New York State School Boards Association

Six things you should know about New York's ESSA plan

by MaryEllen Elia

On Board Online • February 5, 2018

MaryEllen Elia
Commissioner of Education

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education approved New York's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. The plan reflects more than a year of collaboration with a comprehensive group of stakeholders, including valuable input from school board members and NYSSBA.

Approval of our plan ensures that New York will continue to receive approximately $1.6 billion annually in funding from the federal government to support elementary and secondary education in New York state schools.

The Board of Regents envision implementation of New York's ESSA plan as a vehicle to "ensure that every child has equitable access to the highest quality educational opportunities, services, and supports in schools that provide highly effective instruction aligned to the state's standards, as well as positive learning environments so that each child is prepared for success in college, career, and citizenship."

I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about some of the highlights of the plan, focusing on those areas that every school board member should know. Of course, these are only highlights, and I encourage you to visit our ESSA webpage ( ) to learn about the plan in greater detail.

Approval of our plan begins a new era in how New York seeks to increase student achievement, hold schools and districts accountable for educational outcomes, and support districts and schools in need of improvement. Above all, the plan seeks to drive improvement by fostering greater equity throughout the entire education system.

Here are six things that the Regents and I think every school board member should know about New York's ESSA plan.

1) We value a well-rounded education for all.

New York State's accountability system will use a variety of indicators beyond core academic subjects. Schools and districts will be measured annually on the indicators listed below.

All schools
English language arts; mathematics; science; progress in learning English (for those who don't speak it); and chronic absenteeism.

High schools
Social studies; graduation rate; and a college, career, and civic readiness index which includes taking advanced coursework, earning technical education certificates, etc. Future indicators include out-of-school suspensions (beginning with 2018-19 results) and being ready for high school (once data becomes available).

2) We want to reduce testing time and improve the testing experience.

State tests in grades 3-8 English language arts and mathematics will be reduced from three days to two days each.

To accommodate students whose first language is not English, we will continue to translate state math and science tests into more languages. When funding becomes available, we will create a language arts test in students' native languages.

The law still requires 95 percent of students in each tested grade and subgroup to take the appropriate state tests. The department will work with parents, schools and districts to increase participation.

3) We will encourage and foster the ability of school boards to advance equity and access for all.

We will issue new reports that outline how much each school is spending per student and from what sources. The reports will give information on indicators such as class size and opportunities for students to participate in the arts. School boards should use the reports to promote equity of resources within and across their districts.

4) We will identify schools for support and recognition based on multiple measures.

Your schools will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Comprehensive Support and Improvement:
    Schools in the bottom 5 percent of all schools; high schools with 4-, 5-, and 6-year graduation rates of 67 percent or less; or schools that have not improved after receiving targeted support.
  • Targeted Support and Improvement:
    Schools with subgroups that are among the lowest-performing in the state.
  • Recognition Schools:
    Schools that are high-performing or rapidly improving.
  • Schools in Good Standing:
    Schools that achieved their growth targets and are not identified in any of the preceding categories.

5) We will rely on school boards to help oversee improvement of low-performing schools in their districts.

The State Education Department will use data from multiple measures to determine which schools need support. School boards must approve improvement plans developed by educators and parents based on an examination of the causes for identification. Schools will review multiple sources, such as achievement data and staff survey results, to determine whether the plan must be modified and re-submitted to the school board. The state will provide additional support to low-performing schools that struggle to make gains. The state will work with school boards if their schools need additional oversight.

6) We will award funds to each school district to support a professional development plan developed by educators.

Each district must establish a professional development team that includes a majority of educators and one or more administrators. This team must develop, implement, and evaluate a Professional Development Plan that includes, among other things, mentoring for new teachers. New York State will award Title II funds under ESSA to support local implementation of these plans.

We welcome your continued input, cooperation and partnership as we usher in a new day for New York's students. I am confident that, together, we will continue to work to provide a high-quality education, in a fair and equitable way, to every child in New York.

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