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Meeting of the Board of Regents | May 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007 - 11:00pm

sed seal                            








Johanna Duncan-Poitier




Update on Contracts for Excellence



May 11, 2007



1, 2, 3 and 5







Issue for Discussion


How is the Department implementing requirements for contracts for excellence as required by law and consistent with Regents priorities? 


Reason(s) for Consideration


              This briefing is being shared in response to requests made by members of the Board of Regents in April for additional information on work underway and next steps for the contracts for excellence.  Implementation of the contracts for excellence is required by State statute.



Proposed Handling


This information will be shared and discussed with the Regents EMSC-VESID Committee in May.



Procedural History


The recently enacted 2007-08 State budget requires certain school districts to enter into contracts for excellence and to spend a large portion of their Foundation Aid increase for school year 2007-08 on certain allowable programs and activities.  A list of those school districts is attached (Attachment A). To facilitate the successful implementation of the contracts for excellence for the 2007-08 school year, as required by statute, the Regents adopted regulations by emergency action at their April 2007 meeting.  Given the very short timeframe for the development of regulations after the enactment of the State Budget, in advance of the Regents action on the regulations, the State Education Department reached out to educational leaders, researchers, and others from across the State and the nation, and had preliminary discussions with advisory groups, District Superintendents, professional organizations, union leaders, educators, researchers, representatives of the Governor’s office, legislative leaders, and other partners for their input into the development of the regulations and recommendations for next steps.  The resulting regulations are reflective of their valuable feedback.



Background Information


The new State budget provides a tremendous opportunity to invest resources in new and innovative ways to help all students achieve greater success.  The Regents have long advocated for simplification of the school funding formula, adequate school funding and for strengthened accountability concerning the use of State Aid to school districts.  Under Board of Regents direction, the Department developed a state accountability system that has been consistently praised as the best in the nation and preceded a similar federal accountability system with the No Child Left Behind Act.  Regents priorities were prominent during the Executive transition, as Regents, the Governor-Elect, executive staff, and senior SED staff worked together on what soon became Article VII language in the budget process.  The newly enacted New York State budget is consistent with Regents goals and presents an historic opportunity to focus new resources on improved learning for the State’s students. We look forward to continuing our work to helping school districts invest these additional resources in a way that is most effective.  The attached report provides (1) an overview of the contracts for excellence, (2) a summary of comments from the field and (3) our plan for seeking additional guidance and next steps.




It is recommended that the Regents EMSC-VESID Committee discuss the material presented in the attached report and share your recommendations concerning the implementation of statutory requirements for school district contracts for excellence. 



Timetable for Implementation


The Regents will act upon regulations for implementing the contracts for excellence statutory requirements at the June 25-26, 2007 meeting as a second emergency action to keep the requirement continuously in effect, and will be asked to act to confirm regulations at the September 10-11, 2007 meeting.  Throughout this period Department staff will consult extensively with the field and will ask that feedback and recommendations be sent to the Regents and Department staff.  In addition, the Department will be sharing additional guidance information, including a field memo and frequently asked questions, with the field.


Contracts for Excellence

Status Report

May 2007


Contracts for Excellence


The newly enacted 2007-08 State budget requires school districts in need of improvement, or school districts with schools in need of improvement, requiring academic progress, in corrective action or restructuring, and having increases in Foundation Aid of greater than either $15 million or ten percent of the amount received in the base year, whichever is less or a supplemental education improvement grant, to prepare a contract for excellence.  Contracts for excellence require school districts to use their Foundation Aid increase predominantly to benefit students with the greatest educational need, including, but not limited to students living in poverty, students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.  Contracts for excellence require school districts to use a portion of their increased Foundation Aid above an inflationary increase, (referred to as their “Contract Amount”), to supplement district activity in up to five areas: increased time on task; full-day prekindergarten or kindergarten; class-size reduction; improving teacher and principal quality; and/or middle and high school restructuring.  School districts may also apply for approval by the Commissioner to spend fifteen percent of their contract amount for experimental programs.  For 2007-08, school districts can spend 25 percent of their contract amount to maintain existing district programs. A list of those school districts required to complete contracts for excellence is attached (Attachment A).  A list of allowable options for each program area is included as Attachment B.


