SAANYS Testifies at Assembly Hearing Regarding English Language Learners

ellOn December 5, James Viola was joined by SAANYS members Thomas Payton (principal of the Roanoke Ave. Elementary School in the Riverhead CSD and Richard Loeschner, (principal of the Brentwood HS in the Brentwood UFSD) to present testimony on the impact of the increasing numbers of student  coming to schools with a wide range of English speaking , reading and writing needs . The hearings were called by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee. Their thoughtful and on point testimonies provided dramatic examples of the impact on schools of  ever increasing populations of students with limited English literacy and speaking skillsSome highlights from their testimony are as follow:

- James Viola in provided contextual remarks on the impact of increasing numbers of students with diverse language needs on school districts. Jim highlighted that this issues is one that impacts every part of the state . As he indicated in his opening remarks “The testimony that you are about to hear from Mr. Payton and Mr. Loeschner in regard to the budgetary and programmatic challenges presented by escalating numbers of unaccompanied minors, English language learners and students with interrupted formal education can be echoed by school districts such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany, Yonkers, and others. Although it does not impact every school district, it is a statewide issue.”

- Rich Loeschner made statistics on the rapid growth of English Language Learners (ELL) and English as New Language (ENL) entrants in Long Island real when he spoke about how the ever growing numbers directly impact the Brentwood school district. In any given week, Rich can expect to have about “25 new students arrive with limited English Proficiency”. Further, a high percentage of those students are students between the ages of 15-21 years old. The impact on instructional programming is a complex issue, made even more difficult in light of the requirements for high school completion within a very restrictive timeframe.

- Tom Payton highlighted the unique nature of each ELL student needs and how “one size approaches- do not fit all” especially when students come with dual or multiple language acquisition challenges.  In Riverhead many of the new entrants emigrate from the mountainous regions of Central America where many indigenous languages are not written. Students entering his elementary school from those regions need intensive reading, writing, and literacy instruction, requiring additional staff and resources.

-Both Tom and Rich spoke about the need to provide greater flexibility to districts managing the social and academic needs of the incoming students with ELL. Their testimony underscored the need to rethink and revise issues of accountability-especially in terms of assessments and high school completion. 

The Assembly Hearing brought forth many other issues from a wide range of perspectives.  An issue reiterated several times was the impact of Part 154 of the Commissioner’s Regulations which established significant and new procedural and program requirements-without any additional fiscal support. An identified challenge across the state is the overwhelming costs of translations. The testimonies also identified the need for many increased translations of state assessments into a wider range of languages.

SAANYS has been and will continue to be very active on this issue. In conjunction with the Educational Conference Board (ECB), the following recommendations are made:

  1. Provide accountability relief to school districts who enroll new students, who then withdraw or stop attending within a short period of time.
  2. Increase the flexibility to adjust the cohort for both the SIFE and non-SIFE students.
  3. Eliminate the ENL/ ELA dual certification requirement at the secondary level.
  4. Allow districts to identify who can administer the Home Language Questionnaire (HLQ) and New York State Identification Test for English Language Learners (NYSITELL).
  5. Amend the Part 154-2.3(i) grade span requirement to provide for a three, rather than 2 year span for grouping student for instruction.
  6. Eliminate the “a year and a day” requirement to take the ELA assessment.

For further information regarding the Assembly Hearing or upcoming initiatives of the Government Relations Committee, please contact Cynthia Gallagher, director of government relations:

SAANYS Delivers ESSA Recommendations

USCapitolOn the behalf of the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS), we are grateful for the opportunity to provide comments and recommendations regarding draft regulations to implement programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in December 2015. …

Read full letter of recommendations sent from SAANYS to Secretary King.

SAANYS Goes to Washington

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SAANYS leadership visits with Congressman Chris Gibson (center) during the NASSP Advocacy Conference in Washington DC. Pictured with the congressman are: NASSP Representative Karl Thinking, Director of Government Relations James Viola, President Elect Paul Fanuele, and President John McKenna.

Legislative Session Ends with Action on APPR, Lead Testing, Mayoral Control

capitolThe 2016 legislative session is officially at an end. While all action items affecting education are currently being reviewed and analyzed, below is a snapshot of three of the major items addressed.


A deal was struck to extend the deadline for approved APPR plans under section 3012-d until December 31, 2016. Although SAANYS lobbied diligently to delink evaluations from state aid increases (supporting a “delinking” bill put forth by Assembly Education Chair Catherine Nolan), in the end, the compromise in Albany was an extension deadline to December 31.

