At the September Meeting of the Board of Regents

After taking their traditional August recess, the New York State Board of Regents convened in Albany on September 12 and 13. A summary of noteworthy actions and decisions follows.

Principal Preparation Project

Deputy Commissioner John D’Agati presented a discussion item regarding an 18-month grant project funded by the Wallace Foundation to enhance the quality of school building leadership in New York State and, as stated by the Deputy Commissioner, “…to improve the alignment of principal prep with actual job demands.” Beginning in April 2016, the Principal Preparation Project engages teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, and deans of schools of education at institutions of higher education regarding five areas of focus:

  • Requirements pertaining to those who are seeking School Building Leader (SBL) certification.
  • Requirements for programs that prepare school building leaders.
  • Professional development, supervision, and evaluation for school leaders.
  • A computer-based tool to help school districts in recruiting and hiring school building leaders.
  • Adoption of revised Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards.

A Principal Project Advisory Team will meet over the next six months to address four questions:

  • How well do the professional standards for school leaders (i.e., ISLLC) align with the demands of the job?
  • How can feedback from the field about the current state of principal preparation translate into state-level changes that improve the preparation of school principals?
  • How can the state adjust its policies on professional development, supervision, and evaluation in ways that enhance the development of current and aspiring school leaders?
  • To what extent can school leadership quality be improved through real-time reporting of
    • The identification of those aspiring to be principals and reporting on their progress toward placement
    • School-based career placement changes over time for principals in New York State

Three SAANYS representatives have been invited to serve as Advisory Team members:

  • John McKenna, SAANYS Board President and Principal of Fletcher Elementary School
  • Bergre Escorbores, Principal of South Middle School
  • Pamela Odom, Principal of Grant Middle School

Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential

Deputy Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green presented an item which was approved by the Board of Regents to amend Section 100.6 of commissioner’s regulations, effective April 3, 2017, by establishing six criteria for the assessments that may be used under option 2 for the award of a NYS CDOS Commencement Credential. In order to be approved by the commissioner, work-readiness credentials must:

  • Measure universal foundation knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for entry-level employment across multiple industries and occupations and the assessment shall be reviewed at least every five years and be updated accordingly;
  • Be designed in consultation with workforce experts, such as, but not limited to employers, national business organizations, or federal or state agencies;
  • Be consistent with technical criteria for validity, reliability, and fairness in testing;
  • Be developed by an entity other than a local school or school district;
  • Be available for use by any school or school district in New York State; and
  • Be administered in accordance with assessment security conditions, directions and procedures established by the commissioner.

2016 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Assessment Results

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia presented a discussion item regarding the grade 3 to 8 English language arts and math student performance assessment data released by the department in July. The commissioner prefaced her presentation by pointing out that the department made a number of revisions to the tests (e.g., greater teacher involvement in reviewing test items and slightly reducing the number of items per test) and to test administration (e.g., allowing students who are productively working to complete their assessments without time limits) and therefore that performance data are not comparable with such data for the prior year. Given the changes in test development and administration, as well as the extent to which students opted out of testing, a number of Regent members further and strongly advised any insinuation of improved student performance over the prior year.

Public and charter school students posted the following proficiency rates (i.e., levels 3 and 4) in ELA and Mathematics:


Based on state assessment results in 2016, the commissioner and Regent members agreed upon five areas of instructional need and future focus:

  • Support for performance of English language learners.
  • Support for students with disabilities.
  • Performance gaps by race.
  • Support for Big Five academic performance.
  • Performance statewide in the area of mathematics.

Changes to Measures of Poverty in the Foundation Aid Formula

Regent James Tallon Jr and SED’s Director of Education Finance, Brian Chechnicki, presented an item related to state aid. Chapter 54 of the Laws of 2016 (Budget Bill) requires the commissioner of education to examine the process for determining the number of students eligible for the federal and state Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) Program and other reliable measures of poverty that are used in the Foundation Aid Formula. A report of such recommendations is due to the governor and legislature by October 1, 2016.

The challenge depicted in the item is that FRPL data no longer reflect the full extent of student poverty due to schools that provide free lunch to all students, under the federal Community Eligibility Program (CEP). It is important to note that an under-representation of student need reduces the amount of aid for which school districts may be eligible – and it does not appear that there is another currently available means of collecting and reporting complete and accurate FRPL data. For this reason, it is expected that the department will submit a number of options in its Chapter 54 report, including the following:

  • Use direct certification data as a replacement for FRPL
  • Use updated federal poverty estimates
  • Continue with the present course, and add save harmless for CEP schools
  • Require that all students complete income forms instead of using FRPL data
  • Department of Tax and Finance state income data

Uniform Violent or Disruptive Incident Reporting System

Assistant Commissioner Renee Ryder presented an item to revise Section 100.2 of Commissioner’s regulations, effective July 1, 2017, in regard to the Uniform Violent or Disruptive Incident Reporting (VADIR) System. Currently, schools must submit to the department the number of incidents in each of twenty categories set in §100.2(gg). The department then calculates the School Violence Index (SVI) which is the benchmark for determining which schools are persistently dangerous. In recent years, stakeholders have expressed concern that the categories do not accurately capture the types of incidents that occur in schools, and do not serve as a tool for schools to identify strategies to reduce incidents of violence and improve school climate.

Based on recommendations from the NYS Safe Schools Task Force (SAANYS was represented on the Task Force by James Viola, Director of Government Relations), a revised method was developed to collect incident data in a manner consistent with both VADIR and DASA. The current 20 categories will be reduced to the following nine categories:

  • Homicide
  • Sexual Offenses
  • Physical Injury
  • Weapons Possession
  • Material Incidents of Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying
  • Bomb Threat
  • False Alarm
  • Use, Possession or Sale of Drugs
  • Use, Possession or Sale of Alcohol

In addition to streamlining the categories of violent or disruptive incidents, in the interest of promoting positive school climates, in April 2015, the Board of Regents approved the development of a School Climate Index (SCI) which is comprised of school climate surveys, the revised VADIR/DASA data collection process and rates of chronic absenteeism. During the 2016-17 school year, the department will pilot SCI in approximately 10 school districts across the state.

Assistant Commissioner Appointment

Chris Suriano was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Special Education, effective September 13. Since 2013, he had been Executive Director of Specialized Services in the Rochester City School District. Previously, he worked for the State Education Department in the P-12 Office of Special Education for almost 13 years, with his last position as Coordinator in Education of Children with Disabilities. He started his career as a special education teacher in the Livingston-Wyoming ARC.

For more information regarding the September meeting of the state Board of Regents, contact James Viola, director of government relations, by e-mailing