Research


Scope and Content Note

This series consists of correspondence, meeting agenda and minutes, reports, and other materials documenting the administration of the New York State Education Department under Commissioner Thomas E. Sobol. Materials were organized by the Commissioner's office according to the office, organization, or subject to which they were related. This organization has been reflected in the folder titles.

Many of the files are labeled according to their pertinence to major program areas of the New York State Education Department. These areas include Elementary, Middle, and Secondary Education (EMS), Higher Education, Professions, Vocational and Education Services for Individual with Disabilities (VESID) and Cultural Education. The file labels reflect the reorganization of the State Education Department during Sobol's tenure. Files marked "ESC" refer to the Office of Elementary, Secondary, and Continuing Education, which was changed to EMS in 1988. Meanwhile, the Office of Higher Education became the Office of Higher and Continuing Education in 1988, and then the Office of Higher and Professional Education in 1992.

Included among the EMS files are correspondence, reports, and other materials related to specific interventions made by the State Education Department in struggling school districts in Hempstead and Buffalo. Also included are published copies of "A New Compact for Learning", as well as letters expressing views on the New Compact from concerned citizens and constituent groups. Also related to the New Compact are reports and meeting agenda from a group of Curriculum and Assessment Committees related to specific academic subjects. These reports involve the creation of "learning outcomes' for each subject, a key component of the New Compact. Higher Education materials include correspondence with the Doctoral Council and with college and university officials regarding reviews of doctoral programs in New York State, as well as correspondence related to state-sponsored scholarship programs and teacher certification. Materials related to the professions include correspondence with citizens alleging misconduct from members of licensed professions, with practitioners regarding licensing, and with appointees to State Boards of licensed professions.

Other documents in the series reflect the daily activities of Commissioner Sobol in administering the New York State Education Department. Files marked "Commissioner's Office" refer to the daily functioning of the Office of the Commissioner of Education under Thomas Sobol. Included are correspondence, programs, minutes, agenda, and reports related to meetings held by, or attended by, Commissioner Sobol, both inside and outside of the State Education Department. Also included are correspondence to legislators, federal government officials, and Department staff, stating the Department's position on federal legislation related to education. In addition, there are letters to and from members of the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, as well as agenda and meeting minutes from Regents meetings, regional conferences, retreats, and legislative conferences. Files marked "Commissioner Sobol" relate to the personal schedule and activities of Thomas Sobol while serving as Commissioner. Many of these materials consist of "calendar regrets," or letters sent by Commissioner Sobol to people requesting his attendance at various functions, expressing regrets at not being able to attend those functions. In addition, there are correspondence and official forms documenting Sobol's travel schedule, interactions with the news media, and speaking engagements. Files marked "Department Administration" largely deal with personnel matters, and include correspondence with labor unions, including Public Employees Federation, concerning the negotiation of a new contract, as well as correspondence and memoranda related to the reorganization of the Office of Elementary, Middle, and Secondary Education into interdisciplinary field service teams.

Furthermore, files marked "Advisory Councils and Task Forces" refer to materials, including correspondence, drafts, and final reports, produced by ad hoc councils and task forces either convened by Commissioner Sobol, or in which Commissioner Sobol participated. Among those prominently documented include the Anti-Drug Abuse Advisory Council, the Bilingual Education Advisory Council, and various bodies (Curriculum of Inclusion Task Force, Social Studies Syllabus, "One Nation, Many Peoples" Task Force) related to the controversial 1991 revision of the state's social studies curriculum to reflect greater cultural diversity. Files marked "Organizations" contain materials related to organizations outside of New York State Government with which Thomas Sobol was involved. Organizations extensively represented in the subseries include the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, the New York State School Board Association, the National Center on Education and the Economy, the New York State United Teachers, and the Regional Educational Laboratory.