commissioner letterhead

October 2007






Meeting in Brief. These items stand out in the October Regents agenda. The Board proposes to adopt budget priorities and legislative priorities. The Board intends to adopt a Foundation Aid recommendation. The Regents will consider a major expansion of a proven approach to closing the achievement gap: partnerships or P-16 Regional Education Alliances; these are also sometimes called “literacy zones” or “education zones.” The Regents will consider a new Smart Scholars program that would use partnerships to enable many thousands more at-risk students to take college courses while in high school, complete their degree, and transition to college with as much as one year of college credit. And the Regents will again underscore its commitment to interagency collaboration.


New York has made tremendous progress in reforming education funding, school improvement and accountability in the last budget. Much of the Regents P-16 Action Plan was enacted. We must go farther in the next budget. To do that, we need another major investment in education, again driven by need and with funding connected to best practice and accountability. The Foundation Formula proposed by the Regents and the Governor remains the key vehicle. State aid has given schools with children in greatest need the resources to support a Regents-quality education. It has helped increase by 50 percent the number of districts with Universal Pre-kindergarten programs. And it pays for teams of experts to help schools improve, strengthen teacher preparation, create growth and value added assessments, and increase accountability.

This year we will innovate by building on another New York strength: P-16 partnerships. We have funded these partnerships in various ways for years, and hundreds of millions of dollars go to them now. They have proven to be successful. Many of them involve schools and students with the greatest need. The partnerships connect New York’s impressive resources to ensure that students complete high school ready for college, and then go on to graduate from college. Extending these partnerships with focused investment is another element in the Regents P-16 Action Plan.

It’s time to ramp this up to a new level by funding P-16 Regional Education Alliances that include colleges and universities, school districts, libraries, museums, public broadcasting, professional organizations, research institutions, employers and labor leaders, and community organizations. Each Alliance would be formed in communities where low educational achievement and poverty are serious problems. This would include the Big 5 Cities, most of New York’s other urban areas, and rural and suburban areas of high poverty. Each Alliance would draw the institutions and organizations in that community and the surrounding region that want to work together to solve the problems. Each P-16 Regional Education Alliance will have its own USNY council to coordinate local efforts.

The purpose of the Alliances is to raise the achievement of disadvantaged students all the way to college completion. To achieve this goal, Alliances would help improve the quality of teacher preparation and professional development, provide additional support to students and teachers, and ensure that students get help from local libraries, community groups, service agencies, and other educational and service organizations.

This Alliance of educational and other organizations to help students is a perfect fit because New York State is unique among all 50 states in uniting all of education, from pre-K through graduate school, under one body – the Board of Regents. It has a long heritage. It’s in the Constitution. And our greatest leaders, like Governor Theodore Roosevelt, have promoted it and further codified it in the Unification Act of 1904. The University of the State of New York (USNY) is New York’s strategic advantage. It includes more than 270 independent colleges and universities, 4000 schools, 750 museums, 7000 libraries, 25 public broadcasting stations including 7 public television stations, 47 leading professions, comprehensive education for individuals with disabilities – all under the care of one Board of Regents.

The Regents will consider major funding to go to the P-16 Regional Education Alliances to enable them to lead and coordinate the efforts of local partners. Part of this funding should be seed money to enable the Alliances to raise still more competitive private and governmental funds. The Regents will also consider $100 million for a Smart Scholars program to ensure at least 12,000 at-risk students each year get the skills they need to finish high school and transition to college with the capacity to graduate. This is commonly called Dual Enrollment. The program would link colleges, school districts, BOCES, and other educational and community organizations and agencies to ensure that students get the help they need. In addition, the Regents will consider more than $25 million over three years to enable the partnerships to link schools, colleges, and others to prepare 1,000 new teachers in subjects where there are shortages for service in the neediest schools.

Regents Budget 2008-09 Proposals

The Regents in September chose five budget priorities to raise achievement. The Board defined the framework for these priorities in their P-16 Plan, which emerged from extended consultation with USNY leaders. The priorities also extend the ideas that are part of the adopted 2007-08 budget and subsequent Regents policy decisions.

The P-16 Plan commits to 13 strategies, virtually all of which have begun either in the current budget or regulations and other Regents action. These include, for example, a sustainable early education program; improved outcomes for children with disabilities; renewed standards that are aligned with assessment, curriculum, and instruction; the Foundation formula, and enhanced SED capacity, among many others. The new budget is an opportunity to build on these strategies.

