Tag Archives: Students with Disabilities

Who Fails to Graduate High School? And, Why? Thinking Outside the Box (Part 2 Students with Disabilities)

Only about 50 percent of students with disabilities in the 2011 cohort graduated within four years   (NYSED Press release on NYS graduation rates)

Over the last eight years New York State has had five commissioners (Mills, Steiner, King, Wagner and Elia) who have all rolled out “cures,” sweeping initiatives to change outcomes for students, with very little impact.

Graduation rates have crept up a few points at a time, probably better data management and easing graduation requirements. The English Regents exam changed from a two-day, three hours each day to a one day three-hour exam – passing rates jumped, Global Studies has moved from covering two years of work (9th and 10th grades) to one year (10th grade).  The Students with Disabilities safety net drops the passing score to 55.  (Safety Net and Compensatory Option: read here) and under special circumstances students can pass Regents through an Appeals Process (Read description here).

Once again Albany plans to increase graduation rates by tweaking the graduation requirements.

One initiative calls for expanding the appeals process, a process that is rarely used, and, there is an assumption that expanding the appeals procedures would increase the passing rate.

Regents Appeals Process

The Department proposes to widen the score range for students who wish to appeal their Regents Exam result. This proposal is aimed at helping students who have traditionally struggled to earn a diploma and graduate.

Under the current regulation, students may appeal a failing score on a Regents Exam if their score is within three points of passing (62-64) and they:

  • Have taken the Regents Exam under appeal at least twice;
  • Present evidence that they have utilized academic help provided by their school in the subject tested by the Regents Exam under appeal;
  • Have an attendance rate of 95 percent;
  • Pass the course for which the appeal is being sought; and
  • Must be recommended for the appeal by their teacher or Department chairperson in the subject of the Regents Exam under appeal.

The proposal would widen the range of scores by two points to include scores of 60 to 64, permitting students to appeal scores within five points of passing on up to two Regents Exams. As with the current regulation, students who are granted one appeal by their district would earn a Regents diploma. Students granted two would earn a local diploma.

According to an initial analysis, approximately 4,800 students from the 2010 cohort would have met the testing requirements had the expanded appeal been an option. This option would have had a great impact on some of the State’s most vulnerable students. Of the 4,800 who would have earned a diploma with the expanded appeal, more than 3,400 would come from economically disadvantaged homes; 1,700 would be Hispanic; 1,500 would be Black; and nearly 1,000 would be ELLs.

Why does the Department assume that the appeal process would result in higher scores on the re-scoring of the exam? Was every exam incorrectly scored disadvantaging the student?  Until State Ed and the Department of Education prohibited re-scoring, re-scoring commonly referred to as “scrubbing,” was commonplace; is Albany “legalizing” scrubbing?  When we “scrubbed” Regents essay questions we almost always increased a grade to 65, yes; it was not based on any statistical anomaly, it was simply based on kindness.

Project Based Assessment

The Department also recommends the adoption of a new graduation option for students who have successfully completed all the coursework necessary to earn a Regents Diploma but who have not passed the requisite Regents Exams. This option would allow such students to complete a project-based assessment instead of having to pass the Regents Exam, as long as they have taken and passed the course and met the attendance requirements for the school district.

Could a student opt out of taking the Regents and opt into a project-based assessment option? Or, is the option only open to students who have failed the Regents Exam?  The Performance-Based Assessment Consortium high schools in New York State have an approved waiver and offer a project-based classroom; all instruction centers around the course-long construction of a portfolio and culminates in the defense of the portfolio at a roundtable made up of teachers and critical friends (Read a description of the process here).

Project-based assessments would give students who struggle with standardized tests another way to show their competency in a subject. The assessments will consist of a set of rigorous activities that a student must complete independently of classroom instruction in order to demonstrate proficiency in a content area to meet State graduation requirements. These assessments will be developed by teachers and will be designed to be as challenging as Regents Exams. They would be scored by trained evaluators based on a scoring rubric created by educators and established by the State.

