At the November Meeting of the State Board of Regents

The New York State Board of Regents convened in Albany on November 14 and 15. In opening the meeting, Chancellor Betty Rosa invoked executive privilege in delivering the following remarks:

…as we enter an uncertain future in our nation, we will at the state, continue to work for all children in the amazing state of New York and we will do so with courage, resolve, intellect, confidence, and most importantly – compassion. And all of us around this table, around this room, and around this nation will carry a moral compass in our hands to lead us on the path to equity and social justice for all. Many of us in the room know, first hand, what it’s like to be on the receiving end of poverty, racism, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, or on the basis of disability or language. From our collective experiences we have learned and are acutely aware of what needs to be done across a wide spectrum of educational issues to have all our children overcome what threatens their individual journeys to success – especially those who have been historically disenfranchised. This board has been on a mission and will continue their great work to improve the condition of the educational landscape of New York. We recognize that our duty has never been so important as it is today. And we have a great deal of work to do on the behalf of all our students, and we will continue to do that with tremendous integrity; and make sure that our students and our adults engage in what I call civil learning and character development and moral integrity. Thank you.

Noteworthy discussions and actions of the Board of Regents follow:

ESSA State Plan – Early in her presentation, in a manner similar to that of the Chancellor, Commissioner Elia explained that “…we are going into a time of change … and that we don’t know what those changes might be.” However, she also pointed out that the Every Student Succeeds Act passed with bi-partisan support and that the law requires the development of a new state plan.

Based on recommendations of the ESSA Think Tank, of which SAANYS is a member, the department drafted 36 “High Concept Ideas” (HCIs) that were discussed by more than 2,200 individuals who were invited to attend 46 regional meeting hosted by BOCES and the Big Five city school districts. Each host agency prepared o summary of their respective discussions and recommendations; and in addition, 585 surveys were also submitted by participants.

All but four HCIs received majority support from the survey respondents. However, when Regent Young requested disaggregated response information – for example, parent responses vs teacher responses – the commissioner answered that no field was included in the survey to support such break-outs. She also went on the say that, “We know that we need to get a view from other perspectives” and therefore, the department plans to reach-out to other groups.

Of import to school administrators, HCI 23 centers on whether SED should use the three percent set-aside option under Title IIA for programs that provide systemic improvements for principals and other school leaders. Although SAANYS has consistently and strongly championed the adoption of this option, it was categorized by the department as one of the least supported HCIs, garnering the expressed support of 43 percent of respondents. The respondents’ rating, however, will not be in and of itself determinative of the contents of New York’s plan, and SAANYS will continue to advocate for the implementation of this option.

In regard to the decision to submit New York’s state plan in July rather than in March, the commissioner said that the federal submission timeline may change and, in that it is unlikely that states would be provided less time, it is possible that states will be given more time. With this in mind, the department’s timeline to develop and submit the new state plan is:

  • January / February 2017 – Public engagement through survey and regional meetings
  • March 13-14, 2017 – Draft State Plan presented to Board of Regents
  • March 15 – April 17, 2017 – Draft State Plan released for public comment
  • March 20 – April 7, 2017 – Regional ESSA State Plan Development Meetings – open to the public
  • May 8-9, 2017 – Revised Draft Plan, based on public comment, presented to Board of Regents
  • May 10 – June 8, 2017 – Application submitted to Governor Cuomo
  • June 12-13, 2017 – Final ESSA State Plan presented to Board of Regents for approval
  • July 5, 2017 – Federal deadline to submit New York State’s ESSA Plan

State Standards and Assessments in Grades 3-8 – According to the timeline presented at the February and April meetings of the Board of Regents, the revised English language arts and mathematics learning standards (no longer referred to as Common Core Learning Standards) were to be presented to the Board of Regents by December 2016 for adoption, with concomitant local level curricula revisions scheduled from January through the summer of 2017, and implementation of the revised standards/curricula in September 2017. During the Commissioner’s presentation at the SAANYS conference on October 24, the timeline by which the revised standards would be adopted by the Board of Regents was extended to “January or February” of 2017, and at the November Regents meeting Commissioner Elia said that the revised standards will be “in place by the spring” of 2017; but there has been no extension of the date set for local implementation – September 2017.

Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents also stated that new 3-8 assessments, developed by Questar Assessment, will be administered in the spring of 2019, the same timeframe set by the Board of Regents in February 2016. The intent is that the assessment results of 2016 will serve as baseline data, and the assessments to be administered in 2017 and 2018 will reflect the extent to which student performance improves. However, in regard to the federal requirement that at least 95 percent of students in grades three through eight participate in the state English language arts and mathematics tests, Regent Tilles expressed strong concern. He said that maintaining the current testing may have an unintended impact on the extent to which students opt-out of such testing saying, “I don’t think that we’ll have a handful of schools that will make the 95 percent, unless there are significant changes to the test.”

Regents Examination Workgroup – Jack Bierwirth, recently retired superintendent of the Herricks Union Free School District, presented information on the behalf of the 15-member Regents Examinations Workgroup. The workgroup was composed of classroom teachers, building administrators, district-level personnel and senior level administrators from CUNY/SUNY. SAANYS was represented by Paul Gasparini, Principal of the Jamesville-DeWitt High School.

Five recommendations were advanced:


1.) Graduation Requirements – It was recommended that one diploma be used in New York State, though endorsements (e.g., career and technical education) should be available to note areas of strength and levels of proficiency. The workgroup determined that much of the information that complex sets of graduation requirements were intended to convey under the current system is not being used by those outside the K-12 system – including private sector employers. It was also recommended that alternatives to Regents examinations should also be expanded.

2.) College Readiness – A brief summary was provided in regard to what “65” means, and that currently it conveys nothing more than “pass.” The best indicator of college readiness is the rigor of each student’s high school program; and multiple measures rather than a single test score more accurately predict success in college. Furthermore, it was posited that defining college readiness on the basis of specific grades is often detrimental to efforts to enroll students in more four-year courses of study.


3.) Reporting Regents Exam Scores – It was recommended that the current 0 – 65 scale score be discontinued. Instead, a much more extensive scale should be adopted with five explicit and well-defined cut points: with level 3 meaning passing, level 4 meaning mastery, and level 5 meaning distinction. It was further recommended that simple, clear rubrics should be established for each of the five cut points.


4.) Appeals of Regents Examination Results – Under the new system, students should have to score at least level 2 to appeal. It is felt that the availability of an appeals procedure – to be locally heard and determined — is important for students who struggle to meet the level 3 benchmark on the Regents examination, but who have otherwise demonstrated proficiency in their coursework.


5.) Multiple Curriculum Pathways in Mathematics – In order to encourage four years of mathematics and provide students with a strong foundation for college level coursework across a wide variety of majors, the workgroup recommended the development of a Regents Examination-level course in statistics.

School Counselor Update – A discussion item presented to the Board of Regents indicated that in October of 2013, the Board of Regents established a 20-member School Counselor Advisory Council. The State Education Department discussed information and recommendations of the Advisory Council with a stakeholder group composed of the United Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers, New York State School Social Workers’ Association, the New York Association of School Psychologists, and the New York State School Counselor Association. Accordingly, the revisions below are now posted by the department for comment, in contemplation of implementation on July 1, 2017.

  • SED will issue guidance to encourage (not require) school districts to meet the student-to-counselor ratios specified in American School Counselor Association standards. The ASCA recommends 1:100 with a maximum of 1:250.
  • SED will issue guidance to encourage (not require) that school counseling programs address multiple student competencies in accordance with the ASCA Model, including career/college readiness standards, and academic and social/emotional developmental standards.
  • Each school shall be required by regulation to have a comprehensive developmental school counseling/guidance program for all students in kindergarten through grade 12.
  • School districts will be required by regulation to provide Individual Progress Review Plans for students in grades 6-12. (Current regulations require Individual Progress Review Plans for students in grades 7-12.)

For more information about the High Concept Ideas or other matters discussed at the Board of Regents meeting, contact James Viola, Director of Government Relations, by e-mailing