Accomplishments in Implementing Contracts for Excellence


Knowing that the timeline for development of regulations to implement the State budget requirements would be extremely limited, Department staff began to plan for the implementation of contracts for excellence based on the Executive proposal, pending final enactment of the State budget.  Many Department offices, both in Albany and New York City, were involved in this work, including those in the new P-16 structure - EMSC and Higher Education, and VESID.   Following this internal development, Department staff consulted with education stakeholders in Albany and New York City on March 30, 2007.  Within days of the passage of the final State budget on April 1, 2007, while staff worked to complete the regulatory language based on the final budget, Senior Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier moved expeditiously to inform the field of the final requirements concerning the contracts for excellence in two field memos and providing a draft of the Department’s implementation plan and field guidance on April 9, 2007. 


The Senior Deputy invited the field to submit comments on the details of the regulations and invited individuals and organizations to participate in meetings/teleconferences to discuss essential elements of allowable programs and other guidance incorporated in the regulations.  Educational associations, representatives from the 56 contract-for-excellence school districts, including New York City, and education advocates participated (see Attachment C).  During this time, Department staff held extended office hours until 7:30 p.m. to afford the field with maximum opportunity for consultation.


At the same time that the regulations and field guidance were being developed and shared, Department staff was already developing a streamlined web-based system to facilitate the completion and submission of the contracts for excellence by school districts. 


Feedback from the Field


We received a great deal of feedback from the field, some requesting clarification on specific points, some offering suggestions for language to be included in the final regulations, and some suggesting revisions that would necessitate changes to the statute and that would exceed the scope of the Board of Regents authority concerning implementing regulations.  Some of the feedback and the Department’s responses are outlined below:


Targeting resources to students with the greatest educational needs and public comment


Concerns expressed included tracking expenditures, budgets and Foundation Aid for English language learners and students with disabilities at the school building level. 




School district representatives asked questions about how to budget contract for excellence expenditures.  For example:


Does the initial budget presented to the public have to include the appropriations for the contract expenditures because of the extremely tight time frame?  


Could these expenditures be appropriated by Board action after budget adoption?  


How is a district to establish base line data for auditors to audit when the previous year’s budget has already been adopted and codes were not established?  


We have urged districts to incorporate expenditures of contract for excellence funds in their budget presented to the voters on May 15, 2007.


Maintaining district effort


Some district representatives asked questions about the flexibility allowed for the 2007-08 school year to use 25 percent of contract for excellence funds to maintain school district programs.  They asked, for example, whether total cost or “incremental” cost could be counted in this area.  Total costs are acceptable expenditures up to 25 percent of the contract amount.


Supplement not supplant


We received some questions attempting to operationalize what Education Law section 211-d means by the requirement that contract for excellence funds “have been used to supplement, and not supplant funds allocated by the district in the base year for such purposes.”  For example, the following example was considered to be supplanting existing district effort:

If a grant ends, forcing the district to make a staffing or program change, would allocating those expenditures to the Contract for Excellence funding requirements be considered supplanting?


Allowable programs and expenses


District representatives, advocates and citizens made comments and asked questions about whether specific activities are allowable programs and expenses, in general terms and for each allowable program area: class size reduction, increased time on task, improving teacher and principal quality, full-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, and middle and high school restructuring.  Examples include:


  • For class size reduction, New York City should be allowed to put an additional teacher in a classroom only when space is not available and only as a temporary measure.

  • Can the district fill vacancies with more experienced teachers to improve teacher quality?

  • Can class size reduction be implemented at the high school level?

  • Is transportation an allowable expense for transporting students to after school programs or full-day pre-kindergarten or kindergarten programs?

  • When will the Commissioner appoint his class size review panel?  Who will be on it?

  • Is computer hardware an allowable expense?

  • Can funds be used for professional development for school librarians?

  • Can funds be used for

    administrative support to manage a “school within a school?”

  • Will there be a template for individuals to use to file complaints?

  • How can the public be involved in the development of contracts for excellence?


Staff counseled districts that they had considerable flexibility if they proposed to spend funds on new or expanded programs in the allowable program areas and if the programs were expected to result in improved student achievement.




Some districts questioned the appropriateness of the law using school improvement status under NCLB or the State’s accountability system to determine which districts should complete a contract for excellence.  They argue that they are not a district with a history of failure, and may, for instance, merely have a school requiring academic progress because of a failure to meet the requirement that 95 percent of students with disabilities be tested.   We noted, in response, that the requirement to test 95 percent of each student group supports the policy direction of educating students with disabilities in the home district to the extent possible, which is a policy the Regents and Department support.




