December 29, 2011
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Establishes New NY Education Reform Commission

Governor Cuomo Establishes New NY Education Reform Commission

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today established the New NY Education Reform Commission, bringing together nationally-recognized education, community, and business leaders to recommend reforms to the state's education system in order to improve performance in the classroom so that all of New York's students are fully prepared for their futures.

The Commission will examine the current structure of the state's education system including teacher recruitment and performance, student achievement, education funding and costs, parent and family engagement, problems facing high-need districts, and the best use of technology in the classroom. The Commission will also analyze the organization of school districts to ensure they are structured to meet the needs of New York's students while also respecting the taxpayer.

"It is essential that we give New York students the knowledge and the tools to compete and to thrive in this highly competitive global economy," Governor Cuomo said. "The New NY Education Reform Commission brings together educators, business, labor, non-profit leaders, and proven innovators to take a close look at our state's schools and come up with a blueprint for their future success. An effective education system leads to strong communities and a healthy economy, as well as ensuring that our students are properly educated and trained to enter the workforce. The future of our state depends directly on how well we teach our kids today and I look forward to working together with the Commission to make our public schools the best in the nation."

Richard (Dick) Parsons, Retired Chairman, Citigroup, and Chair of the New NY Education Reform Commission, said, "The next generation of New York's students will not be able to compete in the global economy unless we dramatically reform our schools. To take on this task, Governor Cuomo has brought together top education and business leaders from across the country to help build an effective education system that puts students first and holds schools accountable for the results they achieve and the dollars they spend. I thank the Governor for his leadership and for convening this commission."

New York State spends more money per student than any other state in the nation, but ranks 38th in high school graduation rates. 73 percent of New York's students graduate from high school and 37 percent are college ready. To address these major shortcomings in the state's education system, Governor Cuomo called for the creation of the New NY Education Reform Commission in his 2012 State of the State address.

The Governor today signed an Executive Order creating the Commission, and tasked the members with the following objectives:

Find ways to improve teacher recruitment and performance, including the teacher evaluation system:

The quality of a student's teacher is one of the most important factors in his or her success. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature put in place a strong teacher evaluation system to improve teaching and learning by holding teachers accountable for student achievement. The Commission will examine factors contributing to teacher recruitment and performance including: incentives to hire and retain high-quality teachers; improvements in the teacher evaluation system to ensure New York is implementing one of the strongest evaluation systems in the country; the use of teacher evaluations for decisions regarding promotion, hiring and termination as required in the teacher evaluation law; and teacher preparation, certification and education programs to ensure that teachers are properly trained to best educate our students.

Improve student achievement:

New York ranks 38th in high school graduation rates and many students who graduate are not college- or career- ready, with many requiring remediation. The Commission will examine factors in raising student achievement from prekindergarten through high school including: state accountability and curriculum requirements; model programs to improve student achievement beginning in early learning programs and continuing throughout high school; strategies for every student to achieve at grade level such as intervention and support systems; and policies to improve student attendance and retention.

Examine education funding, distribution and costs:

New York spends more per pupil on its education system than any other state. Although funding is dictated by diverse local needs, education spending is too often focused on administrative overhead and benefits rather than the classroom. The Commission will examine factors that impact spending in education, including: school funding and distribution of State Aid; efficiency and utilization of education spending at the district level; the percentage of per-pupil funding that goes to the classroom as compared to administrative overhead and benefits; approaches to improving special education programs and outcomes while also reducing costs; identifying ways to reduce transportation costs; identifying strategies to create significant savings and long-term efficiencies; and analysis of district-by-district returns on educational investment and educational productivity to identify districts that have higher student outcomes per dollar spent, and those that do not.

Increase parent and family engagement in education:

Parents and families need to be fully engaged in preparing our children for success in school and thereafter. The Commission will examine state and local policies to increase parent and family engagement, including: how the school calendar meets the needs of students and families to optimize engagement such as parent-teacher conferences and half-days; district and school-level policies to address student attendance issues; access to information regarding teacher effectiveness; and parental involvement in school policies such as placement of students in low-performing schools and in the classrooms of ineffective teachers.

Examine the problem of high-need and low-wealth school communities:

The students in New York's high-need and low-wealth school districts both urban and rural have specific needs that must be fully addressed. The Commission will examine the ways to better serve students in high-need urban and rural communities, including: identifying how the unique challenges facing students in each high-need district create obstacles to academic success; comparing best practices and services that will meet the needs of our high-risk students; and prioritizing spending in high-need school districts in order to address problems that may require additional or different services and adequately prepare high-risk students in urban and rural schools.

Find the best use of technology in the classroom:

The use of technology in the classroom is critical for the educational and future success of our students. The Commission will identify the strategies for making the best use of technology in the classroom, including: improving access to high quality educational programs through technology in geographically diverse districts with small populations; addressing cost barriers to providing high quality educational programs that can be delivered through the use of technology in the classroom; and understanding what areas in the science, technology, engineering and math fields students should know to be prepared for the job market in an increasingly global economy.

Examine New York's education system to ensure it meets the needs of students while respecting the taxpayer:

New York's education system is organized into 700 school districts, more than half of which educate fewer than 2,000 students. Each of the 700 school districts has its own administration and back office functions, creating duplication, waste, and inefficiencies in the way school districts deliver education. The Commission will examine potential strategies to reorganize the state's education system including district consolidation and/or shared services; comparing models from other states to achieve efficiencies and improved education outcomes; identifying reforms and savings in special education; maximizing informed participation in local elections; and facilitating shared services, consolidation and regional governance.

Membership of the Commission includes:

Richard (Dick) Parsons, Retired Chairman, Citigroup, Chair of the New NY Education Reform Commission
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
Geoffrey Canada, Founder & CEO, Harlem Children's Zone
Irma Zardoya, President & CEO, NYC Leadership Academy
Elizabeth Dickey, President, Bank Street College of Education
Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, President, Say Yes to Education
Lisa Belzberg, Founder & Chair Emeritus, PENCIL
Michael Rebell, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Campaign for Educational Equity
Karen Hawley Miles, President & Executive Director, Education Resource Strategies
Jos Luis Rodrguez, Founder & CEO, Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, Inc.
Sara Mead, Associate Partner, Bellwether Education Partners
Eduardo Mart, Vice Chancellor of Community Colleges, CUNY
Thomas Kane, Professor of Education & Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Jean Desravines,CEO, New Leaders
Michael Horn, Executive Director & Co-Founder, InnoSight Institute
Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, SUNY
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor, CUNY
John B. King, Jr., Commissioner, New York State Education Department
Senator John Flanagan, Chair, Senate Education Committee
Assembly Member Cathy Nolan, Chair, Assembly Education Committee

The Commission will meet multiple times and will gather input and information from across the state. The Commission will submit preliminary recommendations to the Governor by December 1, 2012, or such other date as the Governor shall advise the Commission.

Staff to the Commission will be the Deputy Secretary for Education, the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Education, and the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Higher Education to the Governor.