Our education partners and staff have indicated the value of additional flexibility to use resources to meet the specific needs of students. In addition, a number of school leaders voiced concerns about the increasing number of mandates on districts and the impact that they have on schools and students. A number of survey respondents indicated:
Consistent with feedback received, this year the Board of Regents and the Department have provided flexibility to school districts to support their efforts to help students succeed while working on a more systemic way of addressing this concern long term. While more will be achieved in the future, examples include:
To systemically implement performance-driven accountability and flexibility, the P-16 leadership team will review previous efforts to reduce unfunded mandates and continue to carefully analyze the accountability system now in place to identify opportunities where additional flexibility can be provided to support student learning. In addition, we will re-examine the unfunded mandates that are now in place and bring to the Board of Regents those that can be streamlined, consolidated, or may no longer be necessary. This is consistent with the initiative in the Board of Regents Statewide Plan for Higher Education to review statutes and regulations in collaboration with the higher education sectors to identify any that may no longer be needed.
Partners across the P-12 education community have specifically recommended that the Department provide a more coordinated approach to supporting and monitoring schools and spend more time providing technical assistance and support. The field has also recommended that the data collection and reporting process be streamlined and consolidated. According to survey respondents:
Coordinated Monitoring: In December 2007, the Board of Regents endorsed the Department’s plan for coordinating monitoring visits to schools that are required under federal and State laws, rules, regulations and guidelines. The coordinated monitoring plan, which is now being implemented, will help the Department to provide greater support to districts while also continuing to ensure accountability. To the extent possible, the coordinated monitoring plan for this year will be further streamlined so that districts are involved in monitoring on fewer school days and fewer staff are involved in the responsibility.
Legislative Efforts to Streamline School District Planning and Reporting: We are working with the Senate and Assembly concerning proposed legislation to streamline school district planning and reporting. This would eliminate duplicative reporting requirements in State law and reduce the paperwork burden on school districts. It also would continue to provide information for finance and accountability purposes through the development of new, automated systems for state aid, student records, school facilities, student health and safety, and school improvement comprehensive planning.
We will continue to work with our partners to identify opportunities for consolidating reporting requirements and will bring to the Regents attention potential next steps for eliminating redundancy and streamlining processes.
To ensure more students graduate from high school prepared for college and the workforce in today’s global economy, an important priority for the Board of Regents and the Department is to identify good practices in student learning and school improvement from across the nation and the world and incorporate them in New York’s education system. We also must identify the most effective organizational approach to help low-performing schools improve teaching and learning.
The field is concerned with the number of different accountability designations (over 30) for schools and the lists associated with them. The field has referred to this as “list fatigue”. In addition to the extensive outreach to the field this past year, the P-16 leadership team has also focused particular attention toward strengthening the Department’s school improvement capacity to address these concerns. For example, throughout this past year, we have:
Through these preliminary analyses and earliest efforts, areas in need of improvement have been identified that will be important for our work to strengthen the Department’s school improvement capacity. Department offices (P-16, VESID, Cultural Education, and the Professions) and partners across the University of the State of New York that work on school improvement activities must be much more integrated in the future.
Also, over 20 regional networks now exist across the State specializing in bilingual education, special education, school safety, overall school improvement, and other services. Each was developed at a different time to help schools to comply with various new mandates. While the networks were created to support the field, the multiplicity of networks has, in some cases, resulted in overlap and duplication. As the Department and networks try to help the most troubled schools and districts, these schools and districts are sometimes faced with the challenges of deciding which services would be most helpful.
The field has commented that sometimes they must contact many different people in the Department to find information they need. There is also a concern that sometimes Department initiatives in school improvement are not coordinated when we interact with the districts. In addition, some districts and schools must prepare a number of different improvement plans. Some report that this is an extensive effort which is not always consistently implemented. We are going to work with our partners to assess where there is duplication or redundancy. There are also several USNY teams being established to look at all processes in the field and how we can help schools with their improvement efforts.
We have also shared this information with the expert consultants that are helping us to carry out the P-16 Plan and to strengthen the Department as a state-of-the-art school improvement and service organization, through the support of the Gates and the Wallace Foundations.