Not all lawmakers were happy with the compromise. “At the end of the day, we’re really just kicking the can down the road as I and many others would have preferred a complete delinking of funding from teacher evaluations and other common sense reforms to last year’s flawed teacher evaluation law,” Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a democrat from Utica, told POLITICO New York. “But I guess December 31 is better than September 1.” 


This agreement will make New York the first state in the nation to put a requirement in statute that mandates periodic testing of drinking water in schools. The state will fund a portion of the testing and remediation costs and will “reimburse these costs on an expedited schedule in emergency situations.”


This agreement extends mayoral control in New York City for an additional year.


Stay tuned for further updates.

SAANYS STRONGLY OPPOSES Budget Proposal to Alter Medicare Part B Benefits

Legislative Memo of Opposition

March 24, 2016

Provisions contained in the proposed Executive Budget for 2016-2017 would significantly alter  reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums for retirees enrolled in the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP).  The proposal would freeze the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums at $104.90 for all NYSHIP retirees with Medicare primary insurance. In addition, it would eliminate reimbursement of the Income related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) for certain retirees. Therefore, as the cost of Part B increases year-to-year, retirees will be responsible for greater and greater health costs.


The proposed amendment flies in the face of the New York State Constitution. Article 5, Section 7 of the New York State Constitution states: “…membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”  This provision enacted shortly after the great depression remains appropriate and right today, on the heels of the great recession.  The governor’s proposal  constitutes a clear and material diminishment of retiree health care benefits.

There is no good reason for New York State to renege on its commitment to retired public employees who have served New York State faithfully and well. The contract with retirees should not be broken.

Legislative Recommendation

REJECT proposed revisions that fly in the face of the State Constitution and human decency. MAINTAIN full reimbursement of IRMAA Medicare premiums by the state.


Click here to access a pre-written message that you can easily forward to your local representatives in the senate and assembly.

SAANYS Goes to Washington

DSC00262The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) convened the National Leaders Conference in Washington DC on March 13 to 15. The conference culminated with a federal lobby day, for which SAANYS assembled a team of six members, representing SAANYS and the New York City Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA):

SAANYS members included:

  • John McKenna, President of SAANYS Board of Directors; Principal, Fletcher Elementary School, Tonawanda, NY
  • Thomas Payton, SAANYS delegate to NAESP; Principal, Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, Suffolk, NY
  • Jim Viola, Director of Government Relations, School Administrators Association of NYS

CSA members included:

  • Lizabeth Caraballo-Suarez, President of NYC Elementary School Principals Association; Principal, PS 120 Carlos Tapia, Brooklyn, NY
  • Pierre Lehmuller, Executive Director, NYC Elementary School Principals Association
  • Herman Merritt, Political Affairs Director, NYC Council of School Supervisors and Administrators

The New York team had a very full schedule of meetings with the following members (and staff) of our national delegation:

  • Senator Charles Schumer
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Congressman Brian Higgins, District 26 – Erie, Niagara
  • Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, District 8 – Queens, Kings
  • Congressman Gregory Meeks, District 5 – Nassau, Queens
  • Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, District 21 – Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren, Washington
  • Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, District 7 – Kings, New York, Queens
  • Congressman Lee Zeldin, District 1 – Suffolk

A full slate of issues was discussed with each representative. However, the primary issues discussed were funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title programs, emphasizing the need for additional funds for student services such as English Learners and Immigrant Students; and opposing the allocation of funds to competitive grant programs, such as the $1 billion recommended by Education Secretary John King, to increase salaries for effective teachers.

The lobby team encouraged federal delegation support of the application to be submitted by the New York State Education Department under Section §1204, Innovative Assessment and Accountability Demonstration program to implement less intrusive, more effective approaches for student evaluation. The team also argued against any further expansion of charter schools or the diversion of fiscal resources to support charter schools; but the team did support the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program.

For more information regarding the NAESP National Leaders Conference and the meetings with New York State’s federal delegation, contact James Viola, Director of Government Relations at

SAANYS Government Relations Committee Engages State Education Leaders

On February 9, Government Relations Committee (GRC) members from across New York State convened in Albany for an ambitious day of meetings with legislators, the governor’s office, and with the State Education Department.

