Independently and in collaboration with local governments, business and not-for- profits across the Hudson Valley, the Benjamin Center conducts independent research on topics of regional interest; brings visibility and focus to these matters; fosters communities working together to better serve the citizenry; and seeks to advance the public interest in our region.
Recent debates and policy choices about placing limits on testing time in schools are missing a key point: the proper measurement of time devoted to state-administered standardized assessment must include both the time spent on the actual tests and the added “fixed costs” to deliver these tests. These “fixed costs” include, for example, the time used to set up the classroom, ensure the certain students get their accommodations, count and distribute the tests, read directions, and then reorient students back to instruction after the conclusion of the test. Using this common-sense standard, authors Robin Jacobowitz and KT Tobin show that New York State 3-8 testing consumes approximately 2 percent of the minimum required annual instructional hours for these grades. This is double the 1 percent limit that the NYS legislature placed on State assessments during its 2014 legislative session. And it amounts to lost instructional time for students, and lost teaching time for teachers. Time on Test: The Fixed Costs of 3-8 Standardized Testing in New York State, a report of the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz, is based upon evidence provided from teachers across New York State. Findings also show that the testing process forces a reallocation of resources for all students, regardless of whether or not they are in a testing grade. This is a displacement of resources from their intended and appropriate target in order to accommodate NYS 3-8 assessments.
2020 is a partnership between the Benjamin Center at the State University of New York at New Paltz and the Legislative Action Committee of the Ulster County School Boards Association, took a major step forward today with the release of the first two policy briefs in a planned series.
An Agenda for Change through Countywide Collaboration argues that in a time of continuing fiscal and social challenges a collaborative regional county-wide approach to education is essential. It will allow school districts to capitalize on economies of scale and enhance educational opportunity while preserving the local, community-based identity that is so important to citizens. Later School Start Times for Adolescents provides a review of the literature about later school start times and proposes it as a topic for further inquiry among school districts. Three districts already have this idea under discussion.
The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz has released a groundbreaking regional report on "Mid-Hudson Arts & Culture: The Economic Impact." The study, based upon data gathered from or descriptive of 517 arts & culture organizations in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester Counties, confirms that arts/culture is of fundamental importance not only to our regional quality of life but also to our regional pocketbook.
Supported by a grant from the New York Community Trust Arts & Culture Research Fund, the Benjamin Center measured the aggregate economic impact of arts and cultural organizations in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
The Benjamin Center Director Gerald Benjamin said of the study, "We hoped and believed that if we could demonstrate a substantial economic impact by arts and cultural institutions in the region, one that paralleled their already widely appreciated social and cultural impact, greater support for them would flow, and the region would benefit in multiple ways. As you will see, we were not disappointed in our findings."
The key findings:
almost half a billion dollars in economic activity is generated by this sector, anddirectly or indirectly arts and culture provides employment for almost 5,000 Mid-Hudson Valley residents.
Additionally, audience spending on lodging, food, recreation, retail and transportation injected $498 million directly into the region's economy; the value of volunteer labor added an additional $28.7 million.
The report finds that the culture sector in Dutchess County has a total economic impact of $28.5 million and creates 1,015 jobs; Orange County's sector generates $33.1 million and 485 jobs; Putnam County's sector generates $11.5 million impact and 159 jobs; Rockland County's sector generates $26.4 million and 320 jobs; Sullivan County's sector generates $32.6 million and 344 jobs; Ulster County's sector generates $23.5 million and 372 jobs; and Westchester's sector generates $300 million and 1,103 jobs.
Every 10 years in the United States a census is taken. In New York census is used to redraw legislative district lines to reflect changes in population, and ideally demographics, in the state.
The Benjamin Center has been playing an active role in the redistricting process by creating alternatives to the plans proposed (and accepted) by the legislators themselves, as well as analyzing and commenting on the process and outcomes of redistricting throughout the state. Some of our work has been published in newspapers throughout New York State.
The Benjamin Center has released the first annual Regional Well-Being Report. The Regional Well-Being Project was launched by the Benjamin Center in 2008 to identify agreed-upon values and goals and to develop ways of measuring the Mid-Hudson Valley communities' broadly-accepted social, economic and environmental character, and allow the tracking of change through time. The research team and community advisory group assembled for this endeavor includes members of the Benjamin Center staff, New Paltz faculty and students, and a diverse group of community leaders.
The first report on measuring Regional Well-Being, which includes a Regional Well-Being Index, was released on June 2, 2010. Regularly appearing follow-up reports will be central to the continuing work of the Benjamin Center. Through these efforts we seek to inform decision making in the region, focus its efforts, identify opportunities, highlight successes and bring attention where improvement is needed.
The project is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education, obtained with the assistance of New York's United States Senator Charles Schumer.
This study is funded by Ulster County, and is the largest of its type in New York State. It seeks to identify areas where cost savings and efficiencies can be achieved through collaboration amongst municipalities in Ulster County. It focuses on three major areas: transportation, economic development and the justice courts.
For the full report, including our partner's portions, please visit the Ulster County website. The various parts of the report are in the section "Shared Services".
Under the leadership of Orange County, with the collaboration of Ulster and Sullivan Counties, and with financial support of the Local Government Efficiency Program of the New York State Department of State, this research was undertaken to determine the degree to which counties in the Hudson Valley, by working together, might reduce the costs their jails.
We consider here not only the potential through collaboration to avoid newly incurred capital costs for jails in Hudson Valley, but also possibilities for controlling or diminish operating costs by this means, while continuing to fully assure public safety and the professional operation of jail facilities.
To assure that we could achieve a full regional perspective, we sought to include the five Hudson Valley counties in the region that were not sponsoring this study: Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, Greene and Columbia. Representatives of the three sponsoring counties and each of these were invited to serve on an advisory panel of regional jail administrators; all but Greene chose to participate.
Pattern for Progress was engaged as a project partner to focus in particular on how the jail situation in Sullivan County had reached the critical point where, months later, a portion of the facility had to be closed by the state Commission on Correction.