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State Education Department formulates new plan under federal law

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State Education Department formulates new plan under federal law

State education officials hope to account for more than just test scores as they move forward on a n
State Education Department formulates new plan under federal law
The Board of Regents meets in the Seminar Room on the 5th floor of the NYS Education Building in Albany on Monday May 16, 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

State education officials hope to account for more than just test scores as they move forward on a new plan that will touch on standards, family engagement, school accountability and much more under the new federal education law.

The new federal law diverts more discretion to state agencies over developing a statewide school accountability program, and on Monday the Board of Regents dove into early conversations of what that plan might look like.

“Being able to put in other things that can really give an indication of how a school is doing more than just having test scores be a driver of that has been very well received,” Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said of early conversations with teachers and administrators on the potential flexibility under the new law.

In a presentation Monday to the Board of Regents, Elia said specific rules and guidance are still under discussion at the federal level, but the state Education Department planned to move forward as quickly as it could in beginning to develop its new accountability plan under the law.

“Even though we don’t have all the rules in place, we want to make sure we are getting feedback on some of the changes we do know are coming,” Elia said.

The state plans to establish a “think tank” of educator organizations and other stakeholders, and provide them with a set of guiding principles and questions to help create the framework of a plan. The committee could include dozens of education advocacy groups, nonprofits, administrative associations, teacher unions and more. The regents pushed for greater involvement of student voices and the inclusion of civil rights organizations in the committee.

State officials plan to first win regents approval for a set of “guiding principles” to direct the work of the broader committee, then go to the public with a draft version of the state’s plan. Ultimately, the regents would need to submit a final plan to federal officials by the end of next calendar year or early 2018, Elia told the board. She said the exact time frame was unclear.

State officials also said they expect the 2017-2018 school year to serve as a baseline year for school performance, with the actual accountability metrics and interventions kicking in the following school year.

The regents took the conversation beyond the specifics of legislative minutia to their broader goals and aims for the next generation of New York’s education interventions. Chancellor Betty Rosa said she hoped the plans would be able to take into account a broader universe of student achievement and school climate besides just test scores.

“We must remember the importance of the whole-child approach, demonstrating and creating opportunities to show students’ talent in so many different ways beyond just the academic side of the house,” Rosa said.

Vice Chancellor Andrew Brown said he hoped the new plan could reward schools for graduating students in August or in five years — in addition to the traditional June graduation rates — because that would incentivize schools to hang on to students until they were able to meet their degree requirements.

And Regent Judith Johnson emphasized that the fundamental guiding principle as the state moves forward on this lengthy planning process should be lifting students to a better place.

“We need to never forget that this is about ensuring we do find ways for kids and families to move out of poverty,” Johnson said.

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.

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