The Regents, in their P-16 Plan, committed to a set of principles that model good budget practice: confront the data and use it to define where resources should be applied; engage everyone; define measurable objectives; study best practices and adopt the best; take systemic action to get sustained improvement; renew the alignment of our actions to ensure coherence and effectiveness; and strengthen USNY as a means to build effective transitions for students.

Here are the budget priorities the Regents outlined in September:

  1. Improve achievement for students in greatest need. There are two key approaches:

    1. Continue the Foundation Formula, with related accountability and support of schools districts in need, expansion of Pre-kindergarten, improved results for children with disabilities, English Language Learners, and Career and Technical Education enrollments, and the Contracts for Excellence.

    1. Harness the proven success of partnerships by creating Regional Education Alliances in school districts with low achievement and high poverty. These alliances would combine colleges and universities, school districts, libraries, and museums, public broadcasting, the 47 licensed professions, community organizations, research institutions, and businesses – all working together to ensure at-risk students succeed. Closely related is a new Smart Scholars program that would unite the efforts of schools and college to ensure at least 12,000 at-risk students each year get the skills they need to finish high school and transition successfully to college.

  1. Reduce and then eliminate the inequitable distribution of teaching talent.
  2. Implement Year 2 of P-16 Accountability.
  3. Improve achievement by increasing access to museums, cultural institutions and online library services.
  4. Enable more individuals with disabilities to live and work independently.

Improving Achievement for Students in Greatest Need

1A. Foundation Aid

The Regents Foundation Aid program will continue the approach that defines a foundation amount based on the cost of successful programs, and then adjusts for difference in student need, regional cost variations, and an expected local contribution. This approach would provide almost three-quarters of the increase to high need school districts, up from 65 percent in the enacted budget. The recommendation reflects the Regents vision for the second year of Foundation Aid, informed by some of the steps taken in the budget process last session. There will be ongoing debates about availability of funds. The proposal would continue adjustments in the calculation of property valuation that emerged in the last legislative session, and would keep in place the consolidation of some thirty then-existing programs. In effect, this would be the second year of a transformational state aid program. The State Aid Subcommittee will review the proposed increase and recommend the final amount at the October meeting.

Four components of the Regents State Aid proposal deserve special focus: Universal Pre-K, increasing the number of approved Career and Technical Education programs, improving instruction of students with disabilities, and enhancing services to English Language Learners to improve achievement and graduation rates.

The number of Prekindergarten programs increased by over 50 percent this year as a result of a $145 million increase in funding, energetic outreach by SED and our interagency partners in the Children’s Cabinet, and the Regents timely action to allow school districts to begin a program at mid-year. In addition, several school districts have proposed to use some of their Foundation aid for pre-kindergarten in their Contracts for Excellence. The Regents seek further expansion of Pre-kindergarten in the 2007-08 budget, and a funding method that supports a full-day option. The Regents will advocate to make Universal Pre-kindergarten an entitlement within State aid. The Regents also recognize the challenge in the lack of transportation reimbursement for Pre-kindergarten. The Regents Subcommittee on State Aid recommends that early childhood education continue to flow as a single funding stream, separate from but aligned with the K-12 foundation funding.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) enables students to reach Regents standards and achieve a Regents diploma, while also securing an industry-approved credential signifying possession of workplace skills. Two evaluations in the last four years identified effective elements of the CTE model and barriers to implementation. This proposal reflects what we learned.

The Regents proposal would also provide assistance to low performing schools to improve instructional programs for children with disabilities. In poor performing schools, instructional programs are often incompatible with sound research and evidence-based instructional practices. This proposal would provide research-based reading instruction with increasing instructional support to struggling learners (often called “Response to intervention” or Rti) and professional development on effective instructional programs and implementation strategies.

The purpose of RtI is to build better readers through a systemic literacy instruction process around scientific research-based instruction, progress monitoring and the availability of multi-tiered levels of interventions. The main goal of RtI is to intervene early and prevent students who are at risk for reading difficulty from falling behind, and more appropriately identify students with learning disabilities. RtI is identified as an effective program in the Contracts for Excellence. Unlike some other states, far too few school districts in this State have RtI programs. This year, VESID is investing $2.5 million in federal funds to develop a State technical assistance center on RtI and to provide start up grants to approximately 10 school districts to develop RtI programs. The Department plans to invest additional federal funds in this program in 2008-09 so that more districts can participate.

