The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was reauthorized as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and enacted in December 2015. The statute was previously amended by the 2001 reauthorization, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. NCLB introduced the concept of school accountability based on student proficiency on standardized tests and increased the federal role in state accountability systems. During the first term of the Obama administration, the Federal role increased through the ESEA waiver process and the Race to the Top program. ESEA waivers granted states some flexibility on student performance goals but added additional requirements, such as commitments to teacher evaluation systems that required student performance. ESSA maintains many of the NCLB requirements, such as specific grade-level state assessments. However, ESSA reduces the Federal role in state accountability systems. The US Department of Education (USDE) is prohibited from mandating any specific curriculum, assessments or teacher evaluation system. States are responsible for most of the decisions regarding the consequences of the accountability system.
Why ESSA Matters
ESSA is the federal law that outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools. The overarching goal of ESSA is to provide disadvantaged students opportunities to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. Funding is allocated to states through formula grants. Some ESSA programs can provide additional funding through competitive grants. Currently, New York State receives approximately $1.6 billion annually from ESSA Title I, the section of the law that addresses improving academic achievement for disadvantaged students. A new requirement of ESSA is for the states to assess and report how it provides equitable access to its federally-assisted programs. Districts will be required to report how much each school spends per student and from what revenue source.
New York State’s Accountability System
ESSA places responsibility on states to develop and implement a plan that meets the statutory requirements of ESSA. USDE must approve all state plans for compliance but the U.S. Secretary of Education is prohibited by the new law from dictating specific mandates. Stakeholder groups must be included in the development of the plan. New York’s State Education Department (SED) obtained feedback through the Regent’s ESSA Think Tank, a diverse stakeholder group, regional meetings and surveys. NYSUT was actively engaged through participation with the stakeholder group, the Committee of Practitioners (COP) and one-on-one meetings with the Commissioner.
New York’s ESSA plan was approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2018. Approval of the plan ensures that New York will continue to receive Title I federal funds. The Board of Regents (BOR) has approved emergency regulations to implement the approved plan beginning in the 2018-19 school year. NYSUT has objected to regulations that pertain to testing participation rates and constraints on collective bargaining (see link to NYSUT comments in the resource section). The Regents have made changes to the draft regulations that address some of these concerns. Final adoption is expected in February 2019.
Timeline for Implementation
- The first year the lowest performing schools will be identified will be in the 2018-19 school year, using the 2017-18 school year results.
- The 2018-19 school year will be a district/school planning year.
- Improvement plans will be implemented in the 2019-20 school year.
States must provide an assurance that the state has adopted challenging academic standards and assessments. States must set college- and career-ready standards, as well as goals and targets for progress. Under NCLB, states were required to identify the lowest-performing schools in relation to state goals and adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward a goal of 100 percent proficiency by the 2013-14 school year. Under ESSA, states are required to establish long-term goals and interim measures of progress for improved academic achievement. There is no specific time-frame mandated.
Student performance must continue to be disaggregated by student subgroups, including: economically disadvantaged, major racial/ethnic groups, English Language Learners (ELL), and students with disabilities (SWD). In New York, major racial/ethnic groups include: American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, White, and Multiracial.
The accountability system maintains: the NCLB testing for math and ELA in grades 3 through 8, and once in high school; grade span testing for science; and, graduation rate requirements. ESSA adds a new requirement for at least one additional measure of school quality and student success. The same assessments must be used for all schools and subgroups with some exceptions:
- Alternative assessments are allowed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
- Students enrolled in eighth grade that take high school mathematics and science are allowed to take the Regents exam in place of the eighth grade state assessment. These students must take another Regents course in high school to be counted in these subjects with their cohort.
- Districts may choose to administer a nationally recognized high school assessment, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. However, all students must take the same assessment.
New York State Accountability System
There are specific academic indicators that all states must use. States must also select at least one additional academic indicator and a school quality or student success indicator. The school quality or student success indicator cannot be more heavily weighted than the academic indicators. NYSUT has advocated for a multiple measure system that includes conditions of learning. ESSA provides some opportunity to move beyond ELA and math scores. However, this is limited by whether there is an appropriate measure for an indicator that can be collected consistently by districts and can be desegregated by subgroup. For this reason, the Regents have approved a list of indicators to be used initially with the possibility of adding additional indicators in the future. The following list includes the performance indicators that will be used under the ESSA plan initially. The Board of Regents is considering adding of out-of-school suspensions by 2020-21.
Download complete document (PDF)