The School Wars: A New Chapter – Can the Newly Reconstituted Board of Regents Create a Teacher Evaluation Plan – in Two Months? The Regents Face a Daunting Task.

Regents? Aren’t those the exams you have to pass to graduate high school in New York State? The Regents, formally the Board of Regents, founded in 1784, is the oldest education governing body in the nation and is embedded in the state constitution.

§ 4. [Department heads]
… The head of the department of education shall be The Regents of the University of the State of New York, who shall appoint and at pleasure remove a commissioner of education to be the chief administrative officer of the department…

§ 1. [Common schools]
The legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated.

The seventeen members of the Board, 13 representing the judicial districts in the state, and four at-large, are elected by a joint meeting of the New York State legislature.

Members of policy board commonly serve in anonymity, who knows the name of any of the members of the CUNY or SUNY boards? For decades the Regents selected commissioners, usually from among the superintendents in the state or from another state, and set general policies.

In the mid-nineties the Regents made a significant change, The Board moved from a multi-diploma system to a single Regents diploma. Most students in the state graduated with a local diploma that required passing the Regents Competency Examination (CTE), a perhaps eighth or ninth grade level test. After months and months of debate. often acrimonious debate, the regulation was adopted and a phase-in of the single Regents diploma began, a five year phase-in was delayed and extended and took twelve years to be fully phased in.

There were no demonstrations, no front page above the fold articles in the New York Times; schools worried and struggled to implement the new regulations. The impact was staggering, the bar was raised and in spite of the extended phase-in graduation rates dipped in many schools and the public yawned; however, schools recovered as did graduation rates. The bar was raised and teachers and students responded.

On Monday the seventeen Regents members will convene in Albany, a newly reconstituted Board. Four of the members are new, just elected by the legislature that chose to bump out two of the senior members, an unprecedented event. Regent members serve five year terms and incumbents had always been re-elected.

Four years of contentious hassling have changed the landscape. A year-long marathon to create a teacher evaluation system, the application for 770 million in Race to the Top dollars, aggressive school closings, charter schools caps, schools of education exit exams and the overriding issue: the Common Core State Standards grades 3-8 exams. Education became a front page topic.

An old political axiom: when you toss a rock into a pool of feces you never know whose going to get splashed created a maelstrom.

Parent and teacher anger grew, the Opt-Out movement moved from a curiosity to a tsunami and the governor acted aggressively, seemingly to punish teachers in the name of school reform.

Legislators showed their displeasure with the actions of the Regents by electing four new members (Read bios here), three retired superintendents and a veteran of the Buffalo School Board wars. There are now six retired superintendents on the seventeen member board; nine women, six Afro-Americans, one Latina and one Asian. The Board membership has moved rapidly from almost all White males to a diverse Board.

The message from the legislature is clear.

“We’re tired of having our e-mailboxes filled with angry communications asking us to ‘fix’ education policies. Angry parents and angry teachers lead to angry voters and jeopardize our election. We selecting new members of the Regents – fix education.”

The convoluted budget system in New York State forced the legislature to negotiate a complex “deal;” the 2015-16 budget includes changes in the teacher evaluation system and directs the policy-makers, the Board of Regents, to draft the plan and the regulations.

BTW, you have about two months, the Race to the Top funds are ending, the Regents Research Fund is ending, the feds are moving toward a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind and there is no commissioner.

Some argue the law is highly proscriptive, others that the Regents have significant latitude.

The “answer” is always found in the classrooms and schools, perhaps start slowly and phase in whatever the plan is over a few years, allow “the field” to craft plans, learn from the experience of Regent predecessors. The move to a single Regents diploma was slow and extended numerous times,

A brilliant, arrogant commissioner imposed his will and created the Opt-Out movement and a vindictive, self-aggrandizing governor alienated the school community.

Allowing wide latitude to the folks in the schools to craft plans to assess student and teacher progress; plans that allow students and teachers to learn, might make a lot more sense than the current test and punish mantra.

I wish the Regents well


2 responses to “The School Wars: A New Chapter – Can the Newly Reconstituted Board of Regents Create a Teacher Evaluation Plan – in Two Months? The Regents Face a Daunting Task.

  1. What degree of power does Tisch have over the board? And who sways or checks her power? The legislators? The commish? The gov? The public?

    She has seemed eye to eye with Bloomy and Cuomo. She was at a rather exclusive book party for The Contender recently. What is up with Tisch?


  2. The Chancellor is elected by the other members of the 17-member Board of Regents. The Board selects the Commissioner and sets overall policy, within the parameters of the law. The Governor has no power over the Board, and the power of the legislature is not to reappoint members and appoint members who philosophically are in line with the legislature.

    The Governor and the legislature can pass laws that direct the Regents to change regulations, i. e.., the new teacher evaluation law.


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