SAANYS Recommendations for ESSA Regulatory Revisions Accepted
SAANYS is pleased to inform members that a regulation in regard to a required “Principal Report” has been accepted by the Board of Regents and the revised wording reflects the position taken by SAANYS. The problematic regulation was titled a “Principal Support Report and a Principal Needs Assessment.”
What Was Proposed by SED?
In the first set of published regulations, the Principal Support Report was to be required by a school district with a least one school identified as a Comprehensive Support Improvement (CSI) school that did not meet its achievement progress target. The report which is developed by the school district (the regulations do not provide any further specificity as to who would develop such a report) must identify any area for which the school district could more effectively support the principal. Further, any target district that has at least one school identified as CSI that fails to meet its achievement target for two consecutive years, must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the capacity of the district to support the principal.
SAANYS opposed this regulation due to its narrow focus on principals. The role of the principal is but one position that comprises the administrative team. The entire administrative team needs to bring about change in a school. It was our position that superintendents, other administrative titles, and teachers should be included in this provision. The isolation of one role does not reflect best practice and does not provide a comprehensive examination of school improvement. Additionally, the provision implicitly assumes that principals have the authority to act independently, which frequently does not exist within most districts.
It was also our strong opinion that the examination of the principal in public spaces would not be appropriate. The NYS ESSA Plan states that “districts with CSI schools that did not make progress in Year I will be required to submit a Principal Support Report for each CSI school that did not make progress that identifies any areas in which the principal has been rated as Developing or Ineffective in his or her annual evaluation…” In our opinion, these statements are problematic and should not be carried over into regulations. Although the regulations indicated that the Principal Report must be consistent with education law in respect to personally identifiable information, this would be very difficult to ensure in districts with only one principal at each school.
What is Now in the Draft Regulations
Comments reflecting the above opinions were sent to SED for consideration and we are very pleased that the Board of Regents has accepted our recommendations. The revised regulation now indicates that the reports will be called the Leadership Team Report and the Leadership Team Needs Assessment, which also includes the superintendent.
The Leadership Team Support Report is required for any district that has at least one CSI school that did not meet its annual achievement progression target. This report must identify areas where the district could more effectively support the leadership team of the CSI school.
If the school does not make gains for two years, then the District Need Assessment will include a new component delineating a plan to provide necessary supports and resources to address the identified needs
Additional Recommendations That Were Not Accepted
SAANYS’ letter to SED also included several other areas including chronic absenteeism and the definition of continuously enrolled students.
Definition of Continuously Enrolled
The regulations indicate that a continuously enrolled student is a “student enrolled on BEDS day and enrolled during the test administration period for the subject tested. . .” (8NYCRR 100.21(b)(1)(ix)). As written, a student could be enrolled on BEDS day, leave the school, re-enroll during the testing period, and be counted as continuously enrolled. These are two separate points in time and do not indicate a continuous enrollment. In such situations, it would be unfair to hold a school accountable for a student not enrolled for the majority of the school year.
SAANYS recommended that the definition be revised to indicate that continuous enrollment be based on students enrolled on BEDS day through the test administration, however SED and Board of Regents did not accept this suggestion.
Definition of Chronic Absenteeism
The definition of chronic absenteeism in the proposed regulations is the “number of students enrolled during the school year for a minimum of ten instructional days and in attendance at least one of those days who were absent (excused or unexcused) for at least 10 percent of the enrolled instructional days divided by the total number of students enrolled during the school year. . .” Blunt and uniform measurements, such as the calculation for chronic absenteeism, often lead to unintended consequences especially in New York where schools and districts have highly variable enrollment size. A small school would have a higher probability of being classified as low performing, as even a few chronically absent students would impact results (e.g., one student in a building of 200 students equals .5 percent. If one student is absent one day, that student’s absence could mean the difference between Level 3, or Levels 1 or 2).
Student attendance has long been a concern of schools. Administrators work diligently with students and families to address issues of attendance. The challenge is that most administrators have few intervention strategies with which to work. The reasons for student absences range from families needing care for siblings, exhaustion from working, and /or lack of engagement. When a student’s absenteeism becomes chronic, administrators must report to them Child Protection Services, which is a required but not a prevention strategy. In the current environment, schools have not had adequate lead time to prepare for this variable to act as a determinant of an accountability status. Districts have not had sufficient lead time to discuss attendance policies, staffing, and interventions attendance patterns to be used as an accountability measure.
SAANYS recommended that this measure be delayed by one year in order to provide schools with enough lead time to ensure that implementation does not lead to unintended consequences. SAANYS also suggested that calculations be determined through a tiered approach based on school size.