I’m baffled, “The assessments will consist of a set of rigorous activities that a student must complete independently of classroom instruction,” are we returning to the “bad old days” of credit recovery?  A few hours tapping away at a computer to earn a credit; students are creating a document “as challenging as Regents Exams.” that is also “independent of classroom instruction”? An after-school activity?  BTW, who are thetrained evaluators based on a scoring rubric created by educators and established by the State”?  Who trains them? Who pays them?   What are the “rigorous activities” in Algebra 1 or Living Environment or Chemistry look like? Why would a student even take a Regents if s/he knew that there was a backup assessment process?

Rather than jumping to Albany generated “answers” perhaps addressing the needs of individual students would be a better place to start.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that  students with a disability are provided with “Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)” that is tailored to their individual needs  and provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability. The law requires an Individualized Education Program (IEP), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), Appropriate Evaluation, Parent and Teacher Participation, and Procedural Safeguards.

 The IEP is the cornerstone of a student’s educational program. It specifies the services to be provided and how often, describes the student’s present levels of performance and how the student’s disabilities affect academic performance, and specifies accommodations and modifications to be provided for the student.

The IEP team determines the class placement on the continuum of services, self-contained or a co-teaching classroom.  The self-contained classroom specifies the class size and whether a teacher aide is required. The teacher must be an appropriately licensed teacher, special education, and if the setting is a co-teaching classroom about a third of the class are students with IEPs with two teachers, a special education certified teacher and a content area certified teacher. The IEP team should determine “accommodations and modifications” as well as “how the student’s disabilities affect academic performance.”

The IEP team could determine whether or not the student should take the Regents Exam, and, if not, the appropriate type of assessment. If a student’s disability includes a computational skills deficit, why should the student be forced to take a Regents Exam that they cannot pass?  Perhaps the Regents Competency Tests should be resuscitated.

Who are the students with disabilities who are failing Regents Exams?  I suspect students in More Restrictive Environments (self-contained classes) are more likely to fail Regents. If so, can an IEP team exempt students from specific Regents exams?

Has the state identified schools, school districts and class configurations that have higher Regents passing rates? And, if so, why are the pass rates higher? More experienced teachers?  Effective common planning time?  Before we hop onto any idea let’s check out the underlying reasons for success.

In the early 1990s the Regents began a debate about the dual diploma system – the local and the Regents diploma. The local diploma was the predominant diploma, and the exit exams, the Regents Competency Exams (RCTs), were low level tests – perhaps 9th or 10th grade. After years of debate the Regents began the incremental phase-out of the RCTs; the process took ten years. Now the commissioner has recommended scaling back the Regents diploma standards.

“Finger in the dike” solutions will satisfy parents of students who are failing Regents exams; however, these “solutions” will negatively impact college and career readiness.

These are complex issues that commissioners and the Regents have only discussed around the edges.

Perhaps asking students, parent, teachers and principals would be a good place to start.

Students with Disabilities and High School Graduation: Can the State Create Additional Graduation Pathways Without “Tracking” Students?

The New York State Education Department today released high school graduation rates for the 2011 cohort (students who entered 9th grade in 2011). The overall graduation rate for the 2011 cohort increased to 78.1 percent, up 1.7 percentage points from 76.4 percent for the 2010 cohort.

Only about 50 percent of students with disabilities in the 2011 cohort graduated within four years.

(New York State Education Department Press Release)

Half of students with disabilities do not graduate in four years.  For decades the state offered a regents diploma and a local diploma alternative. The regents diploma required passing five regents exams (English, Science, Mathematics, American History and Global History); the local diploma required passing the Regents Competency Test (RCT), a test at about the ninth grade level. In the mid-nineties, after years of debate the state moved to a single regents diploma and began the phase-out of the local (RCT) diploma.

Currently the only diploma option is New York State is the regents diploma.

All students, regular education and students with disabilities (fka special education) must pass courses and exams to qualify for the regents diploma, except for the cohort of students with “moderate or severe” disabilities

There is a vast array of statute and regulation establishing the rights of students with disabilities and proscribing the types of education. The following is a summary of the requirements.

 The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) … ensures students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs …  the goal of IDEA is to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability.

 The sections of the law requires an Individualized Education Program (IEP), Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), Appropriate Evaluation, Parent and Teacher Participation, and Procedural Safeguards

The act requires that schools create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student who is found to be eligible under both the federal and state eligibility/disability standards. The IEP is the cornerstone of a student’s educational program. It specifies the services to be provided and how often, describes the student’s present levels of performance and how the student’s disabilities affect academic performance, and specifies accommodations and modifications to be provided for the student.

