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From Senior Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier
February 13, 2009


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Important Update from Senior Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier Concerning the January Administration of the Regents Comprehensive Examination in English

I am writing to you concerning the impact of weather-related school closings on students who were unable to complete the second part of the Regents Comprehensive Examination in English due to the snowstorm last month.

We share your concerns and those of your teachers, parents, students, and others, and understand the serious impact this situation has had on many students who were scheduled to take this exam in January.  We recognize the needs of these students and the time and effort they put into preparing for these exams.  Therefore, we are currently exploring every possibility for resolving this situation in a manner that is fair for all our students.  I will keep you apprised of this work as it progresses. 

Thank you for sharing your feedback on this important issue.

February Meeting of the New York State Board of Regents

The New York State Board of Regents met in Albany on February 9 and 10, 2009. Advance materials, meeting agendas, and committee reports are available on the Web at http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/. Highlights of items discussed this month include:

  • Improvements to the K-12 Data System:  The Regents discussed an update on improvements to the Department’s K-12 data system in three areas: 1) leadership and organization; 2) redesign of data infrastructure to prevent problems and data errors before they occur and; 3) long term plans to re-engineer the data system.  Short-term actions include providing school district access to the data that they enter quickly so they can correct errors; making data reports available to school districts outside of the nySTART system so that they can access data more easily when verifying and certifying their data; coordination data collection with special education so that there is one data calendar; providing support and training for school districts and the creation of regional data advisory groups.  The Department has applied for a $7.8 million grant from the United States Department of Education (USED) to help streamline the data system, increase data quality and accuracy, make local reporting easier, support Regents policy and school district practice to improve student achievement, and reduce the cycle time for reporting to the public.
  • Grades 3-8 Testing Policy: The Regents continued their policy discussion on Grades 3-8 testing and considered potentially rescheduling the exams to a different time of year as well as how the tests should be used and what types of questions should be on the tests.  A survey is now on the Web to elicit feedback from the field on the Grades 3-8 mathematics and English Language Arts examinations.  The survey can be found at   http://www.forms2.nysed.gov/emsc/osa/Grades38TestingSurvey.cfm. Since it was posted on February 6th, we have already received over 8,000 responses.  The survey results will be shared with the Regents to help inform further policy discussions.
  • January Administration of the Regents Comprehensive Examination in English: The Board of Regents discussed difficulties experienced in January related to the cancellation of the second part of the Regents Comprehensive English Exam due to weather.  The Board endorsed pursuing two policy directions to create more flexibility in the future – 1) explore redesigning the Comprehensive Examination in English to be a one-part exam versus the current format which is a 6-hour two part exam, and 2) explore alternative options for the test administration and release policy to provide greater flexibility for student needs and to reduce the expense associated with the release of the questions and answers for each Regents exam.  The current policy has not permitted “make-up” administrations when an exam has to be cancelled.  The Board also agreed that immediate solutions should be explored to resolve problems for students who took the first part of the January 2009 Regents Comprehensive Exam in English but who were unable to complete the second part due to the snowstorm.
  • Economic Stimulus Plan: Senior Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier provided a detailed overview of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Package).  The Department is preparing to expeditiously move these funds once enacted. Staff, for example, are assessing the dollar amounts in both bills (competitive and formula driven); creating a master calendar for implementation; looking at process issues and accountability; and preparing a plan for communications.
  • Professional Development Standards for Teachers: The Regents discussed the recommendations of the State Professional Standards and Practices Board for Teaching on New York State Professional Development Standards. In follow-up to that discussion, the Department will be sharing the professional development standards widely with the field and proposing amendments to Commissioner’s Regulations to add the standards to district professional development and annual professional performance review processes. 

The next meeting of the Board of Regents is scheduled for March 16-17, 2009.

Grades 3-8 Testing Survey – Please Share Your Input

The Board of Regents is considering modifications to the Grades 3-8 testing program starting with the 2010-11 school year.  To inform their policy discussion, the Board would like to gather input from the field regarding certain aspects of these tests. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked below and submit it to us by February 27, 2009. The survey is available on the Web at:
http://www.forms2.nysed.gov/emsc/osa/Grades38TestingSurvey.cfm

Update: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Package)

Consistent with what was discussed with the Board of Regents this month, we wanted to share with you that the Department is now preparing to expeditiously distribute available funding as soon as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Package) is enacted. Staff, for example, are assessing the dollar amounts in the bills (competitive and formula driven); creating a master calendar for implementation; looking at process issues and accountability; and preparing a plan for communications. We will keep you apprised of developments and will be sharing additional information shortly.

Deadline Extended – Nominate an Outstanding Teacher for the 2010 New York State Teacher of the Year

The application for the 2010 Teacher of the Year Award is available on the Web at http://www.highered.nysed.gov/kiap/TEACHING/toty/totyindex.htm. The New York State Teacher of the Year program, which is run in conjunction with the National Teacher of the Year program, recognizes and celebrates outstanding teachers throughout the State. To be eligible, a teacher must be appropriately credentialed within his or her current teaching area, working directly with students (Pre-K – grade 12) in a State-approved public, private or charter school and have a minimum of five years teaching experience. A teacher may be initially recommended for nomination by any person within the school or community including parents, students, business leaders, school administrators or colleagues. The deadline for nominations has been extended to March 6, 2009.

