The New York State Board of Regents met in Albany on May 16 and 17. A summary of noteworthy discussions and actions follows:
Every Student Succeeds Act – Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was joined by several other SED senior managers in presenting updated information in regard to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In terms of state fiscal allocations, there was good news in that the state’s Title 1 allocation is scheduled to increase to $1.6 billion, but Title II (Preparing, Training and Recruiting High Quality Teachers, Principals and Other School Leaders) is scheduled to be cut $9 million. The commissioner indicated that full implementation requirements have not yet been set by the US Department of Education and said, “We are moving forward without knowing exactly where we’re going to land … there’s a lot we don’t know.” It was also announced that SED will establish an ESEA Think Tank with a broad scope of membership, including SAANYS, to develop New York State’s approach to ESSA implementation.
In terms of ESSA accountability, Assistant Commissioner Ira Schwartz conducted seven teleconferences with a broad range of stakeholders, including SAANYS, as follows:
- February 18, Guiding Principles for the State Accountability System
- February 25, Standards and Assessments
- March 9, Long Term Goals and Indicators for Accountability
- March 17, Identification of Schools
- March 23, Participation Rate Requirements
- March 31, Comprehensive Support and Improvement / Targeted Support and Improvement
- April 8, Public School Choice and Direct Services Set-aside
However, there now exists some uncertainty as to when the new accountability system will become effective. It is clear that New York State will continue to implement the current accountability system during the 2016-17 school year and will also develop a new accountability plan consistent with ESSA provisions. But clarification from the USDOE is needed as to whether the new accountability system is to be effective in 2017-18; or will be based on 2017-18 student performance data, with implementation beginning in 2018-19.
Annual Professional Performance Reviews – Under current law and regulation, school districts and BOCES must transition from a §3012-c APPR Plan to a §3012-d APPR Plan by September 1, and in order to meet this deadline, draft plans must be submitted for SED review by July 1. As of May 13, the status of school districts and BOCES transitioning to §3012-d follows:
- 121 Approved School District §3012-d APPR Plans (18 percent)
- 1 Approved BOCES §3012-d APPR Plan, (3 percent)
- 30 Newly Submitted §3012-d APPR Plans Under Review
In order to provide school districts and BOCES with greater flexibility in implementing the provisions of §3012-d, the board approved the following regulatory revisions:
- Teachers and principals whose APPRs are based, in whole or in part, on the results of the grades 3-8 ELA or math state assessments and/or on state-provided growth scores on Regents exams must be provided their APPR transition scores and ratings by September 1; but their original composite rating must be provided by September 1, or as soon as practicable thereafter.
- For 2015-16, for the development of student learning objectives (SLOs), school districts may determine whether to use the NYS alternate assessment; or to use other approved student assessments, a district-wide, BOCES-wide, school-wide or program-wide group, team, or linked results based on state/Regents assessments; or to use other department-approved assessments.
- The teacher and principal observations category scores must incorporate all evidence collected and observed over the course of the school year.
- Teacher improvement plans (TIPs), principal improvement plans (PIPs), and corrective action plans are subject to collective bargaining.
Several Regents members expressed concern about the APPR system, including the regulatory amendments that were ultimately passed at the meeting. Regent Tilles said that an APPR score based on school-wide or district-wide performance is “ludicrous,” and expressed his hope that the legislature will re-consider and revise §3012-d. Regent Johnson said that the SLOs are “not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness” and asked, “At what point do we say that the law is wrong?” As has been suggested at earlier meetings of the Board of Regents, Regents Johnson and Tilles recommended that a letter be sent to the legislature documenting the board’s concerns and recommendations relative to the state APPR system – but no action was taken to ensure that their recommendation will be enacted.
Computer Based Assessment – Assistant Commissioner Peter Swerdzewski reviewed the department’s plan to fully phase-in computer based assessments (CBA) in grades three through eight by 2020, but cautioned that the timeline may be extended if necessary. This year, 905 schools will voluntarily field test CBA. (A map indicating the statewide distribution of such schools is available here.)
During the presentation Executive Director Kathleen Moorehead said that 92 percent of schools are now “connected,” and Regional Information Center (RIC) Director, Dale Breault said that RICs can increase bandwidth on-demand. Finally, it should be noted that the current forms of computer based assessments are the same as the paper-pencil instruments; and are not adaptive, successively decreasing or increasing the rigor of items based on student responses.
National External Diploma Program – The Regents approved the action recommended by Deputy Commissioner Kevin Smith to permanently establish the national external diploma program (NEDP) as a pathway leading to a State High School Equivalency Diploma, for students and individuals nineteen years of age or older. Successful completion of the program is based on successful completion of 70 “real world” experiences, such as researching two types of credit cards and providing a rationale for the one selected. The Deputy Commissioner indicated that the program is currently available in approximately 25 locations in New York State, and that he is working with the assessment developer, CASAS, to determine its appropriateness for younger students.