 IEP team must include at least one of the child’s regular education teachers (if applicable), a special education teacher, someone who can interpret the educational implications of the child’s evaluation, such as a school psychologist, any related service personnel deemed appropriate or necessary, and an administrator or CSE (Committee of Special Education) representative who has adequate knowledge of the availability of services in the district and the authority to commit those services on behalf of the child. Parents are considered to be equal members of the IEP team along with the school staff.  The IEP must place the student in a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) which provides “…access to the general curriculum to meet the challenging expectations established for all children” (that is, it meets the approximate grade-level standards of the state educational agency)

Simply put, the LRE is the environment most like that of typical children in which the child with a disability can succeed academically (as measured by the specific goals in the student’s IEP) and asks,

  1. Can an appropriate education in the general education classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services be achieved satisfactorily?
  2. If a student is placed in a more restrictive setting, is the student “integrated” to the “maximum extent appropriate”?

The general education classroom option is called a co-teaching classroom; a subject area teacher and a special education certified teacher in the same classroom, about a third of the students in the co-teaching classroom are students with IEPs. The special education teacher modifies the instruction pursuant to the IEP of the student.   Other students are placed in “more restrictive setting,” self-contained classrooms, with lower class sizes and frequently with a teacher aide.  There has been a sharp reduction in the number of self-contained classrooms.

Although the student with a disability may be entitled to additional time on tests, once again, pursuant to the IEP, the student must meet the same requirements as far as passing the required courses and regents exams.

The commissioner, in her presser, referenced a number of possible pathways to improve graduation rates for students with disabilities.

Whether these pathways comply with law is open to question.

 These proposals include widening the score range for any students who wish to appeal their Regents Exam result;

The appeal/re-scoring option is rarely used and onerous, most school districts are unaware of the option, and, would the re-scoring increase a grade?

establishing a graduation pathway in Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS);

The CDOS credential is not a diploma, the credential is offered to students in sites designed for “moderately and severely handicapped” students, such as BOCES sites in the state and District 75 sites in New York City.  It is unrealistic to expect that general education high schools could offer the credential (Read the description of the CDOS credential here)

and the creation of a project-based assessment for students who pass coursework required for a diploma but who have not passed required Regents Exams.

Forty high schools have a waiver from New York State to substitute a portfolio-roundtable system in lieu of the regents exams. (See the performance-based consortium (PBAC) website for a description here). The PBAC schools utilize a different instructional model – students work on performance assessed projects throughout the school year culminating in the submission of the portfolio with a roundtable of teachers and “critical friends” questioning the student and, using a rubric, assess the portfolio.

The danger is replicating the credit recovery debacle. Schools purchased a software package, such as Plato (See website here), the student worked at the computer with the general supervision of a teacher, and earned a credit.  Instead of the 54 hours required for course credit a student could earn a credit with substantially less time.  Creating a “project-based assessment” that is equivalent to a regents exam is a challenge.

These new options are intended to give all students—especially those with disabilities, English language learners (ELL), and students at risk of dropping out—additional ways of earning a diploma while continuing to measure them against the State’s rigorous standards.

The commissioner suggests a number of alternative pathways, the source of the pathways are the IEP process. The IEP “specifies the services to be provided and how often, describes the student’s present levels of performance and how the student’s disabilities affect academic performance, and specifies accommodations and modifications to be provided for the student,” the members of IEP team determine the pathway.

Perhaps it is time for the commissioner to explore the creation of an alternative exam, a backup for the regents exam. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of students who can pass two, three or four regents exams, not all five, especially with the new Common Core exams. If a student with disabilities can pass all of their subjects, and not all of the regents exams, should they be deprived of a diploma?

Can the state create a diploma “with conditions” that are specified on the diploma?

Some would argue that this type of option should be available to all students; however, we must not create a “tracking” system. Our goal must be a regents diploma for all, with the realization that for some students, the pathway is not realistic.

It’s time for the state to begin a dialogue.

Chancellor Tisch Will Not Seek Another Term: Some Suggestions – How To Begin to Win Back Parents and Teachers

If you used the word “Regent” a decade ago I would have said one of the five exams a student needs to graduate high school in New York State. The “Board” of Regents, with origins in the late 18th century, met monthly and anonymously in Albany; the members were college professors, retired superintendents, former legislators and business leaders, who had enough political clout to be “elected” (in reality, selected) by the Speaker of the Assembly.

