Ed Commission Report +

(Droid – use menu/browser for full text)

On January 3 Governor Cuomo convened a cabinet meeting at which the Preliminary Report of the New NY Education Reform Commission was presented, and a number of other important issues were discussed. A summary follows:

Preliminary Report of the Commission
(the full 92 page report is attached)
Chairman Dick Parsons presented recommendations including:
• Full-day kindergarten, especially for high needs students
• Integrated Services (e.g., health, mental health, dental), especially in “impacted” community schools. The Governor expressed strong support for this recommendation, referring to such schools as “school plus” or as an “integrated community support network.” He felt that such schools are different and should not be compared to other (affluent, well resourced) schools. He further expressed his vision that such schools become the “single point of contact” for all (local, state and federal) community services.
• Extending the school day or school year
• Recruit and retain teachers and principals; elevating the status of such educators
• Increase college admission requirements, requiring more classroom/clinical experience and examination requirements that resemble the bar exam.
• Create incentives to reward performance
• Create public-private partnerships and enhance high school offerings (e.g., technical skills) and credential opportunities
• Make greater and more innovative use of technology to improve the delivery of instruction and assessments. Chairman Parsons went on to recommend that the state create models and incentives.
• Streamline the process for school district consolidation, and use technology to expand access to programs/subjects. In regard to consolidation, the Governor cited anticipated push-back based on turf and beurocracy, but ended the discussion by saying, “We’re ready.”
Governor Cuomo preceded Mr. Parsons presentation by saying that, as compared to other states, New York has over the years lost ground in educational performance  He expressed support for virtually all the above recommendations, but for some of the recommendations (e.g., full-day kindergarten) he said that securing sufficient funding will be a challenge. Toward to conclusion of his remarks on the Commission’s report, the Governor expressed agreement with the assertion of Commission member Jeff Canada who said, “We have failed our kids.” The Governor and his staff will review the Commission’s full report to determine aspects to be included in the Executive Budget.

Annual Professional Performance Review
In regard to the questions from the press, Chairman Parsons said that APPR is not addressed in the preliminary report. Commission members abided by the recommendation of Commissioner King, who was paraphrased as saying: “Let’s let this roll out and see what results.” The Commission chairman also said that APPR will be addressed in the Commission’s next report in order to address aspects to be “changed and fine-tuned.”
The Governor also strongly dismissed any possibility of waiving or extending the January 17 due date for the submission of APPR plans – including for New York City. During the course of the meeting an unidentified source indicated that 98 percent of school districts now had APPRs in place.

Fiscal Cliff
The Governor described federal actions to address the fiscal cliff as “ugly ball” (a basketball phrase indicating a good result, that was achieved in an unpleasing way). He described actions as “forced – not educated, not collaborative…”; but much better than the alternative of no action.

Sandy Relief Act
The Governor expressed great admiration for all members of the New York (and New Jersey) federal delegations; he also expressed great disappointment in leadership of the House who “reneged” on pledges to pass the $60 billion package yesterday, then this morning; and now pledge action in about one month. Upon further inquiry by reporters, the Governor said that this matter will not have a great impact on the New York State budget, but will have a great impact for families. He repeatedly said that “time matters” and indirectly stated his hope that action would be taken well before a month’s time.

Gun Control
The Governor indicated that his office is working with the Senate and Assembly in regard to gun control. During the course of the interview he indicated that he supports a ban on assault weapons, and that he personally supports micro-stamping (but does not feel that passage of such a measure is likely). He does not plan to pursue a ban on gun shows, saying such decisions should be addressed at the local level. He indicated that “significant change” in needed in regard to guns, mental health and the “culture of violence.” No deadline or timeframe has been set by his office for this purpose.

SAANYS Delivers Testimony to Gov’s Ed Reform Commission 7/10/12

(Droid – use menu/browser for full text)

Local Control – New York State has a long history of “local control.” This educational cornerstone means that each school district, through its administrative team and board of education, should have primary control in setting academic priorities, determining services and programs, and ensuring the quality of its educational services and personnel. Over recent years, important federal and state initiatives have been implemented, or attempted, to significantly diminish local control. In drafting our state’s educational blueprint for the future, the Commission must address the foundational consideration of the extent to which educational services and programs, and their attendant costs, should be prescribed by the State.  It is our recommendation that local control should be continued and reinforced. The state and federal roles should be focused on setting academic standards and targets, not determining local procedures and services.

