Full Board


James A. Kadamus


Continuing Efforts of USNY to Close the Gap in Student Academic Performance


August 17, 2005


Goals 1, 2 and 3






Issue for Discussion


How can we ensure that the leadership, systems building and partnerships among the University of the State of New York (USNY) resources will continue to leverage the change needed to accomplish the aims for the whole educational system and to close the gap in student academic performance?


Reason(s) for Consideration


Review of policy.

Proposed Handling


This question will come before the full Board at its September meeting.


Procedural History


Not applicable.


Background Information


          In June 2004, we provided you with an update on initiatives and strategies for school improvement, with a focus on urban areas. The item described the unique characteristics of the State’s large urban school districts, and challenges to be addressed in the provision of quality education programs and services. Also introduced was the concept of “levers of change” which must be strategic, comprehensive and continuous in addressing the performance gap and impacting long-term results.


Since reporting to you last year, we have worked throughout USNY to better align accountability systems and direct needed technical assistance and support to urban schools and districts, and to other high need schools and districts identified through the State accountability systems.  The regional USNY meetings conducted this year developed the idea of the aims that drive the whole system.  These aims focus our actions.  This report provides an update on activities and interventions implemented or supported by the Department within the context of five levers of change. It also describes progress in aligning USNY resources consistent with the levers in our efforts to close the gap in student performance.




The Regents should review the strategies currently being undertaken to mobilize USNY resources to accomplish the aims of the whole system and challenge USNY members during the USNY summit and in other venues to strengthen and increase partnerships and collaborations to achieve those aims.


Timetable for Implementation


Not applicable.






          In June 2004, the Board of Regents received a report on the Department’s efforts to close the achievement gap, which introduced the concept of levers of change. The fundamental basis was to identify and focus efforts on those areas or levers most likely to have an impact on long-term results.  Through the regional USNY meetings conducted this year, the idea of aims that drive the whole system was developed.  Those aims are:


·       Every child will get a good start.

·       Every child will learn to read by the second grade.

·       Everyone will complete middle school ready for high school.

·       Everyone will graduate from high school ready for work, higher education, and citizenship.

·       People who begin higher education will complete their programs.


These aims help to focus our actions for all students in the State and the levers of change identify the ways in which we can accomplish those aims.


The purpose of this report is to provide an update on activities and interventions implemented or supported by the Department within the context of the levers of change targeted to addressing the above aims. Many of these activities reflect an approach to addressing the gaps that utilize resources across USNY.  Engaging USNY resources of many kinds provides the best opportunity to raise student achievement and to close the gaps in achievement. 


          The levers of change include:


1.     Systems Alignment and Coherence

2.     Generation and Dissemination of Instructional Knowledge

3.     Creating Programs and Strategies Focused on the Needs of Students in the Gaps

4.     Enhancing School Improvement, Accountability and Fiscal Integrity of School Districts

5.     Development of Instructional Leadership and Practice at All Levels


          Activities planned for each lever and the connection to the aims identified above follow.


Lever 1 - Systems Alignment and Coherence


          Aligning our systems at both the school district and State levels and across USNY members as well as aligning community resources to the challenge of closing the achievement gap are necessary if we are to be successful.  We have learned that we must think of the whole system from pre-kindergarten through higher education.  This alignment of systems and resources can leverage change as we identify schools and districts challenged with low achievement and provide school improvement services and support through our regional networks.  A consistent understanding of the aims by all partners will help to ensure that the resources they can provide are maximized and contribute to closing the achievement gap.


          Student performance results from the State assessment system enable SED to direct its resources and efforts by identifying the most underperforming schools and districts. The assessment data also leads to the identification and targeting of schools and districts based on State accountability systems (i.e., System of Accountability for Student Success and VESID Key Performance Indicators) and the federal accountability systems prescribed by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Such data also helps to target support where needed and redirect USNY resources to make sure students are better prepared and get the extra help they need to make smoother transitions from the elementary, middle and high school levels.  During 2004-05, in addition to State and federal accountability systems, SED identified 136 high schools located in 12 school districts that have high school completion rates under 70 percent.  A high school completion initiative has been implemented to help those districts improve student performance. 