No newspaper stories, no blogs, no one paid much attention to the meetings and the policy determinations.

A test: who was the chancellor prior to Merryl Tisch?

The major chore of the Board was to select a commissioner, who usually was a senior, well-regarded superintendent, who ran the State Education Department.

The board is a policy board and the policy items usually originated with the commissioner.

In 2009 Merryl Tisch, who had been a board member for a dozen years, was selected by her colleagues as chancellor.

Commissioner Mills “retired,” and the Chancellor Tisch chose a new path, instead of selecting a state superintendent the board selected David Steiner, the Dean of the School of Education at Hunter College and before that the leader of the National Academy of the Arts.

The “dirty little secret,” a secret that everyone suspected, the scores on the state reading/math tests, that had been inching up every year, had been “pushed long” by the exiting commissioner.

Tisch and Steiner asked David Koretz, a Harvard professor to examine testing practices, and, yes, the testing practices that were in place allowed the scores to incrementally increase each year.

Test practices were corrected, and the scores dipped.

I was optimistic, the Tisch-Steiner team signaled a new, more open board that might actually address the major issue, the elephant in the room: a funding formula based on local property tax revenue that guaranteed that the richest districts would get richer and the poorer district poorer. It was a national disgrace.

To my disappointment the commissioner resigned, John King was appointed without a search and the chancellor did not address the funding catastrophe, instead moved down the Race to the Top, Common Core, testing and teacher evaluation tied to student growth scores path.

There is no question in my mind that the chancellor’s goal is to improve opportunities for the most disadvantaged, to drive the members of the board to adopt policies to improve futures for every child in the state. The chancellor, which had been an anonymous position, was changed into the chancellor as the driver of education policy across the state; every meeting is covered by the media. At Regents’ meetings the chancellor is frequently the kid in the class who calls out loud, who interrupts the speaker to ask a challenging question, who pushes, who cross-examines the speaker, whether a State Ed staffer or the commissioner.

To me she has been an enigma – a brilliant leader, passionately concerned about education, a champion of the disempowered, a champion of the poorest communities and the children without the power to change their own paths, a leader who somehow wandered down the wrong road.

While the state constitution designates the Board of Regents as the organization that sets policy for education in state more and more policy is set by the second floor of the Capital building – the offices of the executive – the governor. The “education governor” is now trying to repair his torn education legacy.

The NY Daily News report on a new poll,

In the poll’s education section, the Common Core curriculum got boos from respondents who believe the strict standards have made schools worse. By a 2-1 margin, voters gave Common Core a thumbs down, with 40% of those surveyed saying public education has gotten worse. Another 21% said Common Core standards have made little impact.

A year ago John King was pushed out as commissioner – the Cuomo Education Commission was reconstituted with a specific agenda, any district can receive a waiver from the new teacher evaluation plan, a teacher appeal process has been put in place, the commissioner is exploring the efficacy of the use of growth scores in assessing teachers and the governor has selected a superintendent as his chief education advisor – a superintendent who had been a sharp critic of the Cuomo policies.

The Speaker of the Assembly dumped the two most senior members of the board and chancellor chose not to seek another term.

Two Regents (Tisch and Anthony Bottar – Syracuse) terms expire and next year three Regents terms expire.

Geoff Decker, at Chalkbeat does an excellent job of tracking the rapid changes here.

The Governor selected a new deputy for education who moves from a critic of the policies of the governor and the Regents to the chief educational advisor to the governor.

Hochman has been critical of state education policies in the past. Last year, he said the Common Core has become too tied to a “culture of testing” and questioned whether it would need to be revamped.

“The whole accountability, ‘gotcha’ culture is so out of control that we need a fresh start,” Hochman told The Journal News in September of last year. “The standards are OK, but every problem is connected to the Common Core. New York needs to take a bold stance so we can focus on educating kids.”

With 200,000 parents opting out of state tests, with an angry teaching force, with nose diving polling numbers the governor is bailing the sinking ship of state.

Although Chancellor Tisch will not be seeking another term she does have five months to begin to turn around the leviathan – the education system in New York State

A few suggestions:

Reduce or eliminate the impact of Value-Added Measures (VAM) on teacher evaluation.

