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

 

TO:

EMSC-VESID Committee

FROM:

Jean C. Stevens

SUBJECT:

Call to Action:  Proposed Strategies on High Schools, Students with Disabilities, and English Language Learners

 

DATE:

 

March 14, 2006

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Discussion

 

Does the Board of Regents concur with the proposed strategies to improve the performance of high schools, students with disabilities and English language learners?

 

Reason(s) for Consideration

 

Review of policy.
         

Proposed Handling

 

This question will come before the Regents EMSC-VESID Committee on March 20, 2006.

 

Procedural History

 

In February, the Regents received detailed performance data on the 2000 and 2001 student cohorts.  In addition, proposed strategies were provided to close the gap in high schools and to improve the performance of students with disabilities and English language learners.  The Regents agreed to schedule in March a discussion on the proposed strategies to suggest any changes, to reach consensus and direct staff to move forward in implementing them.


 

Background Information

 

The attached document provides greater detail on the following proposed strategies:

 

High Schools

 

          1.       Set targets for high school graduation and measure results.

          2.              Make local school boards accountable for high school performance.

          3.              Check teacher qualifications and order changes where necessary.

          4.              Strengthen teaching.

          5.              Ensure safety.

          6.       Engage the public and students.

          7.              Support the highest performers.

 

Students With Disabilities

 

1.               Produce accurate and timely data, set targets for improved outcomes, and increase public awareness of results to leverage change.

2.               Refocus monitoring to hold schools accountable for improving instructional practice.

3.               Focus technical assistance networks through increased accountability for student performance.

4.               Increase the supply of qualified special education teachers and other staff.

5.               Expand high quality in-State special education options for students with the most severe disabilities.

 

Limited English Proficient Students

 

1.     Hold districts and schools accountable for meeting improvement targets in English language acquisition. Raise the level of improvement required over time.

2.     Increase monitoring to ensure that students are receiving all required time and services in English and native language instruction.  Report results. The Regents will determine consequences for noncompliance.

3.     Improve the quality of bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers through new incentives and expanded professional development.

4.     Increase outreach with the New York City Department of Education to provide better information to parents on ESL and bilingual programs that can improve their own levels of reading, writing, and speaking English.

 

Recommendation

 

Not applicable.

 

Timetable for Implementation

 

The Regents 24-month calendar will be revised to include discussions and actions on the strategies agreed to by the Board.

 

 

Attachment


Actions to Close the Gap in High Schools

 

Regents action to improve high schools, particularly urban high schools, can build upon policy already established by the Board, including higher standards, assessments and accountability, course requirements for graduation, a governance system with a pre-K through 16 reach, teacher standards and improvements in teacher education, and the Foundation proposal to resolve the state aid problem.  That policy framework is strong but not sufficient.  For the last year we have convened leaders from 12 districts and 127 schools to pursue a short list of practical actions to raise graduation rates. This work is called Destination Diploma. That, too, is a sound approach, but not sufficient. Here are the seven additional actions that can advance the Regents work on high schools.

 

Set targets and measure results.  The Regents can direct that the 127 high schools set targets for graduation and attendance and describe what they must do to meet them. The Regents would accept these targets or require other targets. The school boards would report results to the Regents annually. The Regents would define consequences for school boards that do not make reasonable progress.

 

Make local school boards accountable for high school performance.  The Regents can require reports from school boards on results in the 127 high schools, and meet with the presidents and vice presidents of those boards to hear what they will do to gain improvements. In the case of New York City, the meeting would be with the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. The responses may lead the Regents to take more action or define new policy.

 

Check teacher qualifications and order changes where necessary.  By a date certain, direct that each of the 127 schools will have all teachers certified in the subjects they are teaching, with particular attention to the subjects required for graduation.  Monitor to ensure compliance.

 

Strengthen teaching.  Faculties and administrators in high performing schools conduct continuous professional development focused on proven curricula and practice with opportunities for colleagues to further develop subject matter knowledge. If the Commissioner determines that this is necessary in any of the 127 schools, he will require schools to provide such professional support.

