The Board of Regents Meet

The New York State Board of Regents met in Albany on March 10 and 11. Two discussion items were the main topics of the meeting:

  • Common Core K-12 Social Studies Framework
  • Next Generation Science Standards

K-12 Social Studies Framework

A panel of seven members of the Social Studies Content Advisory Panel explained that although the framework has been aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS), it maintains the standards statements from the existing 1996 NYS Learning Standards for Social Studies. The framework includes Key Ideas, Conceptual Understandings, and Content Specifications, for each grade level.

Based on information released by the National Council for Social Studies, the New York Framework has been enhanced with the incorporation of the “Inquiry Arc” – an approach to increase rigor through questions and planned inquiries that apply disciplinary concepts and tools, evaluate sources, and use evidence to communicate conclusions and take informed action. The advisory panel also recommended a Global History and Geography split, with Global History and Geography I (Grade 9) beginning with the Paleolithic Era and continuing to a period of global interactions from approximately 1400 to 1750. Global History and Geography II (Grade 10) would begin with a snapshot of the world in 1750.

The framework draft is posted on the SED website for public comment, and will be presented as an action item at the Regents’ April meeting. Upon adoption of the framework, the Content Advisory Panel will begin development of a Social Studies Field Guide, including instructional resources and strategies, shifts in social studies instruction, and guidance and examples for leveraging key ideas. The framework Regents item included no information or recommendations regarding possible revisions of state testing or graduation requirements.

Science Standards

Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Wagner presented an initial discussion item regarding science standards. He summarized initial public feedback to a SED survey issued in April 2013 seeking recommendations whether to revise current NYS Science Learning Standards or to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards developed by the National Research Council. (The NGSS standards may be accessed at http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards.)  The deputy commissioner said that there is a clear need for more engineering and mathematics content in science standards. Wagner also indicated that a science strategic plan is also under development to guide planning and implementation if the Board of Regents determines to adopt new science standards, update existing standards, or develop a hybrid set of standards.

Regent Betty Rosa expressed that the Washington D.C. Fordham Institute, an organization that strongly supports CCLS, gave the common core-aligned science standards a “C.” She went on to explain that the Institute gave the standards from 12 states a “superior” rating. Rather than considering only two options, she recommended that New York State also consider standards from other states. Also, Regent Roger Tilles recommended that art be added to the science standards –STEAM, not STEM.

Regents Election

During the second day of the Regents’ meeting several members signaled their tension and frustration with regard to public recognition of their efforts – and successes – in rolling-out the various planks of their education reform agenda. Several board members recommended that the department develop a public relations document to summarize what has been done and to recognize implementation successes. In discussing recommendations from institutions of higher education and teacher candidates to postpone the high stakes aspects of the Ed TPA examination requirement for teacher certification/licensure (due to a 70 percent pass rate), Regent James Tallon said, “We’re being picked-off one issue at a time … We are under attack.” In his remarks at the opening of the full board meeting, Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar said, “This is a challenging time to serve on this board. There are many distractions; it is imperative for us to stay focused.”

The Regents’ frustration no doubt extended to actions to be taken by the state legislature later that same day – voting upon four Regent appointments:  at-large appointment currently held by Wade Norwood; at-large appointment currently held by James Cottrell, Judicial District XIII (Richmond), appointment currently held by Christine Cea; and Judicial District III (Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene, Schoharie, Ulster, Sullivan), appointment currently held by James Jackson. The continuation of incumbent Regents was not assured as almost two dozen candidates were nominated by legislators and many members of the legislature attribute the flawed roll-out of CCLS, at least in part, to the Board of Regents.  In the end, Regent Jackson resigned his position and was replaced by Victoria Finn. In the end, the three Regents who were up for reelection – James Cottrell, Wade Norwood, and Christine Cea, were all reelected by significant margins.

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