Whether or not the use of student growth scores are a valid, stable and reliable tool to assess teacher performance the impact has been to alienate teachers and parents and to overemphasize annual school testing. The state should begin to explore an inspectorate system, the school and teacher evaluation system used in almost all other nations. (Read about the Inspectorate System here)

Reduce the length of state tests, release more test items and release the scores earlier

While the changes I suggest are relatively minor they address the complaints of parents and teachers and are achievable for the next testing cycle. The state should begin the move to adaptive testing; the data is immediately available to teachers and parents and helps guide instruction tailored to the needs of each individual child.

Fully examine and adjust the Common Core and Engage NY Curriculum Modules

The standards are not well-written, all policies should be regularly reviewed in a transparent process, the complaints about the Common Core, for example, the inappropriateness of the early childhood standards, should be explored. The Curriculum Modules should have been constructed from the bottom up and should be constantly expanded to reflect the brilliance of teachers around the state.

Increase the role of teachers in the Common Core/Curriculum Module revision process

A no brainer: ”Participation Reduces Resistance.”

Continue to advocate changing the federal testing requirements for English language learners and Students with Disabilities.

With Arne Duncan almost out the door hopefully Secretary-Designee King will accept the New York State request to alter the cruel testing requirements now in place for English language learners and Students with disabilities.

Robert Frost mulls over “The Road Not Taken,” we have taken the wrong road – time to correct our error.

Should Low Performing Charter Schools Be Closed? Are Charter Schools in Violation of Federal Regulations and State Law? Creating an Even Playing Field

This year, by happenstance, an unusually large number of charter schools are up for renewal.

A little background: the law sets a cap on the number of charter schools, a cap for NYC and one for the remainder of the state, the NYC cap has about 25 slots left and over 100 slots for the rest of the state. There are three charter authorizers, SUNY, the Board of Regents and the NYC Department of Education. The charter is the equivalent of a permit to operate a school; the charter must be renewed every five years. In the fourth year the charter authorizer examines the school; in the original application the proposed school established goals; the authorizer examines the schools data in considerable detail and determines the length of the charter renewal; from another five years down to a low of 1.5 years.

In December charter renewal recommendations from NYC came before the Regents, usually pro forma. This time, Regent members had questions, lots of questions, and asked the Department to attend the January meeting and explain their renewal criteria.

There is no question that there are many charter schools that are struggling, with little hope of improvement. Single entrepreneur charter schools have no place to go for help; maybe they can purchase a professional development package, hire a consultant, change the principal, with no guarantee that results will change. If they struggle for the first five years, what will change in the ensuing years?

The Department and the State have also identified 94 struggling public schools in NYC, about a dozen are referred to as “out of time” schools, they have not shown any progress over a number of years. The Department is closely monitoring the schools, each school has a detailed plan, and many of the schools are receiving State Incentive Grant (SIG) dollars which bring outside resources into the school. Chancellor Farina says the schools need time.

The former administration crowed that they closed over 150 schools; I believe the Regents have closed something like seventeen charter schools.

At the February Regents meeting three schools from Buffalo were up for renewal and the recommendations were: one school, 3.5 years, another 4 years and the third the full 5 years. Regent Bennett, who represents Buffalo, objected, he claimed the Regents either extended for 3 or 5 years, nothing else (He’s wrong) and urged the Regents to extend all for five years. The committee chair, Regent Bottar, huddled with SED staff, and extended all for five years. Why should a Regent be permitted to over turn a decision based on an examination of data? As an aside, I am told Regent Bennett’s daughter teaches in a charter school in Buffalo.

Are we treating public and charter schools the same? Is there an equal playing field?