Special Education Training and Resource Center (SETRC) specialists work with low performing schools to improve literacy instruction, behavioral programs and services, and special education services. Research-based “Quality Indicator Assessment and Resource Guides” in each of these instructional areas have been developed, and SETRC is using these tools with schools this year. We will invest in the ongoing professional development of our technical assistance providers to enhance their knowledge and skills and build state-of-the-art expertise in the research-based components of effective instruction.

This proposal is entirely federally-funded and requires no State funds. In 2007-08, VESID is investing $2.5 million (federal funds) to fund a Statewide Technical Assistance Center to provide technical assistance to schools developing RtI programs and to provide grant funds to a limited number of school districts for RtI program development. VESID plans to spend an additional $1.5 million in federal funds for grants to districts in 2008-09. Due to the resulting reduction in classification rates of students with disabilities in these districts, savings in State Aid are estimated at approximately $1.4 million annually following the 2008-09 school year.

SETRC provided technical assistance to 106 identified districts last year. VESID has more than $19.5 million invested in SETRC support to low performing schools. A relatively small investment of additional federal dollars for staff overseeing the ongoing professional development of SETRC staff statewide is recommended. The cost benefit will be seen in improved results for students with disabilities in our identified school districts (improved performance on State assessments, higher graduation rates and reduced dropout rates).

Expected gains include:

The Regents will also consider funding to create assistance programs for school districts that serve the highest proportion of New York’s English Language Learners.

Here are some important elements of such a program:

Districts would be able to use the funding for Universal pre-K, Dual Language Programs, Services for Students With Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE), professional development for teachers and administrators on the educational needs of ELL students, after-school and Saturday enrichment programs for middle and high school students, and literacy programs for newly arrived English-speaking immigrant students.

1B. Regional Education Alliances.

The Regents and SED already provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year to partnerships statewide. Many of these partnerships are dedicated to closing the achievement gap and exist in areas of poverty. It is time to galvanize their combined strength and coordinate their efforts. In this way we can expand and combine many of the partnerships and, at the same time, launch innovative new ways to reach all at-risk students and ensure they succeed.

We could establish P-16 Regional Education Alliances in every high poverty community. Each one would be administered by a local council of partners from USNY institutions plus service organizations and employers. Alliances would form in designated areas of low achievement and high poverty. We would encourage them to form, help them get started, and nurture them to grow. The Regents will consider proposing additional funds to ensure their success. Alliances would set performance targets, measure results, evaluate progress, and report annually to the public, the Regents, the Legislature, and the Governor.

There are many successful examples of partnerships already funded through the Regents and State Education Department. Here are a few:

Listed below are innovative new programs that would enhance the work of P-16 Regional Education Alliances:

Smart Scholars. We propose a new Smart Scholars program that would ensure at least 12,000 at-risk students each year get the skills they need to finish high school and transition successfully to college. This Dual Enrollment program can work in many cases through the Regional Education Alliances described above that will link colleges, school districts, BOCES, and other educational and community organizations and agencies to ensure every student gets all needed help. Smart Scholars would enable students to take college-level courses while still in high school, thereby giving them as much as one year of college credit and ensuring a smooth transition to the college of their choice. This is a proven program that ensures students excel, according to the most recent comprehensive study by Columbia University researchers.

Family and Parent Outreach. Longitudinal analyses conducted over a 15-year period at Yale University show that students achieve more when schools work with parents and families. Family and Parent Outreach can accomplish this goal by linking families to schools beginning at birth; helping parents understand and participate in the Contracts for Excellence; and creating resources so that parents can support their children’s learning through a working knowledge of the State learning standards, State assessments, individual Student Progress Reports, School Leadership Report Cards, and School Progress Report Cards. This can be accomplished by connecting Regional Alliances to Family Welcome Centers, which already exist in the eight Literacy Zones that have been created. This will extend the outreach significantly.

Planting the Seed. This program has two key components to ensure that more at-risk middle and high school students learn about college and professional opportunities through guidance counselors and through members of the professions themselves. First, members from the 750,000-strong professionals licensed by the Board of Regents will reach out to at-risk students and mentor individuals. Second, students and their counselors, parents, and teachers will have a single website that provides key information about career options, educational requirements, and links to college programs, financial aid, and grants available to students. Nothing else now exists to provide this kind of comprehensive information to students.

Many of the other programs proposed by the Regents and described below rely on the proven partnership approach described above. Regional Education Alliances can provide an excellent catalyst to increase their power. Examples of such programs include the expanded Alternative Certification Program, the proposals for Digital Education and Cultural Education, and the proposed expansion of Career and Technical Education.