          In 2004-05, schools and districts were identified as underperforming and in need of support through the cooperative involvement of multiple EMSC and VESID offices. This has led to more coordinated actions in conducting registration reviews of Schools Under Registration Review, in monitoring schools and districts pursuant to Title I, and in providing support and technical assistance.  In a similar manner, the USNY-wide approach has enhanced consistency across Department-supported regional networks in targeting schools/districts for technical assistance and service. Evidence of this approach is found in the SED Partnership Agreements in place with each of the Big Four school districts, and which typically involve 13 SED offices, 6 Department-supported networks and institutions of higher education. A similarly unified approach is also employed in the development of Performance Plans issued to the Hempstead, Wyandanch and Roosevelt school districts. The primary purpose of both Partnership Agreements and Performance Plans is to close the achievement gap by identifying the issues and causes for low performance and applying targeted services and interventions with sufficient intensity and duration to effect improved performance.  Such collaboration among SED offices results in clear and consistent direction and support to schools and districts.


          SED conducts quarterly professional development programs to promote coordinated school improvement strategies in low performing schools and districts, with support from the New York Technical Assistance Center (NYTAC), RMC Research Corporation, and the Educational Alliance at Brown University.  Beginning in 2003-04, the participants at these professional development programs gradually expanded to include multiple USNY members, all Department-supported regional networks under EMSC and VESID, Teacher Centers, and BOCES District Superintendent representatives.  This ongoing commitment to professional development is building a community of practice around school improvement strategies needed to close the gaps in student performance.


          In addition to involvement in Partnership Agreements and Performance Plans, institutions of higher education (IHE) have played a key role in making student transition from Pre-K-12 to higher education smoother. For example, middle/early colleges are high schools integrated into the organizational structure of higher education institutions. This provides high school students with a college experience (courses and culture) while obtaining their high school diploma.  The first such Middle College High School in the State was established at CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College in New York City.  Also, the Regents recently approved the 2004-2012 Statewide Plan for Higher Education in New York State.  Among the 13 priorities in the Plan is a commitment on the part of all four sectors of higher education in the State, as well as the Regents and the Department, to ensure a smooth transition for students from preK-12 to higher education.  The City University of New York, the State University of New York, the State’s independent colleges and universities, and proprietary institutions have identified activities planned and under way to address this priority in their master plans. These efforts support the aim to ensure that people who begin higher education will complete their programs.


          Beginning in 2001, VESID and EMSC have partnered in the implementation of the Higher Education Support Center (HESC) at Syracuse University, a key component of New York’s IDEA State Improvement Grant. Through this initiative, a coalition of more than 70 IHEs with teacher preparation programs share instructional/content knowledge, approaches and research with strategic networks and low performing schools and districts.  The teacher preparation programs also benefit from their participation in the State’s improvement efforts.  When several institutions collaborate, effective practice merges.


Lever 2 - Generation and Dissemination of Instructional Knowledge


          Generating and disseminating instructional knowledge can leverage change when whole faculties share effective practice and continue to add strategies that work to improve student performance.  This lever can help build communities of practice regarding the most effective instructional practices.


During the 2004-05 school year, Urban Forum programs on Results-Based Planning and High School Completion were conducted for the Big Five districts and other school districts that are in need of instructional knowledge and successful instructional practice.  Two high school forums were held for school and district level administrators from the 12 districts identified with low completion rates, and for the Department and regional network personnel who work with these students/districts. The forums provided a structured opportunity for participants to learn and observe effective strategies implemented in high need, high performing schools in meeting the diverse needs of students. The 12 districts developed plans to support students in academic difficulty through “catch up” literacy curriculum and instruction; redesigned academic intervention services and summer school programs; smaller, supportive learning communities; and targeted professional development. Two forums are planned for 2005-06 to continue such information dissemination and to trouble-shoot barriers encountered in implementation of strategies.