The law clearly gives the Board of Regents the power to revoke charters,

When a charter school’s outcome on student assessment measures
adopted by the board of regents falls below the level that would allow
the commissioner to revoke the registration of another public school,
and student achievement on such measures has not shown improvement over
the preceding three school years;

In the original charter application applicants agreed that percentages of Students with Disabilities, English language learners and Title 1 eligible children would at least match the percentages in the surrounding school district.

the charter school shall demonstrate good faith efforts to attract and retain a comparable or
greater enrollment of students with disabilities, English language
learners, and students who are eligible applicants for the free and
reduced price lunch program when compared to the enrollment figures for
such students in the school district in which the charter school is
located

And, if the charter school fails to “attract and retain” said students the Regents can revoke the charter, with a caveat,

Repeated failure to comply with the requirement to meet or exceed
enrollment and retention targets of students with disabilities, English
language learners, and students who are eligible applicants for the free
and reduced price lunch program pursuant to targets established by the
board of regents charter school demonstrates that it has made
extensive efforts to recruit and retain such students, including
outreach to parents and families in the surrounding communities, widely
publicizing the lottery for such school, and efforts to academically
support such students in such charter school, then the charter entity or
board of regents may retain such charter.

When it comes to student suspensions charter schools must meet the same criteria as public schools,

A charter school shall meet the same health and safety, civil
rights, and student assessment requirements applicable to other public
schools.

Charter school discipline policies routinely violate both state law and federal regulations. State law,

No pupil may be suspended for a period in excess of five
school days unless such pupil and the person in parental relation to
such pupil shall have had an opportunity for a fair hearing, upon
reasonable notice, at which such pupil shall have the right of
representation by counsel, with the right to question witnesses against
such pupil and to present witnesses and other evidence on his or her
behalf.

The feds have released extensive guidance relating to discipline practices which charter schools routinely ignore.

Let’s take an in-depth look at charter schools versus public schools. The charts in the link below give the average percentages of English language learners, total special education (Students with Disabilities), special ed students in self-contained classrooms and students in temporary housing in public elementary and K-8 schools by Community School District

There are glaring differences in EVERY school district.

Click to access demographics-charters-v-traditional.pdf

Now, why not compare “apples to apple,” let’s compare charter and traditional schools sharing the same buildings, which is generally referred to as co-location, once again glaring differences in % ELL, % IEPs, % High Needs Special Education (self-contained classes) and % in temporary housing.

Click to access colocated-schools-sharing-buildings.pdf

The Department has created a tool called the peer index; it uses the index to compare schools with similar demographics for purposes of school assessment. The link below compares charter and traditional schools within Community School Districts, and, yes, once again in the vast percentages of charter schools serve significantly fewer percentages of high needs students

Click to access peer-index-explainer.pdf

In realm of school suspensions Chalkbeat, the go-to site for school news reports,

New York City charter schools suspended students at almost three times the rate of traditional public schools during the 2011-12 school year, according to a Chalkbeat analysis, though some charter schools have since begun to reduce the use of suspensions for minor infractions.

Overall, charter schools suspended at least 11 percent of their students that year, while district schools suspended 4.2 percent of their students. The charter-school suspension rate is likely an underestimate because charter schools don’t have to report suspensions that students serve in school.

If we compare general ed students to general ed students in charter and traditional schools the traditional schools would far outpace the charter schools. The assessment of charter schools, whether conducted by the NYC Department or the State Department of Education is deeply flawed.

The charter review process, just as the State Diagnostic Tool, has to assess student progress taking into account the total percentage of students with disabilities, special education students in self-contained classes, students in temporary housing, English language learners and other “risk factors” To compare schools in affluent suburbs with students in high needs communities is unfair to all students and school staffs.

We must expect progress in all schools; our challenge is developing tools to measure progress. The primary purpose of measuring progress must not be to “rate” practitioners, the purpose must be to guide the school, to assist the school in developing and implementing appropriate interventions.

Unfortunately the modus operandi in too many charter schools is to limit the admission of high needs youngsters and to rid the school of low performing and “difficult” students.

The State Department (SED) acted vigorously in districts that were not assigning “undocumented” new arrivals to classes as they arrived, they ordered the districts to comply. The SED must act with the same vigor with charter schools.

The charter school program in New York State is fifteen years old, the SED has danced around the issue of two separate and unequal systems of schooling, the law is clear, the sanctions for not complying with the law is the revocation of the charter and the SED has to make it clear that revocation will result for charter schools failing to comply. To allow charter schools to skulk around the law with a “wink and a nod” is not acceptable.

The question of closing low performing schools, traditional and charter, is complex, we have not developed sophisticated tools; graduation rates and scores on state standardized tests are not adequate. There are times when school leadership and school staffs ate not up to the challenge – up to now the NYC Department and the SED has allowed charter schools to slide, they sidestepped the toxic politics.