2. Reduce and Then Eliminate the Inequitable Distribution of Teaching Talent

Despite improvements, the Regents still find an inequitable distribution of teaching talent in New York. Students in high poverty schools are more likely to have teachers who are not highly qualified in the subjects they teach than students in low need schools. In 2005-2006, over 14,400 teaching assignments in New York State (7% of all teaching assignments) were held by teachers without appropriate certification. These assignments were in every subject area.

The Regents will consider a proposal to prepare 1,000 new teachers within three years in subjects where there are shortages and for children in greatest need. This would be accomplished by expanding the proven Alternative Certification program and also the traditional teacher education program in the context of eight P-16 alliances that will be supported through competitive grants. Here are important elements of the proposal:

3. Implement Year 2 of P-16 Accountability

3A. Create a P-16 Data System.

The Regents have created a partnership with the Chancellors of SUNY, CUNY, and the New York City Department of Education, the Superintendents of Syracuse and Yonkers, and SED to design a P-16 data system. This data system will connect many separate data systems. It will provide a unified view of student achievement from year to year across the P-16 system. It will reveal patterns of performance and barriers to graduation that can be overcome with best practice and focused investment. The Regents will propose a 2008-09 budget item to implement the first part of the system design.

The P-16 Plan adopted last November proposed such a data system to support improvements in graduation rates in high school and higher education. Chapter 57 embraced this concept and said that the Regents “shall explore the development of a prekindergarten through postsecondary (P-16) data system that tracks student performance…” The Regents and their partners have done that and more. Now with the support of the Gates Foundation and working with the Parthenon Group, the partners have started to design the system.

The analysis phase of the project will identify work to prepare for a full P-16 data system by eliminating certain duplications in data collection, and improving links in current systems including teacher certification, teacher placement, basic higher education data collections, and program registration systems. Based on the experience of other states that have built P-16 data systems, we estimated the amount that could be spent productively in 2008-09 to implement the first part of the design.

3B. Digital Education: Technology to Advance Teaching and Learning

Every student in New York State urgently needs access to a high-speed connection to the Internet and access to other advanced technologies. Further, every educator needs to be prepared to support and enhance student achievement through informed use and integration of technologies.

In the past five years, over $1.4 billion in E-Rate money was distributed in New York State, and $280 million in federal and state Learning Technology Grant monies. This investment provided a foundation for the use of technology within USNY. A shared understanding for the use of technology will enable these funds to be leveraged more systemically.

The Board of Regents recently completed a year-long study coordinated by a 25-member field-based Technology Policy & Practices Council. The results of the Council’s efforts have provided a framework to move New York State into national leadership around the use of technologies to support teaching and learning.

Our goal is to increase student performance through greater access to advanced technologies and digital delivery systems. To accomplish this, the Regents will:

4. Improve Achievement by Increasing Access to Museums, Cultural Institutions and Online Library Services

Art, science and natural history museums, botanical gardens, theaters, historical societies and other cultural and science institutions are outstanding learning resources for New York’s students. They can teach in ways that complement traditional classroom study.

Currently, these entities do not receive state support to create curricula or deliver instruction that aligns with the State Learning Standards. New York needs a Cultural and Museum Education Act to provide formula funding to cultural and science-based institutions and organizations to provide K-12 educational programs aligned to the state learning standards. The proposal calls for $20 million the first year, $40 million the second year, with continuing funding thereafter. The $40 million would be allocated this way: $16 million dollars for formula-based aid, $6.5 million for competitive grants to museums, $15 million for competitive grants to performing arts institutions and other cultural institutions and $2.5 million for SED’s administration and evaluation of the program. The competitive grants will in part fund professional development for teachers. The end result will be children experiencing hands-on learning based on the learning standards in and outside of the classroom. This innovative, practical and positive program will bring art, other culture, science and history, among other subjects, to life for students, spark their interest in learning both during their academic career and afterwards, and improve their academic performance.

5. Enable More Individuals with Disabilities to Live and Work Independently

The Regents will propose $5 million to create four more Independent Living Centers, which would enable 7,500 more individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. This investment would expand the network from 36 to 40 Centers. The Centers provide counseling, transportation, technical training, access to employment and other supports. The four new ILCs will receive a base allocation of $300,000 each. In addition, all centers will receive a cost of living allowance of approximately 5 percent. The balance of the funds will expand capacity in the existing centers, with allocations based on population density. The four new Centers, together with the expanded capacity throughout the system, will prevent institutionalization for 300 individuals and enable 50 more to leave institutions, with an estimated savings of $25 million.