          The identification of the Most Improved Schools, according to NCLB criteria, has served as an important vehicle in identifying and validating what constitutes effective practice and has generated new instructional knowledge for use by the Department and regional networks.  For example, SED’s Student Support Services office has developed a skills-based instructional guide for health education that provides instructional knowledge for this content area.


          Starting in summer 2005 and continuing into the 2005-06 school year, six Corrective Action Districts in Need of Improvement have been directed by SED to undergo a comprehensive Audit of Curriculum and Instruction. With coordination among the Department’s Regional and New York City Offices for School Improvement and Community Services and VESID, this comprehensive K-12 audit by a third party contractor will lead to the compilation of instructional knowledge and proven practices that can be used to support the closing of the achievement gap in the Big Five, Wyandanch and Hempstead school districts. Moreover, the knowledge to accrue from these audits will be shared with appropriate regional networks to enhance causal analysis procedures and services provided to other low performing schools and districts.


          The Office of Cultural Education (OCE) provides programs and resources that help teachers sharpen their pedagogical skills and teach more effectively and efficiently to the New York State Learning Standards. Online courses from the State Archives are available to train teachers in the use of historical documents in the classroom and in how document-based questions assess performance indicators in the Learning Standards for Social Studies. Developed by the Office of Public Broadcasting’s member station, PBS TeacherLine New York offers a series of standards-based online courses in topics critical to teaching effectiveness. NOVEL provides teachers and schools in every community with free access to state-of-the-art information resources that would otherwise be out of reach of most school budgets.


SED’s Virtual Learning System (VLS) encourages the use of the Internet as a tool for teaching and learning and assists classroom teachers in locating Internet resources for instruction.  VLS offers the full text of New York State's learning standards with their key ideas and performance indicators, as well as alternate performance indicators for students with severe disabilities. It provides resources that classroom teachers can use to support preK-12 standards-based instruction, such as sample tasks, classroom-level learning experiences and hundreds of Marco Polo lesson plans tied to a specific performance indicator.  VLS includes a link to the New York State Library, Museum and Archives, and the Office of Educational Television & Public Broadcasting and public television stations.  More links are being planned with SED Offices of Higher Education and Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities as well as with other statewide educational organizations.  Resources from the Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) provides access to over 40,000 educational resources found on various federal, State, university, non-profit, and commercial Internet sites.  Work continues to enhance VLS' content and technological capabilities.  Some activities under consideration are offering access to teacher professional development resources and providing opportunities for educators to share their own instructional materials.  Once again, SED is working to build communities of practice around instruction – only this one is electronic.




Lever 3 - Creating Programs and Strategies Focused on the Needs of Students in the Gaps


          Programs and strategies that provide extra help to students who need it, and are of interest to them, play a critical role in making successful and smooth transitions for students in the educational system.  Further, they support the aim of completing high school ready for work, higher education and citizenship and for completing higher education if pursued.


          The Office of Public Broadcasting provides educational programming to preK through grade 12 students through the universal medium of television. Ready to Learn and Homework Hotline prepare students for and support classroom learning. Created by Public Broadcasting’s member WNED, ThinkBright is a family of digital learning services that includes a digital TV channel and an online educational service to support teachers, students and parents in achieving higher academic standards. The New York State Library’s Statewide Summer Reading Program helps ensure that students in all communities return to school in the fall ready to learn at grade level. The Museum Club and its teen counterpart, The Discovery Squad, are nationally recognized educational afterschool programs that have served as model youth programs for other cultural institutions nationwide. The program has a proven track record of helping teens at risk to stay in school and develop skills needed to join the workforce and go on to higher education.