It’s time to address the issue.

If I Were a Candidate for the Board of Regents … (The Five-Minute Opening Statement I Wish a Candidate Would Have Made)

Last week a joint meeting of the Education and Higher Education Committees of the NYS Assembly interviewed scores of applicants for the seven regents positions that up for election or re-election. Two positions are vacant (Queens and Westchester/Rockland/Putnam) and five are candidates for re-election.

On Monday the committee interviewed the incumbents and for the remainder of the week interviewed other aspirants. Usually the local electeds select a candidate, and at a joint meeting of both houses “elects” the regent. I sat through a number of the interviews, tedious. The candidates are allowed a five minute presentation and respond to questions; the interviews last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending upon the number of legislators present and interest in the viability of the candidate. Below: the five minute presentation I hope a candidate would have given.


Members of the legislature, the media and others in the audience,

The Board of Regents was created in 1784 and is vested with the authority to establish policy for all schools and professions in New York State. Unfortunately the board continues to operate aloof from the citizens of the state. There appears to be a growing disconnect between parents, legislators and board members.

Board members are elected by a joint meeting of the legislature to represent their judicial district or, as at -large members. The board must change its practices so that, to the fullest extent possible, the public can both be aware of the deliberations of the board, and, participate in the discussions.

As a prospective board member I propose structural changes,

* The entire regents meeting, the full board meeting and the committee meetings, especially P-12 and Higher Ed committees, should be webcast and archived, the comments of the board members should be available to the state, not just the audience on that particular day.

* There must be an opportunity for public comment. Virtually every public meeting, from school board to town hall has a mechanism for real time public comment, a parent in White Plains, Rochester, Buffalo, the North Country or the Bronx should have an opportunity to participate in the meeting via cyberspace.

* Regents should be required to hold public forums in their districts, perhaps fall, winter and spring, once again, an opportunity for the public to interact, face to face, with regents members.

* The regents agenda and attachments should be written in “plain English,” with a brief explanation for each item and posted online a week before the meetings, now they are available Friday or Saturday before the Monday meeting and densely written.

* The board should seek funding for a state-wide Parent Information Center, similar to the New York City “311” system. The ability to establish a mechanism to answer parent questions varies widely throughout the state, consolidating into one state operated center is essential.

The role of the regents is to establish policy; increasingly policy has been set in Washington and regents role has been to figure out procedures to implement these policies. The Common Core and Race to the Top are national policies and they have dominated educational discussions for the last five years. The Malatras letters from the governor are another example of overreach; just as educational policies should not be written in stone in Washington nor should they be written on the second floor of the Capital.

Educational policy has been set by the commissioner, not the regents. The Race to the Top funding ends in June and the board must re-establish its role.

What are the priorities of the regents?

I suggest: equitable, adequate funding, responding to the current high stakes testing climate, creating a pathway to work or college for all students, responding to the criticism of “low performing” schools, the testing of English language learners and students with disabilities, too many school districts, the power and authority of the SED to intervene in school districts are some of the items that should become priorities of the regents.

Currently the feds require that students with disabilities are tested at their chronological age, not at their functional level, the result is dooming kids to failure; and, the feds also require that English language learners are tested after one year in school regardless of their level of English acquisition. Regent Phillips, who is not seeking re-election, on numerous occasions has suggested that the regents simply do what is right and confront the feds, create a crisis. Unfortunately his suggestion has not resonated with his peers.

Under the current ESEA Waiver, Reward Schools receive additional funding, why are we supporting sending additional dollars to successful schools? Perhaps we should consider relieving successful schools from burdensome reporting requirements and use the dollars to support the neediest schools.

A core question deals with a mechanism to determine individual student and school progress: are the current Common Core-based tests the best way to assess progress?

The seventeen women and men in a room, the members of the board, with broad public input, should set the direction of education in the state of New York.

Thank you for your patience and I look forward to your questions.

Unfortunately the audience for the interviews was meager, a few members of the regents, a few media reps, a NYSUT staffer, and a few others. The interviews were not live-streamed.

There is no formal process, the local legislators will caucus, discuss among themselves, and recommend to the brand new Assembly leadership. Early in March the legislature will formally elect, or reelect the candidates and incumbents.