Districts asked questions about whether accounting for contract for excellence expenditures should be at the school-building level.  Districts are expected to account for all funds at the school-building level.  District-wide initiatives, for example a leadership academy, can be pursued with expenditures reported at the school-building level.  Such allocations should ensure that funds predominantly benefit students with the greatest educational needs; including, but not limited to, students living in poverty, students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.


Charter Schools


Contract for excellence school districts may deduct additional amounts payable as charter school basic tuition from the contract amount to be used for allowable programs. School districts are not expected to implement contract for excellence programs in charter schools. 


Next Steps


  • Continue to promulgate regulations implementing contracts for excellence, effective April 27, 2007, by emergency action.   Seek comments and confirm by September 2007.

  • Pilot and complete development of a streamlined web-based system for districts to enter their contracts for excellence.


  • Provide updated guidance to school districts to assist them in completing their contracts for excellence.  Documents are to include additional guidance, research and reference documents for each allowable program area and frequently asked questions and answers.


  • Continue to consult with the field


  • Hold a teleconference to answer questions and resolve concerns of districts and advocates as districts complete contracts for excellence.


  • Meet with New York City school officials to discuss New York City-specific questions for implementing contracts for excellence.


  • Meet with business officials and certified public accountants concerning budgeting and accounting for contracts for excellence.


  • Work with the 56 school districts to implement contracts for excellence to improve student achievement.
  • Develop a protocol for the review and approval of contracts for excellence.
  • Develop a plan for the evaluation of how increased Foundation Aid was spent and what was accomplished.
  • Consider strengthening the effective connection between State Aid and accountability through contracts for excellence in the Regents proposal on State Aid to school districts for 2008-09.

Attachment A


School Districts

(outside of NYC) that will have to file

Contracts for Excellence for the 2007-08 School Year































































Attachment B

Approved Programs



Class Size Reduction (NYC)

Additional Classroom

Additional Teacher/Aide(s)

Time on Task

Lengthened School Day

Lengthened School Year

Dedicated Instructional Time

Individualized Tutoring

Teacher and Principal Quality Initiatives

Programs to Recruit/Retain Highly Qualified Teachers

Professional Mentoring for Beginning Teachers and Principals

Incentives to Transfer HQT/E Teachers to Low-Perform. Schools

Instructional Coaches for Teachers

School Leadership Coaches for Principals

Middle School and High School Restructuring

 Implement Instructional Changes

Structural Changes to Organization

Full-Day Kindergarten or Prekindergarten Programs

Full-Day Prekindergarten Program

Full-Day Kindergarten Program

Experimental Programs

As Approved by Commissioner


Contract For Excellence Options



Attachment C

Contract for Excellence Consultation



  1. New York State Association of School Superintendents


  1. New York State Association of School Business Officials


  1. School Administrators Association of New York State


  1. New York State School Boards Association


  1. New York State United Teachers


  1. Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc.


  1. Alliance for Quality Education


  1. The Campaign for Educational Equity


  1. Conference of Big Five School Districts


  1. District Superintendents


  1. New York State Afterschool Network


  1. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, New York


  1. The Children’s Aid Society


  1. Teachers College: Columbia University, Department of Curriculum and Instruction


  1. Capital District Childcare Coordinating Council


  1. Human Services Council of New York City, Inc.


  1. New Yorkers for Smaller Classes / Hispanic Federation


  1. Class Size Matters


  1. American Association of School Administrators


  1. New York State Center for School Safety


  1. Alexander Central School District


  1. Binghamton City Schools


  1. Buffalo City Schools


  1. Clyde-Savannah Central School District


  1. Fulton City School District Board of Education


  1. Hyde Park Central School District


  1. Jamestown City Schools


  1. Enlarged School District of Middletown


  1. Monticello Central School District


  1. New York City Department of Education


  1. Ossining Union Free School District


  1. Rochester City School District


  1. Syracuse City School District


  1. Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns


  1. Unadilla Central School District


  1. Utica City School District


  1. Westbury Union Free School District


  1. Yonkers City Schools


  1. The YMCA’s of New York State, Inc.


  1. New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson


  1. TASC: The After-School Corporation


  1. Coalition for After-School Funding


  1. Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan


  1. Assemblywoman Barbara M. Clark


  1. Assemblyman Rory Lancman


  1. Senator Seward


  1. Rebecca Skinner


  1. Numerous e-mails and letters from school district officials, citizens and others



Chapter 57 of the laws of 2007

Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007