At the January Meeting of the Board of Regents

The State Education Department’s ESEA Waiver Renewal Application

The Board of Regents convened in Albany on January 13 and 14. The first action taken by the full board was to discuss and approve the penultimate ESEA Waiver Renewal application to be submitted to the US Department of Education. The application builds upon the State Education Department’s current ESEA  flexibility waiver and extends from the current school year through 2015-16. Therefore, under the next waiver, 2010-2011 performance data will continue to be used for the identification of priority schools and focus districts and schools. Priority and focus accountability status will not be based on common core-aligned assessment results until 2015-2016 – at the earliest – three years after the first implementation of grade 3-8 common core-aligned tests.

The use of common core-aligned Regents examination results will not be used for accountability purposes for an extended period beyond that of the 3-8 tests, though no contemplated school year was articulated at the Regents meeting. Assistant Commissioner Ira Schwartz reported that, to date, the US Department of Education has provided no guidance to state education agencies regarding the accountability system that will be in place for 2015-2016. However, he also indicated that:

“We are already planning for the 2015-2016 school year. We have an advantage at the high school level … because we are one of the few states that uses a cohort system for high school accountability, which is based on the performance of students … four years after they first enter ninth grade. Most states are using some sort of census test (e.g., tests administered to all students in grade 10). … Our cohort system actually gives us more time to rollout these kinds of changes.”

The assistant commissioner indicated that if the ESEA waiver process is continued after the next ESEA waiver period, that New York State will need to determine the school year for which performance data will be used for accountability. In this regard, he said, “For our purposes, that would be the graduating class of the 2015-2016 school year, which would not yet be one that would have been affected by the changes to the common core (Regents examinations).”

The flexibility requested by the State Education Department in February 2012 was primarily focused on accountability issues. The waiver application now under consideration will also address:

•    Testing for Students with Disabilities – Allowing students with significant cognitive disabilities to be assessed based upon their instructional level, rather than upon their chronological age. The number of grade levels below chronological age would be limited to two years; and the number of eligible students with disabilities included in this waiver may not exceed one percent in ELA and two percent in mathematics of all the students in the grades  assessed in reading/language arts and in mathematics.
•    Explicitly Align the Diagnostic Tool for School and District Effectiveness (DTSDE) with District Comprehensive Improvement Plans (DCIPs) and School Comprehensive Education Plans (SCEP) — The State Education Department would require school districts with priority and focus schools to prioritize funds for systemic planning training, expanded learning time, and community school programs; and to select activities to be funded by Titles I, II, and III consistent with areas of need identified by DTSDE reviews.
•    Technical Change Regarding Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) – Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year results, the “all students” group in a school district or a school will be deemed to have achieved AYP if all the accountability subgroups have achieved AYP. Also, the Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) for grades 3-8 English language arts and mathematics will be revised to reflect the lower percentages of students who scored at or above Level 2 and at or above Level 3 on the common core-aligned assessments administered in 2012-13.
•    Testing for English Language Learners (ELLs) – Newly arrived ELL students will be exempted from participating in English language arts assessments for two years, and the NYSESLAT results will be used for accountability. Also, beginning in 2015-2016, Spanish Language Arts assessments will be available to school districts as a local option, to measure the progress of Spanish-speaking ELL students. Finally, beginning in 2014-2015, a Performance Index will be in place for newly arrived ELL students in their first two years in the United States, in which growth toward proficiency in language arts will be calculated based on the NYSESLAT assessment.

A condition that must be met by SED in order receive approval of its waiver application, is to address two issues identified during a monitoring visit by the US Department of Education:

1.    NYSED will issue a press release on an annual basis when Title 1 Reward Schools are identified.
2.    For principals of priority schools that are not implementing a School Improvement Grant (SIG), but are following “Turnaround” principles, NYSED must provide additional guidance the school districts as to how they may determine whether the principal should continue in that role.  (A principal of SIG school must be removed if he/she has served in that role for two or more years; a principal of a priority school that is not a SIG school “may” continue to serve in such capacity, regardless of the number of years he/she has served in such role.)

The State Education Department’s ESEA Waiver Application will be posted for public comment from January 16 to January 27, 2014.  Those wishing to review and comment upon the draft waiver should please note the following contacts:
•    New York State’s approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver can be found at: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/ESEAFlexibilityWaiver.html
•    The item presented to the Board of Regents may be accessed at: http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2014/January2014/114bra6.pdf
•    The proposed amendments can be found at: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/documents/ESEAFlexibilityRenewalforPublicComment011614_1.pdf
•    Comments regarding the renewal application or regarding one or more of the amendments may be sent by e-mail to eseasupport@mail.nysed.gov. Comments may also be submitted in writing to Dr. Lisa Long, Supervisor, Office of Accountability, 55 Hanson Place, Room 445, Brooklyn, New York 11217.

Following the comment period, the ESEA Waiver Renewal Application with related amendments will be presented to the board as an action item on February 10, and will be submitted to the US Department of Education by February 28, 2014.

New York State’s Education Reform Agenda

Also noted at the January meeting of the Board of Regents is the growing propensity of board members to express individual positions that are different than the positions adopted by and pursued by the overall board. SED’s education reform agenda, and information pertaining to the senate and assembly hearings that were recently held in regard to the Regents education reform agenda were not included in the board’s January agenda or in the information items that were discussed. Nonetheless, near the close of the full board meeting on January 14, Regent Kathleen Cashin, representing Judicial District 2 – Kings, expressed the following:

“I am here to say a few words about inBloom. … The vast majority (of parents) do not want inBloom or at the very least, they want the ‘opt out’ option. And since I think we function of the people, by the people, and for the people, we should be listening very carefully to that dimension. So I recommend that we withdraw from inBloom – we are the only state that is in inBloom.”

There was no discussion of Regent Cashin’s remarks by the Board of Regents.

For more information regarding the Board of Regents meeting and the Regents education reform agenda, contact James Viola, Director of Government Relations, at JViola@saanys.org.

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