Who decides education policy in New York State?
Does Meryl Tisch, the Chancellor of the Board of Regents dictate policy which is
rubber stamped by a mostly compliant Board?
Does Commissioner of Education King “work for” Chancellor Tisch? The
Regents? Or, does he follow an independent path?
Michael Winerip, in his NY Times “On Education” op ed paints a Board dominated by Tisch who has funded her own “mini” State Education Department. The privately funded (Tisch, Gates, Charter School
Association, etc.) Regents Research Fund (RRF), that apparently works for Tisch
crafts crucial policy issues. The Commissioner’s 63 member Task Force on
Teacher-Principal Evaluation was chaired by Amy McIntosh, a RRF fellow, and,
the recommendations to the Regents clearly did not reflect the views of the
NYSUT, the state teacher union, attacked the plan, refused to cooperate with State Ed, and challenged the plan in court.
Rick Hess, in an interview with former State Ed head David Steiner
quotes Steiner as decrying a “lack of willingness to move away from the
status quo.” Steiner’s sudden resignation, leaked on the same day as the
Cathie Black’s demise has not been explored. Steiner had negotiated through the
Scylla and Caribidous of the Race to the Top application, convincing the teacher
unions to agree to a doubling of the charter school cap and the multiple
measures teacher-evaluation plan = $700 million in federal funds. He was an
early adopter of the Common Core State Standards
and appeared to be a shining light.
Why did he suddenly leave and why allow Tisch
to announce his leaving as an aside in a conversation? Conflicts with Tisch? A
John King engineered coup? Or, simply the culinary and cultural delights of Albany did not match Manhattan?
John King, crowned as Commissioner without a search, has a glittering academic resume and no leadership experience.
One of his first decisions was to eliminate the January regents exams after assuring the Board of Regents that he had fully
vetted the decision. A combination of poor judgment and hubris: an ofttimes
The anouncement of an “in-house” committee to investigate test
administration (i.e., cheating) also raised eyebrows. The announcement was a
surprise to the Regents. The SED released a list of schools with
“questionable” results on regents exams.
The NYCDOE drags its feet on investigations and the Mayor derides “error
analysis” as “too costly.” Is there a NYC/NYS testing/cheating
scandal in the wind?
A decade ago the Regents and the SED were clearly the driving force in setting
education policy for the 700 school districts in the state.
School closings are an example: the decision to close a school was closely monitored by the State; a detailed “application” had to be submitted outlining all the contingencies.
State Schools Under Regents Review (SURR) teams closely investigated struggling shools and issued detailed public reports that drove school support initiatives.
Currently, in NYC, school closings are the domain of the trompe d’oeil Panel for
Educational Policy, a group which gives rubber stamps a bad name.
The SED is totally engaged in rolling out the Common Core, and, the webcasts of the Regents meeting are depressing, characterized by the absence of discussions of key topics.
Two of the Regents members in the Winerip NY Times article complain that they receive lengthy agendas only days before the monthly meetings: either a
decision to limit meaningful discussion or ineptitude, both of which should be
The seventeen members of the Board of Regents are selected by a joint meeting of the state legislature; a political selection process selects mostly anonymous
non-political appointees who serve in anonymity.
Onlya few of the Regents hold open community meetings and attend school boardmeetings. Only a few actually reflect the opinions of the communities they
The Regents meeting could benefit from sunshine and substance. Dry presentations by SED staff are a waste of valuable time.
Meetings should rotate around the state (NYC, Long Island, Buffalo, Syracuse, etc.) with agendas issued weeks before the meetings.
The SED/Regents website should be interactive and allow for public comment on an ongoing basis.
Regents members should hold open community forums on a regular basis. 15 of the 17Regents are elected by judicial district and should seek comment from residents of their geographic districts.
Educational policy must not be driven by a Governor or a Mayor – we need leadership not bullying.
Leadership from a Board, a Chancellor and a Commissioner that interacts with parents, teachers and communities.
We need sunlight and true collaboration.