State Ed unveils school accountability plan

Statewide assessments would still play a part in New York’s school accountability system, but so wil

Statewide assessments would still play a part in New York’s school accountability system, but so will a bevy of new factors under the framework of a new state plan beginning to take shape in the state Education Department.

The system will also take into account measures of growth other than student achievement, consider all subject areas — not just math and English — and include measures of success after students graduate. Schools will score points for expanding access to advanced coursework, and non-academic measures such as school climate and safety will also be accounted for.

State education officials unveiled what they hope will serve as the foundation for establishing the new system, a piece of the federal education law approved in December. While the law provides more leeway to states, they are expected to submit new plans by next spring.

The framework, presented to the Board of Regents on Monday, detailed the characteristics of “highly effective” schools and the 15 principles of a new accountability system — developed with the help of around 80 advocacy and professional organizations and districts.

“Highly effective” schools have visionary leaders, research-based curricula, community partnerships, opportunities for students to experiment with potential futures, and meet the social and emotional needs of their students, according to the successful schools wish list.

Regent Lester Young pushed for flipping the perspective of how officials approached the plan to one that strives for effective schools.

“We are encouraging a system with highly effective schools and the notion that all schools should be highly effective. … It’s not the same as ensuring that all young people have access to highly effective schools,” Young said.

Young emphasized his point that establishing the goal of having highly effective schools is not the same as working from the foundation that all students — regardless of background or ZIP code — deserve access to schools that can provide them the education and experiences needed to succeed.

“It should start out with the principle that all students should have the right to attend schools where they can be successful,” he said.

He also said he wanted there to be less emphasis on documenting how districts planned to spend money and more focus on the actual outcomes of the programs that districts spend money on.

“We have too many plans,” Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia agreed.

Other board members said they wanted to nail down more specifically what struggling schools need to do to turn the ship around, suggesting smaller class sizes and bonuses for “expert” teachers that moved to one of those schools. They also recognized the need to balance state requirements with local district control.

Ira Schwartz, assistant commissioner for accountability, told the regents that the inclusion of accountability measures of student success after graduation — such as post-high school education, employment and military service — was the most controversial element of the plan so far.

State officials expect to have developed a draft accountability plan by November, at which point it will go out for public comment. The Board of Regents would then approve a plan in January, which would be sent to the governor. The governor will have 30 days to sign off on the plan, but the regents can submit it to the federal government even without his signature.

That would put the state on track to submit a final plan to the federal government next March, leaving enough time for federal approval, state regulatory changes and implementation of the new accountability system in the 2017-2018 school year, officials said Monday.

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