          During 2004-05, VESID and EMSC collaborated on proven practices that benefit students with disabilities, including Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), Reading First programs, Universal Design for Learning Initiatives, family involvement initiatives, disproportionality initiatives, data-driven school improvement planning support, and middle-level models.


          The Career and Technical Education (CTE) office has been developing programs to address the unique needs of students enrolled in CTE. The Regents policy for program approval continues to be implemented and administered so that students have access to specialized courses that integrate academic and career and technical skill development. “High Schools that Work” is implemented in four school districts and seven BOCES to integrate academic and technical skills. A Career and Technical Education Resource Center (CTERC) has been established at the Questar III BOCES to increase graduation rates and to support low performing schools. The CTERC will provide training and technical assistance in CTE and academic integration.


          Higher Education’s Office of K-16 Initiatives and Access Programs administers several programs that are designed to improve college graduation rates for underrepresented and or disadvantaged students and to close the gap. These programs include the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP), the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) and the Learn and Serve America K-12 School Based Program (LSA).


·       LPP goals are to: (1) establish partnerships between postsecondary education institutions, public and nonpublic K-12 schools, parents, and other stakeholders; (2) develop and implement programs designed to help ensure at-risk youth in grades 5 through 12 graduate from high school; and (3) prepare those students for postsecondary education and the workforce.

·       The STEP program focuses on students in grades 7 through 12 and is designed to increase the number of historically underrepresented and disadvantaged students prepared to enter college, and improve their participation rate in mathematics, science, technology, health-related field and the licensed professions.

·       LSA is designed to develop, implement, and integrate service learning and the linking of service activities to learning outcomes into schools.


Lever 4 - Enhancing School Improvement, Accountability and Fiscal Integrity of School Districts


          Levers for change enhance our efforts toward achievement of the aims of the whole system through our regional networks, the improvement of fiscal conditions in low performing districts and in the quality of teachers and school leaders in schools and districts where there is low student performance.


          The USNY approach involving State offices and regional networks has expanded the capacity of the statewide Regional School Support Center network to assist low performing schools. In June, standardized protocols were disseminated to all EMSC and VESID networks for use on a statewide basis to support the coordinated delivery of interventions to low performing schools. An additional protocol related to the evaluation of the effectiveness of our intervention(s) is under development.  The protocols have and will continue to help formalize and institutionalize the roles of Department staff, the Regional School Support Centers (RSSC), Bilingual Education Technical Assistance Centers (BETAC), Special Education Training and Resource Centers (SETRC) and other funded networks in our most needy schools.  BETACs and SETRCs focus on two subgroups with low performance, English language learners and students with disabilities.


          Fiscal integrity will help New York’s low performing districts support quality programs for their students. The Office of School Operations and Management Services (SOMS) has developed systems to support the improvement of the fiscal conditions in school districts. Typically, this office has provided training to school officials on matters of fiscal oversight and ways to implement internal fiscal controls. Research on effective fiscal management practices and the development of a financial condition indicator system have been completed.  Monitoring and training will continue. SOMS partners with the Office of Audit Services that conducts reviews of the financial condition of all districts and audits of selected school districts.


          One of the priorities of the Regents Statewide Plan for Higher Education is to have an adequate supply of qualified teachers, school leaders and other school professionals in order to provide all pupils with the high quality education to which they are entitled. The Department continues to monitor the supply and demand of teachers and has responded to shortages by enacting a number of new initiatives, including:


·       A conditional Initial certificate to facilitate the ability of school districts to recruit teachers from other states;

·       Alternative teacher education programs to provide opportunities for career changers and others to enter the teaching profession;

·       Continuation of the transcript evaluation route which many school districts with teacher shortages rely on to employ new teachers;

·       An alternative pathway for licensed speech language pathologists to obtain certification as a teacher of speech and language disabilities (with an opportunity to add a bilingual extension to such teaching certificate upon demonstration of proficiency in a foreign language); and

·       A supplemental certificate allowing a teacher currently certified in a subject area of over supply to effectively transition to a subject area with a shortage of properly qualified teachers while completing the academic preparation for the new certificate.


