THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

 

TO:

EMSC-VESID Committee

 

FROM:

James A. Kadamus

SUBJECT:

Proposed Amendment to the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to Voluntary Registration of Nonpublic Nursery Schools and Kindergartens

 

DATE:

April 22, 2005

 

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

 

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

Executive Summary

 

Issue for Decision

 

            Proposed amendment to section 125.1 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.  Supporting materials for the proposed amendment are available upon request from the Secretary to the Board of Regents.

 

Proposed Handling

 

            The Regents EMSC-VESID Committee discussed the proposed amendment at its March meeting and it is now being submitted for final action at the May meeting.

 

Procedural History

 

            In March, the proposed amendment was submitted to the EMSC-VESID Committee for discussion.  Board members raised a number of issues requiring clarification.  Attachment A provides an overview of nonpublic nursery schools and kindergartens and responses to questions raised by Committee members in March.

 

Background Information

 

The purpose of the proposed amendment is to remove the requirement for annual visits by Department consultants to each of the registered schools and to replace it with a visitation plan that is consistent with the current resources of the Department and the needs of the schools.  Currently, there are 205 registered nonpublic nursery schools and kindergartens.  Under the proposed amendment, Department staff will make annual site visits to schools with registration certificates that will expire during the year; schools operated by new applicants/owners; schools located in newly constructed or renovated sites; and schools that require onsite technical assistance to alleviate regulatory noncompliance issues.  A Notice of Proposed Rule Making was published in the State Register on March 2, 2005. 

 

Recommendation

 

            The Board of Regents should approve the proposed amendment to section 125.1 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

 

Timetable for Implementation

 

            The effective date of the proposed amendment is June 9, 2005.

 

 

            VOTED:  That section 125.1 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education be amended as submitted, effective June 9, 2005.

 

 

 

Attachments

 

 


                                                                                                            Attachment A

 

Overview of Nonpublic Nursery Schools and Kindergartens

 

 

 

Statutory Authorization and History

 

            The New York State Education Department has operated a voluntary registration program for nonpublic nursery schools and kindergartens since 1957.   It replaced a mandatory registration program that was in effect from 1939 to 1948 when mandatory registration was struck down by the New York State Court of Appeals in the Packer Collegiate decision.

 

In 1957, the Board of Regents amended Commissionerís Regulations to establish a voluntary registration program for nonpublic nursery schools and kindergartens.   The primary goal of this action by the Regents was to exercise effective leadership in the education of young children and, at the same time, provide parents with some assurance of quality programs. Traditionally, public school superintendents rely on registration as a means of determining equivalency of instruction in nonpublic kindergarten programs that are preparing students for first grade.

 

            Section 207 of Education Law empowers the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education to adopt rules and regulations to carry out laws of the State regarding education and the functions and duties conferred on the State Education Department.   Section 210 of Education Law authorizes the Board of Regents to register domestic and foreign institutions in terms of New York standards.    Part 125 of Commissionerís Regulations, which the Board of Regents revised on November 20, 1970, required visitation of all registered schools on an annual basis and the re-registration of all schools every five years.

 

Registration Process and Basic Requirements

 

            Part 125.1(a) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education defines nonpublic nursery schools and nonpublic kindergartens as schools that are:

 

        organized for the purpose of educating a group or groups of six or more children less than seven years of age;

        under supervision of qualified teachers;

        providing an adequate program of learning activities; and

        maintaining good standards of health and safety.

 

Registration with the Department is voluntary in all circumstances.  Schools are considered registered by the Department upon submission of satisfactory evidence that meets the requirements outlined in Commissionerís Regulations and, after approval of the application, an onsite visit is made to finalize the registration process.    Each school then receives a certificate of registration, valid for a five-year period, as long as regulatory compliance is maintained.

 

Schools that are successful in attaining a certificate of registration from the Department must provide evidence that they comply with local fire safety, health requirements and building codes pertaining to indoor and outdoor facilities.   Employeesí education and experience must comply with requirements outlined in regulations.  Documentation of current medical exams and tuberculin tests must be provided.   Students enrolled in the schools are required to have annual medical and dental exams and up-to-date immunizations.   The daily program must include a balance of educational, social-emotional, and physical learning experiences integrated with educational content areas.   Adult-child ratios and maximum class sizes are established to ensure the proper supervision of children at all times.   Parents are provided with ongoing information concerning school policies and the educational program and have many opportunities to participate in the education of their children.

 

            Each school that seeks registration is required to complete and submit an application with supporting documentation to the State Education Department.   In addition, onsite visits required in regulation are conducted to new schools that submit an application, registered schools whose certificates will expire during the school year, and those that require follow-up visits for various reasons related to maintaining regulatory compliance.  Subsequently, schools receive a letter that documents the visit and outlines a plan for achieving compliance, if needed.  Technical assistance and support are available to each school throughout the registration process.  Nonpublic nursery schools and nonpublic kindergartens that do not seek voluntary registration are required to obtain a certificate of occupancy or compliance that is issued through the local municipality.

 

Types of Schools

 

A variety of nonpublic nursery schools and nonpublic kindergartens are being operated to meet the needs of children and their families:

 

        traditional parent cooperatives operated by a parent board where certified lead teachers are assisted by parents of enrolled children on a daily basis;

        schools that operate under the umbrella of a community of faith;

        schools that operate as a for-profit business or as a not-for-profit corporation;

        programs that are designed around a specific philosophy of how young children learn such as that of Dr. Maria Montessori or the renowned High Scope Program;

        programs that operate more than three consecutive hours per group per day that are licensed by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services;

        programs that operate double sessions where two distinct groups of children attend morning and afternoon sessions;

        programs with mixed age groupings (a combination of children ages 3-5);

        programs with split sessions that allow parents to enroll children less than a full week (usually on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or on a Tuesday and Thursday);

        programs that provide extended day services in response to the needs of families;

        programs that serve as a collaborating agency for implementation of State-funded universal prekindergarten programs; and

        programs that work closely with local Committees on Special Education to integrate children with disabilities.