Reminder: Requests for Data and Information

Title V, Part A-Innovative Programs: The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has requested that the State Education Department provide information about activities local educational agencies (LEA) carried out in 2007-08 that were funded by NCLB Title V, Part A - Innovative Programs. To help us to fulfill this request, we are asking that you complete a brief online form, which is available on the Web at:
http://www.forms2.nysed.gov/emsc/ppd/InnovativePrograms.cfm

We ask that you use your best judgment to first determine whether, and to what extent, activities carried out using 2007-08 Title V Part A funds supported USED's four priorities. Please submit the on-line report form by February 15, 2009.

Career and Technical Education Programs: Each year, the State Education Department collects enrollment and follow-up data from Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Forms and instructions for providing this information for the 2008-2009 school year can be found at:
http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irts/cteds/

Congratulations and Recognitions
  • Congratulations to Copiague Union Free School District in Suffolk County! Three elementary schools in their district have been recognized for achieving certification as Gold-level schools in the Healthier US Challenge, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiative.  The Susan E. Wiley Elementary School, Deauville Gardens Elementary School and Great Neck Road Elementary School have all met the highest standards in achieving a healthier school environment.  They are the second district in New York State to achieve this special recognition.  Akron Elementary School in Akron Central School District was honored in October 2007.  Healthier US Challenge schools commit to the health and well-being of students by supporting nutrition education, physical activity and attaining specific nutrition standards in all areas where food service is provided.  For additional information, please visit http://portal.nysed.gov/portal/page/pref/
    CNKC/Nutrition_Page_pp/HealthierUSSchoolChallenge.htm
    or contact Frances N. O’Donnell at (518) 473-8781.
  • Congratulations to the Brooklyn College's Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) for receiving an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry - USA Section at their annual meeting in November.  The award is presented in support of enhancement activities designed to enrich STEP high school students' science experiences and to help them appreciate the excitement of careers in science.
  • The team from the Syracuse University STEP program is the winner of the 2009 STEP Science Bowl hosted by the Rochester Institute of Technology in collaboration with Monroe Community College.  Over 24 teams participated in the events.  The winning team will be represented at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl Finals in Washington D.C. in April.  Congratulations to the Syracuse University team and to all who participated!
Information Items
  • Update - Differentiated Accountability Pilot Program: On January 8, 2009, the Secretary of Education approved New York’s participation in the United States Department of Education’s differentiated accountability pilot. This pilot will provide New York with the opportunity to better align interventions to improve student achievement with the academic reasons that led to a school being identified for improvement under No Child Left Behind.  In addition, this flexibility agreement allows local educational agencies to first provide supplemental education services to eligible students in Title I schools in the first year of improvement.  Providing school choice can be delayed until after a school has failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress subsequent to being identified for school improvement.

    Consistent with section 9401(b)(3)(A) of the ESEA,  more information on this flexibility agreement, including a summary of the differentiated accountability plan, a full copy of the plan and a power point presentation that outlines key features of the plan is available on the Web at:
    http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/APA/Differentiated_Accountability/DA_home.html

    We welcome any comments you may have on the plan.  Please share your feedback with Maria (Parzych) Sokol by e-mail at mparzych@mail.nysed.gov, by fax at 718.722.4553, or by mail - New York State Education Department, Office of School Improvement and Community Services, 55 Hanson Place, 4th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11217.

  • Earning Units of Credit Without Completing Units of Study (Credit by Examination): We have received inquiries recently about students “challenging” or “testing out” of a high school course – earning units of credit for a high school diploma without completing the time requirement (units of study) - and wanted to share clarifying information.  Commissioner’s Regulation Part 100.5(d)(1), Credit by Examination, states that a superintendent of schools may allow a student, based on past academic performance, to earn up to 6 ½ units of credit without taking a particular course of study. Students must demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills, and understanding of the content area by taking a state examination with a score of 85 percent or above and passing an oral examination or completing a special project.  Additional information is available on the Web at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/part100/pages/1005.html#examCredit or by contacting Anita Behn at abehn@mail.nysed.gov or 518-474-5922.
  • Announcement from the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) Regarding the Availability of the 2008-09 Application for Exception to the One Percent Cap on Proficient or Above Scores Based on Alternate Achievement Standards: The application for local educational agencies to request an exception to exceed the 1.0 percent cap in counting as proficient and advanced for accountability purposes the scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities based on alternate academic achievement standards in the 2008-09 school year is now available on the Web at http://www.vesid.nysed.gov/specialed/applications/1percent-2009.htm. Please share with appropriate parties as soon as possible.
  • Information from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the State Department of Health on Potential Health Risks to Children from Outdoor Air Contaminants: In December, USA Today published a series of articles focusing national attention on potential health risks to school children from outdoor air contaminants released by industrial sources near schools. The State Department of Environmental Conservation and the State Department of Health have reviewed the data, and have developed a summary letter of their findings based on the original USA Today articles and current research methods.  Please see the response at:
    http://www.p12.nysed.gov/facplan/documents/USATodayLetter-Final_010809.pdf
  • Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention: The State Education Department is partnering with the Office of Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) to share information with schools regarding Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention. Information and resources developed by OPDV will be available through the Student Support Services Regional Networks and Statewide Centers for School Safety, School Health and Student Support Services, as well as on the Web at:
    http://www.opdv.state.ny.us/public_awareness/campaigns/tdvcampaigns/index.html

    For further information, you may also contact Greg Bayduss at (518) 486-6090.

Last Updated: September 23, 2010