The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind, gives states considerable flexibility to craft their own accountability systems — in the process asking states to make crucial decisions about what it means to be a successful school, what rate of academic progress is acceptable, and what to do when schools are not meeting our expectations. A dozen major civil rights, education, parent, and business organizations from across New York State have come together to stress that ESSA’s call for states to redesign their accountability policies presents a critical opportunity to remedy New York’s education system – a system riven by massive systemic inequalities in access, opportunity and performance, especially for students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners.
Toward Justice for All? The Opportunities and Risks for Educational Equity in New York State Under ESSA is cosigned by an unprecedented coalition including the Buffalo Urban League, The Business Council of New York State, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, District-Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo, Education Trust–New York, Educators 4 Excellence, High Achievement New York, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Council of La Raza, New York Educator Voice Fellowship (America Achieves), New York Urban League, Public Policy Institute of New York State, and United Way of New York City.
The groups recommend that state policymakers incorporate several core principles and provisions into New York’s accountability system under ESSA, including that New York State’s accountability system must:
- Ensure that academic achievement drives school performance determinations and improvement strategies. This should be done by maintaining high standards; ensuring that academic measures represent more than 75 percent of a school’s rating; and limiting the number of accountability indicators.
- Require immediate action when schools are not meeting rigorous expectations for any group of students. Ambitious performance and gap-closing goals should be set for all groups of students, and — following a needs assessment and with school district and, where necessary, state support — evidence-based strategies implemented when those goals are not met.
- Generate additional data beyond test scores in grades 3-8 and on Regents exams – including by addressing teacher equity and resource equity – to help schools improve. A holistic vision of what contributes to student success and what it means to be a quality school must be incorporated in order to inform the improvement process for schools that are not meeting expectations.
- Make families and educators full partners through transparency and inclusion. Whether or not schools are meeting expectations for all groups of students must be communicated through a single “summative” rating for every school, and families and educators must be included on an ongoing basis.