 

Ensure safety.  The Commissioner will review safety plans for the 127 schools and the data about incidents, including suspensions. Where necessary, the Commissioner will require immediate corrective action and evidence of follow-through.

 

Here are three other actions that would provide information essential to new policy on high schools:

 

Engage the public.  Using expert help, engage the public in these school communities to build a willingness to change the school for higher achievement. Many of the changes that will be needed to produce dramatically better results are likely to seem ďnot high schoolĒ to parents and other members of the public. The public owns the high schools, knows what they are supposed to look like, and will withhold support unless we engage and listen.

 

Engage the students.  What do the students say? We havenít asked them in a systematic way in New York, but earlier national surveys report that students want higher standards, something done about disruptive students, and teachers who treat them with respect.  Technology adds another element to consider in the design of high schools. The co-chairs of the USNY Council on Technology Policy and Practice observe that many children live in parallel learning environments: the traditional one found in most schools and the digital learning environment outside.

 

Support the highest performers. The proposals just outlined are for some of the lowest performing high schools. What about the highest performers? Our global competition pays particular attention to the most proficient students. Higher education and business leaders who think about preserving our lead in innovation also think about our top students. We should recognize the highest performing schools, meet their students and teachers, encourage their continued reaching for still higher achievement, and we should make manifest what they do.

 

          In addition to actions needed to improve results in high schools overall, the 2001 cohort data prompt us to consider actions to improve results for children with disabilities and students who are English language learners.

 

 

Actions to Close the Gap for Students with Disabilities

 

The results for students with disabilities are unacceptably low. To achieve a greater impact on special education programs, VESID has been intensively examining its functions and resources to identify and support the work that will make the greatest difference in reaching goals for students with disabilities and that will be most effective and attainable given our resources.  VESID has identified the following strategies to improve outcomes for students with disabilities:

 

1.       Produce accurate and timely data, set targets for improved outcomes, and increase public awareness of results to leverage change.

       The new six-year State Performance Plan (SPP) represents a rigorous and unprecedented level of accountability for the performance of students with disabilities.  It includes a strict system of public reporting and a timetable for improved outcomes and establishes annual targets for progress. The annual dissemination of results associated with the State Performance Plan will drive public awareness and scrutiny of local outcomes in order to leverage change in the areas of greatest need.

 

2.       Refocus monitoring to hold schools accountable for improving instructional practice.

       VESID will use data on student outcomes to target low-performing districts and schools for quality assurance monitoring reviews. A streamlined process will focus on evaluating pre-referral interventions, access to the general education curriculum, and instructional practices. The reviews will be designed to identify inappropriate practices, to set improvement targets, to drive the development of research-based interventions to be implemented at the classroom level, and to track the impact on student performance.  Where necessary, VESID will use our authority to impose actions to correct deficiencies including directing the use of or withholding IDEA funds.

 

3.       Focus technical assistance networks through increased accountability for student performance.

       VESID will target the work of all of our technical assistance networks and projects to hold them accountable for improving results on specific State Performance Plan (SPP) indicators in low-performing districts and schools. VESID will intensify efforts to identify effective, innovative practices in high performing schools and to use available resources, such as the Special Education Training and Resource Center (SETRC) network, to disseminate this information statewide. As a correlate of the quality assurance monitoring reviews, the networks will assist identified schools and districts to implement proven research-based specially designed instruction for students with disabilities, focusing on such areas as:

a.  Early and adolescent literacy

b.  Behavioral interventions and supports

c.  Response to Intervention systems

d.  Meaningful career and technical education programs

e.  Universal design for learning.

 

4.       Increase the supply of qualified special education teachers and other staff.

       The revised special education certification designations restrict the flexibility of teaching assignments across grades and may discourage enrollment in special education teacher training programs. VESID will work with the Office of Teaching to examine current requirements and other possible barriers to recruitment and retention and will recommend strategies to the Board of Regents to increase the pool of qualified personnel.  VESID will provide fiscal support for scholarships and capacity building tailored to specific certificate or licensure shortage areas. 

