Albany’s Educational Alphabet Soup

I believe one of my strengths is understanding structure in organizations. I have to admit it has taken me a while to begin to understand the structure of the New York State Education Department (NYSED). I used to think that NYSED was the main educational system in the state – it is the main educational executive body – but the actual lead organization is the University of the State of New York (USNY). USNY is run by the Board of Regents, who in turn direct NYSED to carry out the mission of USNY.

I feel like I’m writing in circles when I describe it.

Additionally, USNY should not be confused with the State University of New York (SUNY), which is the public higher education system within New York. I guess I would prefer if the USNY title and acronym would just go away and we could have NYSED be the lead group, but that’s just me.

So, to get a handle on what USNY is in charge of, here is the description from the site:

The University of the State of New York (USNY) is the most complete, interconnected system of educational services in the United States. USNY includes:

  • More than 7,000 public and private elementary and secondary schools;
  • 248 public and private colleges and universities;
  • 251 proprietary (for-profit) schools;
  • Nearly 7,000 libraries including the New York State Library;
  • 750 museums;
  • The State Archives;
  • Vocational rehabilitation and other services for adults with disabilities;
  • Special education services for pre-school and school-age children and teenagers;
  • A School for the Blind;
  • A School for the Deaf;
  • 25 public broadcasting facilities, including seven public television stations;
  • More than 750,000 professionals practicing in 48 licensed professions, including, for example, pharmacy, architecture, accounting, and nursing; and
  • 240,000 certified public school teachers, counselors, and administrators.

That is a whopping amount of responsibility for one group – the Board of Regents is in charge of all this. The part I find most interesting as I pick it apart is the next section which describes how all of these agencies work together:

Although these organizations are dedicated to maintaining and improving education, they usually work within their respective sector. Each entity of this educational system is both an official and organic component of the University of the State of New York. The challenge and the opportunity are for the sectors to work together as a whole bringing unmatched resources in people, information, facilities, technology, artifacts, and relationships to face educational issues of the twenty-first century.

The part I highlighted in bold and italics above is the part I am most intrigued by. When you consider that everything from nurse licensing, to public television, to the New York State Library, to public and private schools are governed by the same institution, you start to get a sense of the breadth (and challenge) of USNY.

I bring all of this up as I study some of the curriculum areas I am responsible for. In addition to Art and Music, I coordinate the subject areas of Business Education and Home and Career Skills. Both of these areas fall under the auspices of Career and Technical Education (CTE) at the NYSED website. When you browse the CTE section, it takes a while to understand the site layout, in that there are subject area “tabs” below the heading, as well as specific sub-sections along the left navigation area:

The CTE page is part of the Prekindergarten through Grade 12 (P-12) section of the NYSED site. P-12 Education is one of the main program offices for NYSED. As an aside, the person in charge of the P-12 Education office, John King, was recently promoted to Commissioner of Education and President of USNY.

I hope I’m not sending your brain in circles – I’m just trying to get mine in order :-). At the end of the day, the NYSED website attempts to deliver an incredible amount of information, and it can be very complex to understand.

I will leave you with two items which help me get a handle on NYSED USNY. First, an organization chart showing the big picture setup. Second, a list of acronyms used in NYSED. If you thought I used a lot of them here, check out that list. How’s that for alphabet soup?

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