MANHATTAN — When it comes to testing and how your kids and their schools are evaluated, changes are underway, as the state on Monday passed a new plan under the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act.
The plan aims to boost equity in education by expanding measures for student success, New York State Education Department officials said.
It requires new kinds of improvement plans for the lowest performing schools and strategies to support educators’ professional growth, according to officials. It focuses on a culturally responsive education that supports the academic needs and social-emotional development of all students, including English language learners, immigrant students and homeless youth.
ESSA was originally created under President Obama's administration to replace the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, and it gives more power to states to decide how to evaluate schools and help those that are struggling.
“Developing this plan has been an opportunity to incorporate the voices of communities, teachers and parents as we rethink how we look at accountability, equity and serving the whole child,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said.
The agenda will be supported by the $1.6 billion that New York receives each year from the federal government in ESSA funding, and the state expects to revise how it uses federal funding, especially as new reporting on per student funding becomes available, the plan noted.
The state will send its plan to Washington, DC, on Sept. 18 for review and expects it to be approved in early 2019, officials said.
Here are some ways it could impact city schools:
1. Goodbye "Common Core." Hello "Next Generation Learning Standards."
New York no longer refers to the “Common Core” when it comes to the state’s learning standards. The new approach is branded "Next Generation Learning Standards."
The state is considering working with educators to develop new measures of student learning, including designing capstone, project-based assessments in areas like "science or civic and cultural awareness and civic readiness," where students might have to do a research project and defend a thesis either in writing or orally, the plan said.
2. Changes to testing and evaluation for students with special needs and English Language Learners.
Besides eliminating a day of testing for both the state’s math and English exams, the state is seeking a waiver from the federal government for students with certain special needs to take exams for lower grade levels.
The state is also seeking a waiver for schools with newly arrived English Language Learners to delay their evaluations on those students’ English proficiency from two years after arriving to four years.
On last year’s English tests, only 4.4 percent of English Language Learners passed the exam and 9.3 percent of students with special needs passed. For math, 11.3 percent of students with special needs passed, while 14.7 percent of ELLs passed.
State tests, however, aren’t going away, and some worry that the changes might water down high expectations for students, while others say the changes still don’t go far enough in their over-reliance using test scores to evaluate schools.
Education activist and public school parent Kemala Karmen, who is with the grassroots NYC Opt Out group, had a seat at the table on the plan’s creation through serving on the Standards and Assessments work group of the state’s ESSA “Think Tank.”
But Karmen — whose child went to Carroll Gardens' Brooklyn New School, the city's epicenter of opting out — felt that many concerns of parents of how testing was reshaping what goes on in classrooms were not heeded when it came to testing overall.
“There was the possibility of the state to come up with something innovative and different — not radically different, but substantially different — from No Child Left Behind,” Karmen said. “New York just blew it.”
For instance, she said that she had consulted with ELL teachers, who said it takes five to seven years for language acquisition, so the four years wasn’t long enough.
Meanwhile the Education Trust-New York, an education and civil rights group, had concerns about whether the plan ensured that schools were meeting expectations for all students.
“It will be critical to continue building on and strengthening that framework to ensure transparency for parents, maintain high expectations for all groups of students and address underperforming schools with urgency and support,” Ian Rosenblum, executive director of The Education Trust–New York said in a statement.
3. Schools will have “data dashboards” for parents and others to see how — and why — they perform in certain ways.
To provide more transparency on schools, the state wants them to have “data dashboards” that would include more than just state test scores.
The new plan also focuses a lot on chronic absenteeism, noting that students who have missed more than 18 days, or 10 percent of the school year, have much lower rates of academic success.
In striving to address equity issues, the state hopes to include out-of-school suspension rates, along with other school measures like access to art and technology classes, access to highly effective teachers and students’ physical health and well-being.
The state will also regularly publish data on school climate, teacher turnover rates, parent involvement, class size and per student funding.
The goal of looking at the various measures, according to the plan, is to use these indicators to diagnose school needs and better track progress.