A few weeks ago, the New York State Education Department released a memo outlining the changes to school accountability measures as a result of the legislation from the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which has replaced the widely known No Child Left Behind Act from 2001.
There are a few people, like myself, who geek out about education policy, and we’ve been waiting for this moment since President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law in 2015. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) imposed strict policies and guidelines for states to hold schools accountable for meeting student performance expectations, or face very real consequences. These consequences ushered in what I’ve described as the “Accountability Era” where school leaders, and teachers are held personally responsible for student performance on state tests. Where NCLB established federal expectations for testing and achievement benchmarks, ESSA removes the federal government from the equation and puts states back into the driver’s seat when determining what policies should be enacted in the state. Educators have been diligently watching the news to see how states are determining their priorities and expectations for their schools.
Like many other states, New York has been following an implementation timeline that has held steady on NCLB expectations while working to restructure a state system that policymakers can agree to, with input from the public. Though the NYS ESSA plan was approved earlier this year, there haven’t been many details as to how the new plan would be implemented, or how it might directly affect schools.
That is, until last month, when the NYSED released a set of changes related to ESSA. The 21-page memo is largely a technical manual, outlining the new system for school accountability in the state, new metric systems, and new designations for identifying schools who are below, meeting, or exceeding state expectations. I would never discourage anyone from reading the primary source, but most teachers and school leaders will likely find themselves a bit too busy to pore over all the formulas and definitions outlined there.
If you’re interested in the understanding the changes, but don’t have the time to review the entire memo, we’ve put together a summary of some of the biggest adjustments coming to New York schools, including new accountability designations and new metrics to measure school performance.
Change #1: New accountability categories
As of October 2018, NCLB’s categories like Priority School or Focus School have been discontinued, and have been replaced by the categories Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI). The state explained that schools will receive a new designation before the end of December 2018.
Comprehensive Support and Improvement is specifically for schools that fall in the bottom 5% of performance for the “all students subgroup, or have a graduation rate of 67% or lower.
One notable change is the identification of CSI schools based on how they compare with other schools across the state, rather than marking their progress against their school’s individual goals. Under NCLB, schools were given an accountability ranking based on their ability to meet their own unique target goals. The shift to focusing on a schools within the lowest 5% shifts the focus from an internal benchmarking system to an external benchmarking system where schools only need to be better than those in the lowest 5%. Likewise, schools that have seen major increases in performance, but struggle with the neediest populations, are likely to have a difficult time showing their growth in the shadow of traditionally high performing schools.
Change #2: Indicators for evaluation
During the NCLB era, schools were evaluated on annual test scores in English Language Arts and Mathematics, as well as graduation rates. Under ESSA, New York has broadened the number of measures that will be used for evaluating school performance to include five indicators for elementary and middle schools, and six indicators for high schools.
Each of these new areas of measurement taps into a host of new questions about how the state is defining student achievement and teacher performance. While we don’t yet have a full picture of how the evaluations will be structured at the state level, this basic blueprint helps us to identify the new and continuing expectations for school performance.
We’ll delve into additional components of this legislation, including the exploration of the state’s approach to setting annual and long-term goals, as well as new formulas for determining a school’s performance index. Stay tuned!