Lever 5 - Development of Instructional Leadership and Practice at all Levels


          Developing instructional leadership and practice is critical for making sure students have access to adequate and qualified teacher resources to support their successful transitions in the educational system.  In addition to SED-funded networks and their focus on low performing schools, the BOCES District Superintendents have a key role in articulating a consistent and strong focus on instructional leadership practices for improving student performance.


          Recruiting and retaining qualified teachers is essential to closing the gap. USNY has responsibility to prepare highly qualified teachers, including math, science, bilingual, special education, speech and language and others.  VESID has taken action to meet personnel needs through a variety of approaches, including the Bilingual Special Education Intensive Teacher Institute, the Higher Education Support Center for Systems Change, the Upstate Speech Consortia Program and the New York City Speech Institute. The Office of Bilingual Education has worked to increase the pool of certified teachers in both ESL and Bilingual Education through the Intensive Teacher Institute; the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Alternative Teacher Certification Program to increase the Bilingual/ESL teacher pool in general and special education; the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Leadership Academy (BETLA) to develop leadership skills in exemplary bilingual and ESL teachers; and the Dual Language Academy to provide professional development and technical assistance for building principals and regional administrators responsible for the supervision and compliance monitoring of Dual Language programs in the New York City Department of Education.


          Efforts will be made to work with the Office of Cultural Education to recruit Hispanic special education teachers through public service announcements. In a similar manner, OCE has established “Making It REAL! Recruitment, Education, and Learning: Creating a New Generation of Librarians to Serve All New Yorkers,” that partners the New York State Library with Graduate Schools of Library Science, Teaching Libraries, Library Systems, and the New York Library Association. Partners will create scholarships and traineeships in Teaching Libraries where librarian recruits will acquire practical hands-on experience and mentoring. The program will help to redesign the recruitment process for librarians and increase diversity in the field of library science.


          The Office of School Improvement and SED-funded networks working in low performing schools support the development of teacher leadership through research, collaboration and networking. As a result of the Urban Forum initiative, many teachers in attendance have developed leadership roles on the basis of their connection to the information and resources provided at the Forums.     


          This year a proposal to amend Part 80 will establish new education, examination and experience requirements for candidates to qualify for certification as a School Building Leader, School District Leader and School District Business Leader, including required professional development to retain their certification.




          The resources among the member institutions of USNY provide our best opportunity to raise student achievement and close the gap in student performance.  The aims that drive the whole system from pre-kindergarten through higher education focus our actions.  The levers of change provide the ways in which we can accomplish the aims needed to better educate everyone so that they are ready for work, citizenship and life.


The increased involvement of USNY in the State’s school improvement initiative has improved coherence across offices and Department-supported networks in targeting schools/districts for support and has improved the coordination of providing such support.  However, some USNY resources may be underutilized, and more work needs to be done in order to effectuate the involvement of USNY and networks in a planned, coordinated, and deliberate manner to accomplish our aims.  Therefore, key senior managers throughout SED will meet regularly as a cabinet to deliberate on how to close the achievement gap.  A specified set of data elements will be identified and direct the deliberations of the cabinet.  The following are among the issues the cabinet will address:


·       The effectiveness of the five identified levers of change in accomplishing the aims of the whole system and determining whether additional levers are needed.

·       Alignment of the missions of various SED offices and USNY resources with the aims for the whole system.

·       Identification of ways to mobilize resources and strengthen partnerships among USNY members and statewide networks in a coordinated manner to leverage change.

·       The roles and contributions of District Superintendents and regional networks in supplementing and complementing USNY resources to support low performing schools and districts.


Staff will periodically report to the Board of Regents on the results of this work.  The insight and lessons learned during the November USNY Summit will further inform our work as we deploy USNY resources to accomplish the aims of the whole educational system and closing the achievement gap.