January 29, 2007
Governor Spitzer proposes links between educational funding and performance
Governor Spitzer has proposed a tough new education reform strategy that would, for the first time, tie increased state school aid to firm standards for accountability and for results.
“My vision for education reform is built on a single premise,” the Governor said. “To be effective, new funding must be tied to a comprehensive agenda of reform and accountability.”
“There will be no more excuses for failure,” the Governor said Monday in a special message delivered before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 educators, public officials and others gathered in an auditorium at the state Education Department.
“The debate will no longer be about money, but about performance,” he said. “The goal will no longer be adequacy, but excellence; and the timetable will no longer be tomorrow, but today.”
The Governor said that in his budget proposal later this week, he will propose “the largest infusion of resources in our state history” for school districts, concentrated on those with the largest proportions of low-income students and the weakest tax resources of their own.
But he said that each district receiving a state aid increase of $15 million, or of 10 percent above the previous year, would be required to enter into what he called a “Contract for Excellence”— a “serious reform plan that specifies the uses of any new funds, how current programs will be changed, and — very importantly — the improvement in educational performance the districts will achieve as a result.”
The proposal would require of each such district that it:
- Develop a plan for focusing the new money on such education strategies as smaller class sizes, better teacher quality and training, and longer school days or school years. The specific mix of strategies would be up to the district, but they would have to be specified in advance — as would the details about how much money would go to what schools and programs.
- Specify the improved educational outcomes it expects to achieve, using such criteria as increases in the number of children reading at grade level, and in the number of those graduating with Regents diplomas.
- Outline a program of rewards and remedies based on the expected outcomes. Those doing well could expect statewide recognition and “school-based performance incentives,” such as “rewarding the whole faculty in schools that show real performance improvements,” the Governor said. But those falling short would be required to dismiss their superintendents — and in extreme cases, the state would dismiss whole school boards. Failing schools would be closed — “perhaps as many as five percent of all the schools in the state, if we have to,” he said.
“Accountability should run through the system from top to bottom,” he said.
Governor Spitzer also embraced a number of other ideas long sought by advocates of education reform, including:
- An increase in the number of charter schools allowed in the state, from 100 to 250. When this promise drew only tepid applause from the crowd, the Governor smiled, waved his hands up, and said, “come on, come on!”
- Reforms in teacher tenure, “based on the review of the supervisor, an evaluation by professional colleagues, and an examination of data as well as qualitative information about how a teacher's students perform over multiple years.”
- A new “value-added” assessment system that will measure the year-to-year progress of a given cohort of students (as opposed to the current system, which simply compares, say, this year's fourth-graders to last year's).
- A “high-quality Pre-K program” for “every child who needs it,” within the next four years.
- Incentive pay for teachers in hard-to-fill subjects and schools.
- The use of “alternative certification programs” to attract people into teaching from other professions — coupled with a tough look at the preparation provided by teachers' colleges. “We should measure the effectiveness of our teacher education programs as we do the performance of every other aspect of our educational system,” the Governor said.
The full text of the Governor's address may be found at: http://www.ny.gov/governor/keydocs/0129071_speech.html