P-16 Education in New York State:
Report on the First Year of Transition

In March 2007, the Board of Regents established a new P-16 structure in the State Education Department, joining the Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary, and Continuing Education (EMSC) and the Office of Higher Education (OHE) under one Senior Deputy Commissioner for a systemic approach to education reform in New York State.  The Board’s message was clear: the Department must transform the way it does business with the overall goal of raising student performance and closing the achievement gap.

Two plans, developed by the Board of Regents, guide the Department’s work: P-16 Education: A Plan for Action and the Board of Regents Statewide Plan for Higher Education, 2004-2012.  The P-16 Plan sets two overarching goals: (1) close the great divide in achievement along lines of income, race and ethnicity, language, and disability; and (2) keep up with growing demands for still more knowledge and skill in the fact of increasing competition in a changing global economy.  The Statewide Plan for Higher Education delineates priorities, initiatives, and indicators for the higher education community to focus on over the eight year period.  The two plans are wholly consistent with one another.     

The following is an update on progress made over the past 12 months to determine the methods for change and the leadership required to improve student achievement in New York State.  The commitment from the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, the Board of Regents, the Commissioner, as well as colleagues in the Department and the field, made this possible.  Preliminary efforts to advance the Regents P-16 reform agenda are described as well as proposed next steps.

Listening to our Partners and Customers

The first year of the new P-16 operation was filled with many new opportunities and major responsibilities.  This included the transition involved with bringing the Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary, and Continuing Education and the Office of Higher Education together, implementing the Board of Regents P-16 agenda, and the enhanced accountability initiatives associated with Chapter 57.  To address these opportunities and responsibilities effectively while focusing on organizational improvement, it was important to speak with the people most affected by our work.  Therefore, extensive outreach was conducted during the first several months of the new P-16 operation by the Senior Deputy and her leadership team.  This outreach included:

This outreach is consistent with the advice the Department received earlier from the higher education institutions, to:

Representative list of those with whom we held discussions.

The feedback received from both the P-12 and higher education communities has helped shape recommendations for change and what must be done to realize the educational and organizational vision for the future as well as the approach to day-to-day responsibilities in the first year.  Our partners, customers and staff across the State were asked for their ideas and recommendations on how we could strengthen and improve the delivery of services to schools, educators and students.  In particular, we asked for recommendations on the following: 

The field reported that the services they found to be most valuable are the technical assistance and support they receive from individual staff members.  A number of individual staff from both EMSC and OHE were credited with providing exceptional customer service.  Numerous comments were made that more assistance from Department staff is sought; however hundreds commented that the Department does not appear to have the capacity that it once had to provide the kind of field assistance so valued in the past. Department staff shared this concern as well.

The field also commented on the role of District Superintendents and BOCES in the P-16 approach to student success.  For example, one respondent said, “for the P-16 approach to be successful, transitions are key and BOCES are well positioned to provide the link between students and the newly diverse workforce so that indeed, they are ready for college entry “

A number of themes emerged from our statewide consultation with the field.  The feedback received from Department staff through small group meetings and the survey was also aligned with what we heard from the field.

Top Ten Recommendations to Strengthen the Department’s Support to School Districts

The following are the top ten recommendations from the P-12 and higher education communities on organizational reform to support student learning and school improvement:

  1. Increase recognition of the good work going on every day in our schools statewide.
  2. Increase the opportunity for the field to share input and feedback on policy decisions before the Board of Regents and the Department take action.
  3. More timely availability of data; streamline data collection and reporting processes; roll out improvements to the nySTART data collection and reporting system.
  4. Provide more flexibility to schools and districts - less micro-management.
  5. Streamline regulatory processes, including monitoring, reporting, and required plans; provide more support and technical assistance to individual schools; and eliminate or reduce unfunded mandates.*
  6. Reduce the number of “lists” of schools/districts in need of improvement and increase the available supports to these schools.
  7. Provide advance notice to schools and districts before the Department shares data and reports with the press, the community, and others.
  8. Improve the coordination of responsibilities within the Department and designate a single point of contact for the field on a particular topic or function, and improve communications so they are more regular, less complicated, and timely.
  9. Strengthen school improvement efforts including greater support for teachers and other school leaders – recruitment, retention, and preparation.
  10. Expand and develop strong partnerships between higher education and the Pre-K-12 community.

* A number of comments were made about the costs and mandates associated with special education and testing requirements – these are not covered in this summary.

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