All GRC members met with Jere Hochman, the governor’s deputy secretary for education, and members of his staff. The GRC also disbursed into five teams of school administrators that met with 17 legislators and/or their staff including:

• Assembly Member Carl Heastie, Assembly Speaker

• Senator John Flanagan, Senate Majority Leader

• Assembly Member Joseph Morelle, Assembly Majority Leader

• Senator Carl Marcellino, Chairperson of Senate Education Committee

• Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, Chairperson of Assembly Education Committee

The meetings focused on four issues, with the first and foremost issue being state school aid. The $991 million increase proposed by Governor Cuomo is less than half of the $2.2 billion increase recommended by SAANYS to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment and meaningfully advance implementation of the Foundation Aid Formula. In fact, the governor’s proposal would result in a state aid decrease for many school districts, which will be exacerbated by a .012 percent tax cap (in some school districts the tax cap will be zero (0 percent)). School administrators told their stories as to how the governor’s proposal would impact their respective schools and districts. In many of the meetings, discussions extended to the need for categorical aid to better meet the needs of English language learners and to implement new, unfunded requirements included in Part 154 of commissioner’s regulations; as well as the need for current year emergency aid to school districts that experience “student surges” that could not have been known or planned for in school budgets.

The second item discussed was the need for funding and accountability adjustments for Persistently Struggling Schools that received targeted state aid allocations in mid-January 2016, rather than in July 2015; and furthermore recommended $75 million for allocation to Struggling Schools in order to avoid adverse impact upon other schools. In fact, it was pointed out that the 17 districts in which these Struggling and Persistently Struggling Schools are located should be prioritized for the receipt of the $2.7 billion that they are owed in Foundation Aid. Finally, in recognition of the fact that there are no simple, quick solutions for school improvement, it was recommended that these schools be allowed at least five years within which to post demonstrable improvement.

Third, in regard to prekindergarten programs, GRC members recommended that the six current prekindergarten programs be amalgamated into a single cohesive program with sustainable funding, and recommended against the establishment of a new Empire State Prekindergarten Grant Board that would add to state overhead and bureaucracy and further fragment the prekindergarten system. Furthermore, in light of prekindergarten services being available to approximately 60 percent of children who are four years of age, GRC members said it is premature to direct $22 million for the provision of services to children three years of age. Moreover, prekindergarten is inequitably available to four year old children on a region-to-region basis. The following chart depicts an access gap of 52 percent:

The last item discussed at these meetings was the annual professional performance review (APPR) system. It had come to the attention of SAANYS that some members of the state legislature believe that any problems with the APPR system have been corrected through the recommendations of the Common Core Task Force and the regulations enacted by the state Board of Regents.  GRC members pointed out those actions did not fix the system, but rather put in place an imperfect patch of the state evaluation system. It was recommended that appropriate entities, such as SAANYS, continue to be engaged to determine what works and what does not work so that thoughtful and necessary revisions of statute and regulation may be implemented, including provisions related to state-developed growth scores, the student performance- educator observation matrix, and the independent observer requirements.

The meeting with Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and members of her leadership team provided the opportunity to again discuss SED’s actions and roles in connection with the Struggling Schools and APPR systems. In addition, GRC members discussed the requirements and opportunities associated with the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The law is expected to be rolled-out over a two-year period, with 2016-17 depicted as a “soft start” that will be very similar to 2015-16. For example, the consolidated application is expected to contain few or no changes compared to the template used for the current year. The commissioner described her intentions to develop the next state accountability plan by engaging appropriate stakeholders in a thoughtful manner saying, “Doing something fast doesn’t get you where you want to be.”

In regard to student testing, the commissioner pointed out that the 95 percent participation requirement remains in place under ESSA and must be addressed in the state’s accountability plan. In an effort to drive down the incidence of students opting out, the following actions will be taken during this school year for the state assessments in grades 3 to 8:

• The State Education Department has entered into a contract with a new vendor, Questar Assessment, Inc.

• The Pearson test items will be reviewed by educators to ensure their appropriateness.

• The tests will include fewer questions and will be shorter.

• Students will be permitted to continue to work on the tests as long as they are productive.

• Up to 60 percent of test items will be released.

The commissioner also indicated her intention to apply to become one of seven states to be approved by the US Department of Education to implement innovative student evaluation procedures, such as project based assessment and portfolios. SAANYS indicated that this will be included as an agenda item when meeting with members of New York State’s federal delegation in Washington D.C. on March 15. n

The House, the Senate, and President Obama Act to Sunset NCLB and State Waivers

ESSA WHOn December 2, the House of Representatives passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 359 to 64. The following week, on December 9, the Senate acted similarly in passing the legislation, 85 to 12. President Obama signed the legislation into law on December 10, saying, “It creates a real partnership between the states, which will have new flexibility to tailor their improvement plans and the federal government, which will have the oversight to make sure the plans are sound.” Though reauthorized seven years late, the new law is strongly supported by most educational organizations – including SAANYS.