 

5.       Expand high quality in-State special education options for students with the most severe disabilities.

       VESID will work closely with the recently developed inter-agency task force to increase the quality and availability of specialized programs in New York State and reduce placement of students with disabilities in out-of-state programs. VESID will provide consistent, comprehensive oversight of approved private schools and state operated schools to ensure compliance with health, safety, programmatic and instructional requirements.

 

While these strategies will be deployed statewide, VESID recognizes the need for special focus in the large cities that are faced with extensive challenges within both their general education and special education programs. In New York City, VESIDís ongoing oversight and the recent report on special education by Dr. Thomas Hehir have identified a broad range of issues contributing to the poor performance of many students with disabilities.  The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), in collaboration with VESID, has developed an aggressive plan to improve administrative processes, data collection, professional development, and instructional practice in order to impact student outcomes. VESID will continue to monitor the implementation of this plan, with an emphasis on the improvement of classroom instruction, access to the general education learning standards, and the expansion of programs that provide opportunities for the integration of students with disabilities in general education settings.

 

There are also significant efforts underway in the other large cities to improve the academic achievement of students with disabilities.  The Departmentís Urban Initiative represents a close collaboration of several offices, including joint planning by EMSC and VESID to merge fiscal and programmatic resources and maximize our impact. Strategic Plans have been developed within each of the Big Four cities to focus interventions at the local and State levels and to ensure the evaluation of measurable outcomes.  These interventions are often designed to impact broad-based systemic changes as it is recognized and accepted that the improved performance of students with disabilities is dependent upon a strong and successful general education instructional system.

 

 

Actions to Close the Gap for English Language Learners

 

The results for English language learners (ELLs) are unacceptably low.  To assist districts to improve these results in a way that will have the greatest impact statewide, the Department proposes the following strategies:

 

  1. Hold schools and districts accountable for meeting improvement targets in English language acquisition. Raise the level of improvement required over time.

 

       Through its accountability system, the Department has in place rigorous targets to measure and raise the expected level of performance of English language learners. Schools will continue to be held accountable for meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) and annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAOS) under the Stateís school accountability system. We are also considering appropriate performance targets specifically for ELLs.

 

  1. Increase monitoring to ensure that students are receiving all required time and services in English and native language instruction.  Report results. The Regents will determine consequences for noncompliance.

 

       Monitoring activities will be increased and will focus on the implementation of the Departmentís intensive English instruction policy.  The monitoring plan for 2005-2006 will include the Big 5 and districts with large numbers of ELLs.  The Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies works collaborative other EMSC offices, monitoring 4 to 6 schools a year as part of NCLB monitoring. We will continue to participate in this activity and plan to monitor 4 additional schools with a high percent of LEP/ELL students, as well as conduct those visits that are part of the Part 154 application review.

 

       The Department has contracted with Academic Enterprises and has developed an ELL School Quality Review Program protocol to evaluate the programs and types of instruction ELLs are receiving in all content areas. Each Bilingual Education Technical Assistance Center (BETAC), a total of 13, has identified a secondary school, during this yearís pilot study in collaboration with School Improvement teams, and will have comprehensive data available for high schools with large number of ELLs by June 2006. These data will focus on student outcomes and on how the programs are implementing State and federal regulations. This information will help identify existing quality programs and resources available for ELLs. It will allow us to share best practices in educating ELLs with schools statewide. 

 

  1. Improve the quality of bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers through new incentives and expanded professional development.

 

Certification Requirements:

 

       Increased collaboration with the Office of Teaching will continue to examine current requirements and obstacles that prevent the recruitment, certification and retention of bilingual/ESL teachers. The Intensive Teacher Institute will continue to provide financial support to those teachers seeking a bilingual education or ESL certificate.

 

       The Regents established an expedited pathway for licensed psychologists who have demonstrated proficiency in a language other than English to obtain the first level certificate with an Interim Bilingual Extension necessary to work as a bilingual school psychologist.  Similarly, individuals with demonstrated language skills who hold certificates in school psychology, speech and language disabilities, and for teaching the speech and hearing disabled can now work as bilingual school psychologists or bilingual teachers of students with speech and language disabilities for up to three years while completing registered college programs leading to the regular Bilingual Education Certificate Extension.

