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Regents new leaders to be elected, likely talk Common Core plans

Regent Betty A. Rosa speaks to members

Regent Betty A. Rosa speaks to members of the State Board of Regents during a meeting at the State Education Department in Albany, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Credit: Hans Pennink

New leaders of the state Board of Regents are scheduled to be elected Monday, then hold a news conference where they likely will face questions about their future plans for Common Core academic standards, student testing and teacher evaluations.

The 17-member board is slated to choose a new chancellor and vice chancellor at its monthly meeting starting at 9 a.m. in Albany.

Regent Betty Rosa of the Bronx, who spent her early childhood in Puerto Rico and then served as a special education teacher, principal and superintendent in New York City, is expected to be named chancellor. She would replace Merryl Tisch of Manhattan, who leaves the board at the end of this month.

Regent Andrew Brown, a Rochester attorney, is likely to take the No. 2 slot, sources said. That position is being vacated by Anthony Bottar of Syracuse.

Rosa’s succession to the chancellor’s post would mark a dramatic shift in the leadership of the Regents board, which was founded in 1784 and is one of the nation’s oldest and most influential education policy panels. Board members exercise broad authority over public and private schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums and professional licensing.

Tisch, in her role as chancellor over most of the past seven years, was an ardent proponent of higher academic standards and more rigorous testing of students.

In recent months, Tisch has conceded that reforms were pushed too fast, sparking teacher protests and test boycotts on Long Island and elsewhere in the state.

The chancellor has contended, however, that reforms were urgently needed to better prepare students for college and careers.

Rosa, in contrast, was part of a opposition group of six Regents who in recent years objected to much of the so-called reform agenda. One particular target was a series of laws, pushed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, which ultimately required as much as half the job evaluations of schoolteachers and principals to be based on students’ test scores.

The governor asserted that teachers should be held to a higher level of accountability, because fewer than 40 percent of their students in grades three through eight were passing Common Core tests at a level considered proficient under strict new standards.

Rosa sounded a conciliatory note in recent weeks as other candidates for the chancellorship, including Regent Roger Tilles of Great Neck who represents Long Island on the board, withdrew from consideration.

“I’m just interested in taking the work that’s been done and taking it to the next level,” Rosa told Newsday at last month’s board meeting.

One pressing issue facing the Regents revolves around the state’s timetable for future evaluations of teachers. In December, the board clamped a four-year moratorium on using results of state testing in job ratings.

Under a state law passed in April, local school districts now are required to revise their plans for rating teachers and to obtain state Education Department approval of those plans by Sept. 1. Districts failing to meet the deadline risk partial loss of state financial aid.

Many school administrators said they need more time to make revisions, especially since those changes must win agreement by local teacher unions.

Administrators added that districts, in the meantime, should be allowed to conduct evaluations using plans already approved by the state under an earlier version of the law.

“It’s impossible to conceive that students would be more hurt by having teachers evaluated under the old law, than by having their schools lose state aid,” said Henry Grishman, superintendent of Jericho schools.

Grishman is a former president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

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