STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT /
THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF
Discussion of Need to
Goals 1 and
Issue for Decision
Should the Regents propose legislation to fund museums and historical
societies to increase standards-based instruction in science, social science and
the humanities for K-12 schools?
Legislation would enlist effective USNY engagement in raising academic
performance and in eliminating the academic performance gap. If enacted, the proposed legislation
would recognize the value of museums’ and historical societies’ contributions to
K-12 education while strengthening ties between museums and schools.
Review of this proposal as well as approval to develop legislative
language for consideration by the full Board at the September
At the March 2006 meeting of the Cultural Education Committee, the
concept of legislation to fund museums and historical societies to increase
standards-based instruction was discussed. The Committee approved developing the
conceptual proposal and presenting it for action to the full
The Regents first supported legislation in 1986 to fund museum
curriculum-related instruction, known as
The conceptual proposal presented by
staff and endorsed by the Cultural Education Committee at the March meeting,
called for formula-driven funding based on education service units. Since that discussion, additional review
indicates that this approach alone does not allow sufficient flexibility to
target aid to high quality programs that serve the greatest need. Neither does it provide strategic
leadership by directing funds to address the most important educational issues.
Accordingly, staff recommends that the Regents propose establishing not only a
formula driven funding mechanism but also a competitive grant program. It would provide incentives for museum,
historical societies and certain other cultural institutions to initiate
creative new approaches to high-quality, educational services to K-12 educators
Formula-driven funding would provide support based on certified education
service units. The education service unit defined in earlier versions of this
legislation was “a period of…curriculum-related instruction associated with an
exhibit, collection or research program provided during regular school hours to
eight or more students in K-12.” Staff recommends modification of the definition
of educational service unit – one based on student contact hours of certified
Certification of the instruction as meeting Regents standards is a key
element in this proposal. There are several possible ways to obtain it. The teacher signing off on a form after
each museum instructor led program could certify both the contact hours and the
quality of the program. An option
that also engages district administrators might be more attractive and, over
time, create more support for museum programs. This option could involve museums
applying to District or BOCES Superintendents for certification of their
programs prior to visits by school groups. This could stimulate collaboration
between districts and cultural institutions to provide effective services.
The competitive grants program could fund a variety
of services, including but not limited to:
The Commissioner of Education, acting on behalf of
the Regents, will be responsible for administering and evaluating the program.
The legislation will authorize funding to administer and evaluate the program.
An advisory committee composed of educators, SED staff
and members of cultural institutions will offer guidance and assist in the
selection process. Selection criteria could include weights to reward education
services that target high-need students, content areas such as math and science,
or other critical needs.
Education Law 216 authorizes the Regents to
incorporate museums and other educational institutions, and Regents Rules Sec.
3.27 provides standards for chartered museums. Unlike schools and libraries, however,
museums do not benefit from a dedicated funding mechanism or categorical grant
program in the Education Department.
To meet Regents standards, museums must largely raise their own
Educators have long supported the role of museums as
educational institutions that inspire curiosity and discovery-based learning.
In the early 20th
century, museums such as the
According to 2003 annual reports, of those
This level of activity has occurred even though there
is no State funding for such programs.
Disadvantaged and at-risk youth, and their families, are not likely to be
regular visitors to museums. Such young people may also not feel “welcome” in a
museum that may appear intimidating and alien. But a well-planned and relevant class
visit to a museum could open doors to such young people. It is ironic that the learning gap in the State’s
largest cities takes place in the very shadows of some of the world’s foremost
science, art and history museums.
Staff recommends that the Cultural Education Committee request that a
formal legislative proposal be developed for their review and
Timetable for Implementation
The formal legislative language would be brought back to the Regents for
review in September. It will have been broadly discussed in meetings of senior
staff with museum and historical society officials. If approved by the Regents,
it would be a part of the Regents legislative package for