ESSA-ing Down the Road: Will the New State Plan Change the Face of Teaching and Learning or Stumble and Anger Parents and Teachers?

The July Regents Meeting is usually billed as a retreat; a day and half at some conference center discussing the agenda for the next school year. This group of Regents is engaged, enormously engaged. Regent Cashin hosted a dozen meetings around the state with college deans, college staffs and students to discuss the required pre-service tests. and after a year eliminated the ALST test. Regent Young chaired the Work Group on Improving Outcomes for Young Men of Color and which led to $20 million dollars in the budget for a range targeted programs. Regent Johnson and Reyes co-chair the School Integration Work Group, beginning the process of exploring/recommending/creating policies to promote school integration across the state. Regent Cottrell is a physician leading the efforts dealing with the social/emotional side of learning. Regent Mead served as a parent on a Community Education Council (CEC) in New York City. Regent Collins is a nurse, etc.

It was not surprising when the “retreat” was another meeting packed with the “big issues” facing education in the state.

The Commissioner rolled out the updated ESSA plan after over a year of discussions. The community engagement was impressive, every constituency across the state: school districts, school boards, teachers, unions, principals, parents, everyone who touches children had the chance to pay a role in the process.

After the release of a May draft the Commissioner released an updated July plan. The plan will now go on to the Governor for review, required by the law, and back to the Commissioner/Board of Regents for approval at the September meeting. The plan will go to the feds in Washington to review, perhaps require changes, and eventual approval.

You can check out a 12-slide power point presentation of the plan:

You can review a superbly done 75-page summary of the plan:

If you’re following the construction of the plan you can review a 12-page comparison of the May to July revisions to the plan:

If you’re a glutton for punishment or are really into following the plan read the 201-page ESSA Plan in template format:

The presentations were led by Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute and Scott Marion of the Center for Assessment. As an aside, Linda was frequently mentioned as Secretary of Education before President Obama nominated Arne Duncan, what is mistake!!  Sadly, water under the bridge. Scott Marion, a self-described “recovering psychometrician” has the ability to engage with an audience, parse the most complex topics, and not shy away from misinformation. Scott began his presentation with, “Complex problems commonly have simple solutions, and, they’re usually wrong.”

Linda and Scott were a tag team laying out the plan and the discussion over designing a “dashboard.” How will the state create a visual representation of the plan for the public: ordinary citizens, voters, parents, the folks out there who pay the taxes that support schools.

The next step is to creating the interactive dashboard with clickable links if you want to dip deeper; a task for next year. A number of states have created and currently use dashboards. Linda and Scott, in a 37-slide power point described what other dashboards look like and facilitated a discussion among the members of the Regents – you can review – which of the models do you prefer?

The final section of the presentation was the most fascinating. The law provides a section in which states can create innovative assessment pilots. The regulations have not been released at this time, and, we have no idea when the feds will move forward. In a 41-slide power point called the Next Generation of Assessments Scott and Linda explained the contradictions in the concept of assessment – the differences in what teachers need for assessment (to drive daily instruction) and a school district’s need – to measure progress; however you define progress. The slides touch on performance assessments aka authentic assessments, portfolios and other types of parsing student learning.

If you are an opponent of the current state tests and regents exams click here:, This may be the assessment world a few years down the road

A teacher asked: “Should I care? Will the plan impact what I do with my kids in my classroom?”

For the 17-18 school year, no, for the years down the road, hopefully the answer will be yes; however, “the road is long, with many a winding turn, that leads us to who knows where, who knows where.”

A principal asked the same question, with a somewhat different answer.

The plan does change the definition and the acronyms for low performing schools, and, I believe, is fairer. Instead of simply test scores the plan balances test scores with growth, year to year progress.

I disagree with parts of the plan:  chronic absenteeism is beyond the ability of the school to impact –  I refer readers to “A Better Picture of Poverty” produced by the Center for NYC Affairs, there is a 1:1 correlation between poverty and chronic absenteeism. By adding suspensions you are simply instructing principals/superintendents not to suspend kids; clearly a bone for the “suspension is the pipeline to prison” audience. The plan uses  “culturally relevant education or practices” many times – and the definition presented is vague – again, I understand the political requirements; however, clarity is also essential.

The plan encourages school districts to offer math and science regents examinations in the 7th and 8th grades, and, the pressure on schools and therefore students and families will accelerate. Kids should progress at developmentally appropriate rates, not rates set to aggrandize the reputation of a superintendent or a commissioner.

On one hand I believe the plan is generally well-sculptured and offers a far better path than No Child Left Behind, on the other hand, plans can go astray between the aeries of Albany and the classrooms around the state. Remember when you play telephone, one kid whispered a phase to a second kid who whispered to a third kid and down the line. By the time you got to the last kid the phrase was garbled and incomprehensible.

How to you convert policy into action in 700 school districts?

At the second day of the meeting/retreat the Commissioner raised the question of graduation requirements. Graduation rates in New York State have been creeping upwards: has instruction, teaching and learning, improved, or, patches to the regulations and schools “gaming the system?”

Maybe both.

A safety net for students with disabilities (passing is moved to a grade of 55), a re-scoring system at the discretion of the superintendent and credit recovery schemes, all moving up the graduation rate. Add to this the alternative 4 + 1 in lieu of five regents and the CDOS pathway, alternative pathways have moved the graduations up. Are students who use the alternate pathways “college and career ready” or, are we shoving ill-prepared kids into a bleak future? Check out a 25-slide power point presentation with an emphasis on alternative pathways:

The Regents also began a conversation over how to respond to the UCLA Report that found New York State one of the most racially segregated states – Regent Johnson will lead a yearlong investigation culminating in action plans. Check out the 32-slide power point, “Integration: Framing the Conversation,”

Yes, an intense day and a half with a lot to digest and a lengthy agenda for next year.

What do you think?  Comments welcome.


One response to “ESSA-ing Down the Road: Will the New State Plan Change the Face of Teaching and Learning or Stumble and Anger Parents and Teachers?

  1. ken karcinell

    when was the last time any plan from the state helped the teaching profession in NY?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s