I have been attending the monthly NYS Board of Regents meetings for a decade, and, I tweet as fast as my fingers can tap @edintheapple.
The meetings begin in the ornate Regents Room, the walls lined with portraits of former chancellors, with one exception (Merryl Tisch), white men, mostly with facial hair. The Board of Regents has a long history, back into the late eighteenth century. Under current law the Board is made up of seventeen members, one from each of the thirteen judicial districts and four at-large. The Regents are “elected” by combined meeting of the legislature, effectively, by the democratic majority of the Assembly. The Regents serve a five year term and the position is unsalaried.
The initial meeting is live streamed and archived (Watch 1/14/19 meeting here), the committee meetings follow throughout the day. The meetings are a full day Monday and a half day Tuesday. The committee meetings are not live streamed.
The meeting always begins with the chancellor asking a board member to offer comments, a “moment of reflection,” the audience stands, I suspect in the distant past it was a prayer: quant.
The audience, state education department staff, lobbyists, representatives of education organizations (unions, school boards, etc.), and me. There is no opportunity for public comment, although during the breaks between meetings board members and audience members chat.
The meeting began with a presentation on a major new state initiative, this month, culturally relevant education, rebranded as Cultural Responsiveness and Sustainability Frameworks, see the PowerPoint here. David Kirkland, the director of the New York University Metro Center is the lead author, David and a number of superintendents and other organization leads spoke and supported the Frameworks. As is the practice the Frameworks go to public comments and back to the board for adoption.
Another resolution was added to the agenda in response to the DeVos withdrawal of the Obama letter on student discipline and suspensions. The resolution was read to the room, a strongly worded rebuke to the DeVos policy. (Read the full resolution here)
…be it hereby resolved that the Board of Regents reaffirms its commitment to continuing its efforts to ensure that all students have equitable access to learning opportunities in safe and supportive school environments free from discrimination, harassment and bias, including reducing dependence on exclusionary school discipline and increasing equity in education for all students.
The board moved to the committee meetings, the first was K-12, among the items on the agenda was a change in the regulations dealing with the qualifications for substitute teachers. There are a small number of districts that can’t find substitutes for absent teachers, we’re talking about districts with 3-5 schools. The controversial section is below: yes, the commissioner is proposing that the requirement be reduced to a high school diploma.
To address the Board’s concerns, the Department is proposing to require uncertified substitute teachers to hold at least an associate’s degree or its equivalent to ensure that they have a minimum educational background. However, if no eligible substitute teacher with an associate’s degree or higher, or its equivalent, is available after a good faith recruitment effort has been conducted, the school district may request from the district superintendent (for districts that are a component district of a BOCES and BOCES) or the superintendent (for school districts that are not a component district of a BOCES) a waiver allowing them to employ an individual with a high school diploma, or its equivalent.
The members were outraged and member after member rejected the proposal, after attempts to wordsmith the regulation it was removed from the agenda. I wanted to raise my hand and make other suggestions: a district substitute teacher reserve, meaning hiring an additional teacher, or two, or whatever is necessary, on a permanent basis to serve as a sub, or, use district office staff on a rotating basis, or, perhaps, try paying daily substitutes more money.
Next, an issue that has been bubbling for a week boiled over; the state will be releasing school accountability data in a few days; and, NYS has, by far, the largest OptOut numbers among all states, about 20% and over 50% on Long Island. (BTW, a very small number in NYC concentrated in a few high achieving schools).
SED provided districts with a 62-slide PowerPoint used to identify “failing” schools and a dense alghorhym. Regent Johnson, a former superintendent, attended the meeting in her judicial district and was outraged, she asked,
“Will OptOut schools be punished? Will schools be designated as failing schools due to OptOuts?”‘
She demanded of the commissioner, “Yes or No?” The commissioner sidestepped.
The board was not happy.
If you want to get into the weeds, read a detailed explanation of the accountability metrics here,
The bottom line: OptOuts within subgroups resulted in lowering the achievement metrics pushing schools into the “failing school” (targeted or comprehensive school improvement) categories. The alghorhym used by the state to determine schools has been/ discredited by Bruce Baker, a frequent writer on education finance issues
On Tuesday morning I attended the Assembly Education Committee meeting under the new chair, Michael Benedetto, a retired career teacher. The first order of business of the legislative session was to pass, unanimously, all democrats and republicans supported, the teacher evaluation bill that returns the question of teacher evaluation to school districts. Read full test of the bill and accompanying memo here. The bill will move to the full Assembly and I expect similar speedy actions in the Senate.
Legislators are more than happy to return the thorny question of teacher evaluation to local districts, and, will be perturbed by the commissioner’s decision to “punish” OptOut schools when they were assured that opting out would have no negative consequences for schools.
When hordes of phone calls begin pouring in to legislator offices legislators will seek answers and this issue can become increasingly troublesome for the commissioner.
Hope this has been helpful. All questions and/or comments, of course, welcome.