 

Recruitment:

 

       The Department has provided IDEA funds to the New York City Department of Education to support the preparation of special education and bilingual special education teachers.

 

       The Department has expanded outreach to minority populations through events like the Forum on the Future of Hispanic Education, the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, and the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration among others.

 

Expert Advice:

 

       The Department will convene a committee of researchers that will be responsible for developing policy briefs on specific research topics associated with the education of ELLs. These research papers will serve as the foundation to bridge the gap between the Departmentís policy and research findings on the education of these students. Based on these policy briefs, it is expected that the Department will be able to make recommendations that will guide and improve classroom practice. Work on this initiative has just been initiated, and we expect it will be completed by February 2007.

 

       A carefully selected experienced group of practitioners in the field of bilingual education/English as a second language is currently being formed.  Beginning in May 2006 and periodically throughout the year, this group of experts will meet with the Commissioner and Department staff to discuss the latest issues surrounding the education of English language learners and to offer their sound advice and recommendations for action. 

 

Professional Development:

 

       Five ESL Teacher Institutes will be held this year. The focus will be best instructional practices for ELLs in content area classes and strategies for mainstream teacher with large numbers of ELLs.  The BETACs do follow-up activities in each region to determine how the information and training provided have helped teachers in their classrooms.

 

       The Intensive Teacher Institute (ITI) supports bilingual/English language arts (ELA) general education and special education teachers in their completion of bilingual and ESL certification. By May 2005, this program has graduated 414 out of the 639 total bilingual and ESL teachers. During the 2006-2007 academic year, the ITI-BE will provide tuition assistance to 142 Graduate Program teachers continuing and 99 new full-time teachers who are working in English as a Second Language (ESL) and bilingual programs and need to obtain their ESL certification or Bilingual Education Extension. 

 

       Focus on Secondary Schools: The ITI-BE will provide tuition assistance to 20 full-time secondary content area certified teachers to obtain their ESL certification or Bilingual Education Extension.  An additional content area course will be considered for addition to the ITI required four courses for a total of five courses at 15 credits. This Pilot Program will enable secondary content area teachers to obtain dual certification and enable them to serve in their district in an ESL or bilingual capacity as well as in the content area. 

 

       The largest concentrations of English-Speaking Caribbean Students (ESCS) are in New York City. We are planning an Institute with the collaboration of New York Cityís OELL and New York University during Spring 2006 to address the educational and acculturation needs of this population. In addition we will revise and distribute to all districts the SED publication on the education of students from the English-speaking Caribbean countries.

 

       The Department is creating or updating a number of key technical assistance documents for teachers.  In addition we will be finding ways to include materials in the New York State Virtual Learning System (NYSVLS) and translate those materials into the top five minority languages for the professional development needs of teachers of ELLs.

 

4.     Increase outreach with the New York City Department of Education to provide better information to parents on ESL and bilingual programs that can improve their own levels of reading, writing, and speaking English.

 

       We will continue to work with the New York City Department of Education to expand Title III funded activities that provide outreach to parents of immigrant students and ELLs. Work on the development and dissemination of school-related information to parents in the language they understand will also continue. The Department, in coordination with the New York City Department of Education, has developed a tool kit for parents (in different languages) to keep them informed and engaged in school-related activities associated with their childrenís education.

 

       The New York City-based BETACs have been working in collaboration with the New York City Office of English Language Learners to provide workshops for parents on the needs, laws, rules, regulations and programs/services for ELLs.  In addition, the Department will create or update a number of resources for parents, in English and at least six other languages.

 

       A large number of parents of ELLs come to this country with limited literacy skills in their native language. To address this issue, we are working with the Adult Education Department to provide classes on literacy development, in their native languages, as well as adult ESL classes, throughout the city and state. We believe that this improvement in English literacy will help the parents directly and will also make them more apt to become part of their childrenís school experience.