What is Standard?

Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
December 2021 News & Notes

The State Education Department (SED) is engaged in an exercise of soliciting input from various stakeholder organizations regarding the New York State accountability system, and whether or not SED should seek a waiver of accountability requirements. Even if it is decided such a waiver should be sought, the specific content of the application has not yet been determined.

After consultation with the members of both our Board of Directors (BOD) and Government Relations Committee (GRC), SAANYS advised SED that we would strongly support the submission of a waiver application to the United States Department of Education (USDE) that would obviate the use of ESSA performance indicators for reporting school performance and for determining district and school accountability status. Further, we advocated for the suspension of the 3-8 assessments and Regents exams that are part of the New York State accountability plan.

Among those BOD and GRC members we spoke with, most felt the school climate was far from pre-pandemic norms. COVID-19 testing, masking, distancing, quarantines, delayed instruction… very much dominate the current educator experience.  Many students manifest adverse social-emotional impact, and many teachers are having to engage in instruction that crosses the specific grade level skills and standards covered by state assessments. There are staffing-related transportation delays and substitute teacher shortages as well as continued quarantine-imposed interruption of instruction for many. Does it surprise anyone that the administration of standardized assessments is not high on the priority list of those charged with running schools and programs?

Without a waiver from the USDE, the assessments are supposed to go on as scheduled. What does one do with the results? Do we compare them with the 20-21 school year? 19-20? Is there real value to such a comparison?

As I write this, the news is full of reports of increasing infection rates in many parts of the country, and New York State is no exception. It was just announced that three different school districts in Western New York will be temporarily closing due to COVID-19 infections and again relying to some extent on remote instruction. I bet standardized assessments are low on the priority list of administrators at those districts. Further, yet another new variant of the virus has been identified, and it is unclear if the current vaccines will be effective against it. Once again, it feels like there is very little that is standardized this year.