TO:The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents
FROM: James A. Kadamus
TITLE OF ITEM: Strategy for Implementing the Regents Policy Statement on Middle-Level Education
DATE OF SUBMISSION: February 6, 2004
PROPOSED HANDLING: Discussion
RATIONALE FOR ITEM: Implementation of Regents Policy
STRATEGIC GOAL: Goals 1 and 2
In January, the Committee directed staff to develop possible approaches for implementing the Regents Policy Statement on Middle-Level Education. During the January meeting, the Regents discussed the following points that have shaped the strategy outlined in the attached paper:
- We have learned a lot about what works from the research, speakers and public engagement process on middle-level education. Any approaches to implementing Regents policy must reflect the best practices of effective schools with middle-level grades.
We have heard that, while students in the middle-level grades must receive a foundation in reading, writing and mathematics, it is also important for students in these grades to receive quality instruction from certified teachers in all 28 of the State learning standards.
We have heard that the program of study in the middle grades must ensure that students with disabilities receive appropriate instruction and that students who are English language learners must receive intensive English instruction.
We have heard that creating a supportive learning environment for students in middle-level grades is critical to their academic and personal success.
We have heard concerns that greater flexibility is needed for schools to put best practices of middle-level education in place. We have also heard that there is considerable flexibility in current regulations that many districts are not using.
- We have heard that any approaches to implementing Regents policy on middle-level education must result in improved academic performance and positive youth development. Special consideration must be given to low performing schools with middle-level grades in order to make sure they are put on a path to improve.
- We have heard that some high performing schools with middle-level grades want to design new approaches to middle-level education that are consistent with the Regents policy, but that these approaches require greater flexibility than is in place under current regulations.
- We have concluded that no single approach is the solution to the problems confronting middle-level education; therefore, a State strategy for middle-level education must consider the variation in structure and performance of schools.
Given the conclusions reached in January, a State Strategy for Middle-Level Education could include the following components:
- A statement of the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs and a clear set of educational conditions that must be in place for these Essential Elements to work in New York State schools. This statement would serve as the standard that programs in the middle-level grades must meet and would stimulate implementation of best practices statewide.
- A statement of the flexibility that already exists in regulations and of the additional flexibility that should be put in place in order for the Essential Elements to work in New York State schools. This statement would grant levels of flexibility needed by schools to implement the Essential Elements, while ensuring students receive instruction from qualified teachers in all 28 State learning standards.
- A description of a self-study and external peer review process that would be put in place statewide in order for schools with middle-level grades to assess the existence of the Essential Elements and to put in place a plan for addressing areas of weakness or for implementing those elements not in place. This process would create a means to improve middle schools and ensure that flexibility granted would result in school improvement.
- A description of special considerations that would need to be in place for the self-study and external peer review to work for low performing and for high performing schools with middle-level grades. These considerations will ensure that the improvement process will work in schools that vary in structure and performance.
In order to implement this State Strategy for Middle-Level Education, the Regents would need to amend the Commissioner’s Regulations to include the following:
- a statement of the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs;
- general requirements and conditions for the self-study and external peer review process;
- specific requirements and conditions for low performing schools with middle-level grades to implement the self-study and external peer review process and implement school improvement programs;
- specific requirements and conditions for high performing schools with middle-level grades to implement the self-study and external peer review process and design new programs; and
- a description of the levels of flexibility given to schools with middle-level grades implementing the self-study and external peer review process with variations depending on level of school performance.
(continued in the full PDF)