The new federal law will be authorized for four years, rather than for the more typical five-year period. This means the law will be partially implemented under the current administration, and will be up for reauthorization before the completion of the first term of the next administration. It will be phased-in as follows:

  • July 1, 2016 for noncompetitive (formula) programs (e.g., Title I)
  • August 1, 2016 for sun setting state waivers
  • October 1, 2016 for competitive programs
  • School year 2017-18 for accountability requirements

The new law will change the federal-state relationship by returning more decision-making to the states.

With respect to the state accountability system, the secretary may not add requirements or criteria that are inconsistent or outside of the scope of Title I-A or in excess of statutory authority granted to the secretary. Also, as a condition of the state plan, the secretary may not:

  • Require a state to add new requirements;
  • Require a state to add or delete specific elements to the standards;
  • Prescribe goals of progress or measurements of interim progress that are set by states under the accountability system;
  • Prescribe specific assessments or items to be used in assessments;
  • Prescribe accountability indicators that states must use;
  • Prescribe the weight of measures or indicators;
  • Prescribe the specific methodology states must use to differentiate or identify schools;
  • Prescribe school improvement strategies or exit criteria for English language learners;
  • Prescribe minimum N-sizes for student participation in state testing;
  • Prescribe any teacher or principal evaluation system;
  • Prescribe any measures of teacher or principal effectiveness; or
  • Prescribe the way in which the state factors the 95% requirement into their accountability system.


For Accountability, states must continue to identify and intervene in the lowest performing five percent of schools (a.k.a., priority schools), high schools where the graduation rate is 67 percent or lower (note the current cut-point is 60 percent), and schools where student subgroups are low performing (a.k.a., focus schools). Although there remains a requirement that 95 percent of students participate in state assessments, states are given discretion as to how lower participation will be addressed in the state accountability system – and there is no-longer a requirement that a participation rate under 95 percent automatically results in a determination of performance failure. Finally, states will have to determine indicators of success including academic indicators (such as proficiency on tests, English-language proficiency, and graduation rates) and an additional indicator (such as student engagement, teacher engagement, and access to advanced coursework) – with the academic indicators counting “much more” in the state accountability system.

For Student Assessment, the bill maintains NCLB requirements to annually assess all grade 3 to 8 students in English language arts and mathematics. It should be noted, however, that SAANYS strongly supported H.R. 4172, the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act introduced Congressman Chris Gibson. The House bill would have discontinued the requirement for annual testing, and instead would have required ELA and mathematics testing at least once in grades 3 to 5, 6 to 9, and 10 to 12.

In terms of opt-outs, ESSA allows states to establish testing opt-out laws. Districts and schools will be required to know the relevant policies in regard to opting out, and parents must be informed about the tests and notified of opt out policies and procedures. Finally, states are authorized to determine the student “N size” necessary for statistically sound assessment results.

The new law also extends flexibility to states to assess students in new ways, including portfolios, projects, and performance tasks. States are also authorized to use computer-adaptive tests that measure performance above and below grade level.

For Professional Development, Title II part A will provide grants to states and school districts to increase student achievement, improve teacher, principal, and other school leader effectiveness, and provide low-income and minority students greater access to effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders. During visits with members of New York State’s federal delegation, SAANYS advocated for a Title II ten percent set-aside for school administrator professional development. Partial success was achieved in that the new law allows states to reserve up to an additional 3 percent of Title II funds to provide targeted supports to principals and other school leaders.

Programmatically, the law requires that SED work with school districts for successful middle school-to-high school student transitions, decreasing the risk of students dropping out. Title II Subpart 2, consistent with SAANYS recommendations, supports high-need under-performing schools with prekindergarten to grade 12 support to improve student achievement in reading and writing through the SAANYS-supported Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) program.

The act also includes support for expanded learning time (e.g., there is a separate line item for the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program) and a definition of “expanded learning time” focused on students and educators:

The term ‘expanded learning time’ means using a longer school day, week, or year schedule to significantly increase the total number of school hours, in order to include additional time for (A) activities and instruction for enrichment as part of a well-rounded education; and (B) instructional and support staff to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development (including professional development on family and community engagement) within and across grades and subjects.

Separate line items are also set for:

  • Full-service community schools
  • Parent engagement
  • Gifted education
  • Arts education
  • Preschool development

In Title III, funding is allocated to help English language learners achieve English proficiency. Some (though not enough) state flexibility is provided for the inclusion of ELL students in state assessments; and a requirement is established for the state education department provide technical assistance to districts serving large numbers of English learners.

For more information regarding SAANYS legislative positions and meetings with House and Senate representatives, contact James Viola, director of government relations, by e-mailing To access a summary of the ESSA provisions, visit