to ensure that all students enrolled in these institutions receive a quality education. In July, the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee began a discussion about the first request for Regents approval for such a transfer since the new regulations were put in place. Committee members tabled that item pending additional information. This month, Johanna Duncan-Poitier and Joe Frey will provide the Regents with information about the regulatory requirements for transfers of ownership of proprietary colleges and information on private equity companies. This discussion will set the context for future actions on the transfer of degree-conferring authority for proprietary colleges. As I mentioned in my Board letter last week, the Regents have become increasingly recognized for their leadership to ensure high standards of quality in higher education. The Chronicle of Higher Education recognized the Regents for being among the first in the nation to propose major reforms for ensuring quality in the proprietary sector in the annual 2007-08 Almanac Issue.

Teacher of the Year

I am pleased to announce that Mr. Richard Ognibene, Jr., a high school chemistry and physics teacher at Fairport High School in Fairport, NY, has been chosen as the 2008 New York State Teacher of the Year. Mr. Ognibene is the 38th New York State Teacher of the Year and the first from the Fairport district where he has taught for fifteen years. He has taught high school science for 21 years and was an adjunct chemistry professor at Monroe Community College for ten years. Rich is a valued member of his community who generously offers his time and support to numerous committees and activities.

A reception and ceremony honoring Mr. Ognibene and the four Finalists will be held on October 22, 2007 at the State Education Building in Albany, NY.