 

Recruitment – An important step toward ensuring that the “best and the brightest” enter the field of public education and ascend to administrative ranks is to enhance the public perception of education.  Nobody wants to enter a career of which they cannot be proud. But sadly, we are at a time when publicly “bashing” teachers and school administrators is accepted and even modeled by state leaders. This perception, coupled with reduced pension benefits and ever increasing job demands, has a chilling effect on individuals’ desiring to make the very substantial financial and personal investments that are required to be a public school administrator. For example, despite escalating academic requirements year-to-year, high school graduation rates have improved every year for the past five years, but rather than extending congratulations, the emphasis tends to be more placed on the limited numbers of students meeting aspirational performance goals. We recommend a “balanced” depiction of our educational system that is as attuned to recognizing achievements as it is areas needing improvement.

School District Budgets – Priority Setting and Professional Discretion – SAANYS is grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Mr. Schwartz and others in the Governor’s office over the past two years to identify state planning and reporting requirements that may be reduced or eliminated. Sadly, in the work lives of school administrators over the past two years, there has been a net increase of such requirements with little or no additional aid to support their implementation. For example, the allocations received by most school districts under Race to the Top (RTTT) fall far short of the actual funding needed to implement its requirements. (Forty percent of school districts receive less than $10,000 per year.) Rather than provide local tax burden relief, it has exacerbated the burden.  In that the RTTT reforms have been incorporated in state law or regulation, they dictate where the “first dollars” are spent. School funds must be directed to implement common core curriculum, to implement Annual Professional Performance Review procedures, and computer-based assessment before they are used for advanced placement programs, arts programs, or kindergarten.  School administrators are restricted from implementing the programs, services and interventions they feel are most strategic because they must implement the state reforms that are mandated. The state agenda is the priority; local priority setting and local control are more and more becoming second tier considerations.  Any action by the Commission to meaningfully reduce unnecessary and unfunded mandates for schools will be helpful. At the very least, action should be taken to prevent the establishment of additional mandates in the future.

Personnel Resources – Priority Setting and Professional Discretion – Personnel resources are finite and shrinking. Over the past three years, administrative positions have been cut 7.5 percent and teacher positions have been cut 4.3 percent (Source: The Council of School Superintendents, October 2011), and it is expected that further reductions will be implemented for the 2012-13 school year. In that the education reforms established under Race to the Top have been incorporated in law and regulation, there is correspondingly increased administrative responsibility, much of which is related to record keeping and reporting. School administrators are not able to direct their time and staff time in the manner they feel most strategic to improve educational performance, but in a manner that will ensure completion of state determined priorities.

Targeted Support for School Administrators  — The volume and complexity of work for school leaders  continues to grow. More than ever before, it is essential to capitalize upon the deep experience of veteran, successful school administrators in mentoring or coaching new administrators and administrators wishing to improve. Support and incentives should be made available for this process and relationship of ongoing support.  It has been demonstrated to be effective in building individual and team capacity, and in developing competency and self-awareness. Such a system, grounded in research and experience, is strongly recommended as a means to enhance the quality of school administrators. Little of the RTTT funds have been devoted to school leadership across the state in all districts.

 

Defining and Measuring Quality – Part and parcel of New York State’s obligations under the Race to the Top program is the establishment of a statewide Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system. Though the APPR system was established in Education Law in May 2010, due to court challenge, subsequent changes in law and regulation, and the sporadic release of information by the State Education Department, school districts did not know the full and final requirements that needed to be collectively bargained and built into their APPR Plans until March 2012.  The system includes four quality ratings (highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective) for teachers and principals, along with voluminous and complex procedural requirements to be completed for each educator. The APPR system is unpiloted and untried in New York State and therefore, questions remain: Are these the right ratings and definitions of quality? Will the system yield evaluation scores and ratings that are valid and reliable? To what extent should the evaluations be released?  It is therefore recommended that an objective evaluation of New York State’s APPR system be completed. In addition to quality rating considerations, the study should address the extent to which the system is cohesive, results in targeted professional development, supports improved student performance, and impacts upon school district and BOCES budgets.