Change is underway and New Yorkers have a say in directing and defining our course. The New York State Education Department has invited representatives of key stakeholder organizations, as well as experts in accountability systems to participate in a Think Tank to provide feedback and recommendations on New York’s developing state plan in response to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Close to one hundred organizations and associations are representing constituents on the ESSA Think Tank including public school districts, teachers, principals, superintendents, charter schools, parents, school staff, Indian Nations, specialized instructional support personnel and paraprofessionals. CASDA is pleased to have a seat at the table.
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia made clear to Think Tank members the importance the Department is placing on listening to New Yorkers as the Department crafts a plan to support and hold accountable those responsible for delivering a highly effective education to our students. Think Tank members were encouraged by the Commissioner to “un-plug” and step back from being the person with the answer and instead listen to people who want to be part of the answer. This is a refreshing change.
So what is the Think Tank talking about? For starters, members were asked to envision the future with the question “what does a successfully implemented accountability system look like five years from now?” Think Tank feedback was rich with specifics around such hot topics as collaboration with stakeholders, transparency, building capacity of teachers and holding them accountable, curriculum/assessments, opportunities to learn, college and career readiness, social-emotional well being, accountability measures, intervention strategies, school and district funding, and rewards/incentives. In addition, the Think Tank provided recommendations for a set of guiding principals to be used in revising New York State’s accountability system to align with ESSA. These guiding principles were posted for public comment on NYSED’s website. Commissioner Elia recently announced that some of the rules outlined by USDE are overly prescriptive citing the timeline for implementation, the language concerning identification of schools for improvement and the use of a four-year adjusted graduation rate for accountability purposes. New York’s response to USDE on rulemaking is listed here http://www.nysed.gov./common/nysed/files/nysed-comments-ude-essa.pdf
Clearly, New Yorkers have a lot to say.
What are Think Tankers accomplishing? More than you might expect. Recognizing the goal of New York’s ESSA plan to support the creation of highly effective schools, agreement is being sought on a set of characteristics defining such schools. It doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel, so using the Department’s Diagnostic Tool for School and District Effectiveness rubric, Think Tankers have reviewed the document and provided feedback as to whether certain elements should be retained as proposed, revised or eliminated. They were also given the ability to add any other ideas that may have been missing from the rubric.
CASDA serves on a sub-committee/work group of the Think Tank called “Supports and Improvements for Schools.” Lively debate has surrounded a review of current practices within the NYS Differentiated Accountability System over the value of the supports and interventions listed in the matrix for low performing schools as well as the models offered for school reform. This is a natural fit for CASDA as our mission drives us to engage educators and their schools in addressing challenges, embracing opportunities, and creating positive, lasting outcomes for students.
Now is the time to lend your voice to the conversation. The flexibility afforded to the states through ESSA and the openness of the New York State Education Department place us in a position to more aptly influence the education of our children. Multiple opportunities for public comment will be offered by NYSED before submitting the new plan to USDE in 2017. Look for updates and stakeholder invitations to comment on the developing ESSA plan at www.nysed.gov and the CASDA website at www.casdany.org. The July ESSA update to the Board of Regents can be accessed at http://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/716brd1.pdf
It is certainly important to have our say. It is even better when someone listens to us. Let’s get this right New York!