Two other proposals rely entirely on the expenditure of federal funds. The first would produce a partnership among the Department of Corrections, VESID, and the Department of Corrections to collaborate on referral, training and job placement for incarcerated persons with disabilities returning to the community. This would be accomplished through three new field teams fully supported by federal funds. Approximately 2,000 incarcerated persons would be eligible for VESID services, with the potential to increase job placement and reduce recidivism. The objective is to reduce recidivism by almost 40 percent. With the cost of incarceration averaging $16,000 per person for six months, we project a two year cost savings of over $25 million.

The second proposal would be a joint venture with the Department of Labor, the State Insurance Fund, and the Workers’ Compensation Board to facilitate the return to work of individuals with disabilities who are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Again, this would be entirely supported by federal funds, which would pay for the additional staff. The expected result would be 1,600 additional individuals returned to work, with an annual cost savings to the State of $32 million in compensation benefits costs that could be avoided.

Regents Legislative Priorities

The Regents priority federal and state legislative proposals for 2008 align with their P-16 Plan and propose new, reauthorized or extended statutory authority that would enable SED to carry out legislative mandates and Regents policy. The priorities include proposals for statutory authority needed to execute actions that would be required by the Regents 2008-09 budget priorities.

These are the Regents priority legislative proposals related to their five state budget priorities. Not all the budget priorities would require legislation and not all the legislative priorities are related to the budget request.

These plus the rest of the Regents legislative priorities will come before the Board for approval at the October meeting.

Regents Commitment to Interagency Partnerships

The Regents P-16 Plan stressed the need for:

“unprecedented collaboration among parents, employers, elected leaders, and educators. Education is a system in which all the parts affect and depend on the others. Solutions to its problems must be systemic solutions. For example, giving all children a good start requires prenatal and child health care, family literacy through libraries and other institutions, preschool programs and full-day kindergarten… The strategies and actions outlined here draw upon the strengths of the entire University of the State of New York.”

In November 2006, SED convened experts and practitioners from health, mental health and education to address one element in the Regents P-16 Plan, which was to “reduce barriers to teaching and learning in high need schools by creating a vision and leadership framework for an integrated education, health and mental health collaboration.” In December of 2006, that group proposed such a vision. They even recommended creation of a Children’s Cabinet. Here is some of what they said.

Commitment to collaboration: What’s needed is more than coordination. Collaboration means dedication to a shared vision, common goals that reflect potential benefits for all partners and joint acceptance of risk.

Support from the top: Partners, whether state or local, need to know that they have the support of those to whom they are accountable.

Structural permanence: Intermittent projects won’t work. There must be permanently convened leadership groups with defined participants, functions and resources.

Outcome-based accountability: Statewide, regional and local efforts must measure progress through a common set of metrics.

Braided funding: It builds buy-in when funds combined from various agencies to support integrated services are accounted for in ways that allow participants to maintain ownership of funds.

Effective practices and continuous improvement: There are many successful programs in New York and elsewhere that do their work through collaboration with multiple agencies. What they know can be shared and learned by others.

Family involvement: Families are the underutilized resource whose strengths are indispensable to many collaborations.

In that spirit, the Regents and State Education Department have supported many P-16 partnerships and other partnerships in recent years. Well over $500 million has been invested from State and federal sources alone, and many of these ventures have drawn millions more in foundation support.

We have been enthusiastic partners in ventures to create capacity to educate children with severe disabilities so that New York children placed out of state can return home. We have been very active in the Children’s Cabinet, and Chancellor Bennett has addressed that group. And in recent weeks we have worked with OMH Commissioner Michael Hogan and other commissioners on an interagency approach to children with severe emotional disabilities; a joint effort with Civil Service Commissioner Nancy Groenwegen to accelerate recruitment to build SED capacity; and joint promotion of “green building” standards with DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis and Paul Tonko, CEO of NYSERDA. We toured a secure facility with OCF Commissioner Gladys Carrion, jointly confronted the challenge of reintroducing incarcerated youth into their communities, and followed up with District Superintendents.

Interagency collaboration is the way to focus sufficient resources. Most of the challenges we face now require all of us to learn and practice attitudes and skills that enable collaboration to work.

Researchers analyzed dual enrollment programs in Florida and New York. They concluded that “Dual enrollment participation had a statistically significant positive association with students’ likelihood of earning a regular high school diploma and enrolling postsecondary education.” This remained true for continuing in college into the second and third years. See Karp, Melinda Mechur, “The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment,” National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, October 2007.