What ESSA means for school boards

by Barbara Bradley

On Board Online • October 23, 2017

By Barbara Bradley
Deputy Director of Online Communications and Project Planning

What's new with school accountability in New York State? "We're in the calm before the storm," according to Ira Schwartz, associate commissioner of the State Education Department (SED).

In September, SED submitted New York's plan to meet the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the U.S. Department of Education. SED is prepared to receive feedback and make adjustments in December. The goal is to have federal approval in January or February of 2018.

Under ESSA, New York receives about $1.6 billion for federal money annually. The law requires school districts to report per-pupil spending on both a district-wide and per-school basis.

"It's up to you to prove you're distributing the federal resources throughout the schools," Schwartz told the audience.

ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and is the latest reauthorization of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) signed into law in 1965.

In general, NCLB narrowly focused on English language arts and math test results, and graduation rates, while ESSA was constructed with a broader view of ways states can monitor and measure success, Schwartz said. It provides states with more flexibility in terms of standards, supports and interventions than its predecessors, he added.

Under the state's proposed accountability system, ELA, math and science test results will be tracked for all schools, as well as progress of English language learners and chronic absenteeism (rate of 10 percent or more). For high schools, the system adds social studies test results; the graduation rate; and a college, career and civic readiness index. Future indicators will include out-of-school suspensions, beginning in 2018-19, and being ready for high school, once the data is available.

Schwartz credited NYSSBA Deputy General Counsel Pilar Sokol, who introduced Schwartz, for her summary of ESSA as a law focusing on equity, with an accountability element.

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