 

Scope of the Program and Estimated Number of Children Served

 

            Schools that are currently registered with the Department, as well as new applicants, are distributed across the State.  However, there are some areas of the State that have a proliferation of registered schools, namely, New York City and the counties of Monroe, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, and Suffolk.   Of the number of schools registered, approximately 40 percent also operate formal kindergartens that are preparing children to enter first grade.    Registered schools are required to provide a letter from the school district verifying equivalency of instruction as the majority of the children transition into a public school setting upon completion of the kindergarten program.

 

            The total number of students served statewide is not currently available through a computerized Department database (a manual count is in progress).   A typical part-day program serves between 30-60 students, half in the morning and half in the afternoon.   Some of the for-profit programs that are located in the geographic areas mentioned above may serve between 100-300 students.   However, the total number of students is included in each application as well as the type of daily schedule implemented by the school.   For example, program variations may include:

 

        part-day/five days per week (Monday Ė Friday);

        part-day/split sessions (typically M,W,F or Tues, Th);

        extended day (more than three hours per session: must be licensed by Office of Children and Family Services [OCFS] upstate and Department of Health [DOH] in New York City)); and

        full-day (more than six hours per session: must be licensed by OCFS upstate and DOH in NYC).

 

Current Status

 

            Although it is estimated that there are hundreds of part-day nonpublic nursery schools and kindergartens being operated in New York State, approximately 200 are voluntarily registered with the State Education Department.  This number is in a constant state of flux due to new schools registering, registered school being terminated for non-compliance, and registered schools opting out of registration because they are engaged in practices that invalidate the schoolís registration based on CR 125, e.g., hiring an educational director or lead teacher whose qualifications do not comply with regulatory requirements.

 

Questions from the March 2005 Board of Regents Meeting

 

1)      Why is the proposed regulatory amendment needed? 

 

The proposed amendment would replace the current regulatory requirement for annual site visits to each registered nonpublic nursery school and nonpublic kindergarten with a process in which Department staff conduct an annual desk audit of each schoolís application and Annual Report, and make site visits to those schools identified to be in one or more the following high priority categories:

 

        Schools with registration certificates that will expire during the year;

        Schools operated by new applicants, including schools operated by new owners of currently registered schools;

        Schools located in newly constructed or renovated facilities; and

        Schools that require onsite technical assistance to alleviate regulatory noncompliance issues, e.g., health and safety issues.

 

This revision would allow the Department to conduct more intensive on-site visits to the highest priority programs (categories listed above) rather than make perfunctory visits to schools whose desk audits are acceptable and whose past history demonstrates that they comply with the applicable regulations.  This is consistent with the Department's Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Educationís strategic goal of more efficiently managing programs.  A recent independent study highlighted the Departmentís need to be more strategic in its on-site monitoring and to make more efficient use of the information obtained through applications or reports.

 

2)      How will the regulatory revision impact quality oversight of existing voluntary programs?

 

We do not feel that the quality of Department oversight will be impacted for the following reasons:

 

        Over the past few years, the annual reporting process has been revised to secure more detailed information regarding areas of compliance and non-compliance in nonpublic nursery schools and nonpublic kindergartens.

        Due to this improved process, review of the Annual Reports provides ample information on areas needing attention through technical assistance and/or follow-up.  

        The proposed site visit schedule will allow staff to target visits to high priority programs consistent with the tiered monitoring process based on the categories outlined in question #1.   It will also allow each site visit to be more thorough and focused upon ensuring all registered schools are in full compliance with Commissionerís Regulations.

 

This proposal would ensure that high priority schools are visited on an annual basis (approximately 30-40 programs), while desk audits of applications and Annual Reports identify any additional issues that may require follow-up or on-site monitoring, thus maintaining the integrity of the voluntary registration process.

 

3)      What are the primary reasons for a certificate of registration to be discontinued or revoked?

 

        A school is acquired by a new owner who decides not to pursue voluntary registration (in some cases, the school may also be licensed by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services and/or accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children).

        A school closes due to declining enrollment in the community served.

        A school has an educational director or lead teacher(s) who do not meet the staff requirements outlined in CR 125.6 and makes a decision not to replace those individuals or require them to pursue a study plan as required in 125.6 (g).

        A school is housed in or moves to facilities that do not comply with regulations.

 

Since the 1997-98 school year, approximately 73 nonpublic nursery school and nonpublic kindergarten certificates have been discontinued at the schoolís request or revoked by the Department.


AMENDMENT OF THE REGULATIONS OF THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

            Pursuant to Education Law sections 207 and 210

Section 125.1 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education is amended, effective June 9, 2005, as follows:

125.1  General. 

(a)  As used in this Part, school means a nonpublic nursery school or kindergarten organized for the purpose of educating a group or groups of six or more children less than seven years of age, under the supervision of qualified teachers, providing an adequate program of learning activities and maintaining good standards of health and safety.

            (b)  A school shall be registered by the department upon the submission of satisfactory evidence that it meets the standards set forth in this Part and receives approval after onsite visitation.  Registration shall be valid for a period of five years, subject to revocation for cause.

(c)  [Consultants shall make annual visits to schools.]  Department staff shall conduct annual visits to schools within the following categories: 

(1) schools with registration certificates that will expire during the year;

(2)  schools operated by new applicants, including schools operated by new owners pursuant to section 125.10(a)(3) of this Part;

(3) schools located in newly constructed or renovated sites; and

(4) schools that require onsite technical assistance to alleviate regulatory non-compliance issues.