State ESSA plan wins federal approval

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • January 22, 2018

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

U.S. education officials have approved a new federal accountability plan for New York schools that expands the types of academic indicators used to gauge school quality beyond math and English language arts test results and puts new emphasis on school climate.

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, which ensures the continued flow of some $1.6 billion in annual federal funding for New York schools, is scheduled to begin this spring.

Stakeholders including superintendents, school board members, teachers and parents collaborated with the State Education Department and Board of Regents for more than a year to craft a draft plan that was submitted to the federal Department of Education in September. The draft was revised after federal officials sent back comments and requests for clarification in December, and final approval arrived on Jan. 16.

"Through a tremendous amount of effort and collaboration, New York State developed an ESSA plan that focuses on bringing greater equity to education and on educating the whole child," Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said in a written statement. Although federal officials have approved New York's "vision," she said, "we will continue to evaluate our plan and revise it, as appropriate, to ensure we remain focused on promoting equity and achieving success for all children."

The state accountability plan is required as part of ESSA, the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first approved in 1965. ESSA, bi-partisan legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in late 2015, replaces the 2001 re-authorization known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the signature education legislation of the George W. Bush Administration.

As part of the state's ESSA plan, new measures of student performance and progress in science and social studies will be added to calculations of school quality. The state also will use levels of chronic absenteeism and out-of-school suspensions to help gauge the quality of school climate.

The plan calls for expanded reporting on per-student spending and on how school districts allocate resources among schools as part of the effort to promote educational equity.

School-level improvement plans will be required for the lowest-performing schools, as well as for schools with the lowest performance for certain student populations, including racial groups, students with disabilities, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students.

[Editor's Note: The 237-page ESSA plan is a complex technical document and can be reviewed here: . SED also has produced fact sheets on ESSA, including one designed for school board members here: .]

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