The Empire State Supervisors and Administrators (ESSAA) had its monthly Stakeholder Meeting on Tuesday, February 27th, 2018 with Commissioner of Education – Mary Ellen Elia, and Senior Deputy Commissioner – Jhone Ebert.

Present at the meeting representing ESSAA were: ESSAA President – Carol Conklin- Spillane (via phone), ESSAA Executive Director – Mike Starvaggi, ESSAA Vice President – Dr. Ryan Schoenfeld, ESSAA Vice President – Greg Avellino, ESSAA Executive Vice President – Skip Voorneveld (via phone),                   ESSAA member – Russ Buckley, and ESSAA Regents Liaison-Paul Scampini (via phone). (Ron and Andrea???)

The topics discussed included:

  1. June 2019 Regents Exam Schedule

Commissioner Elia was asked about the recent proposal to reduce the number of Regents Examination testing days from eight to six. She confirmed that the idea is being discussed as part of the new 180 Day requirements, but nothing has been finalized.

Mr. Avellino shared that this would present significant challenges for a large number of students.   He feels the reduction in testing days would greatly increase the number of students who have to take multiple tests in one day which would be especially difficult for students who require special accommodations such as extended time provisions. Mrs. Conklin Spillane also expressed that many ESSAA members have voiced concerns about the reduction in rating time for the exams which would result from the change.

Also related to the 180 Day proposal, Mrs. Conklin-Spillane shared that many educators disagree with recess not counting toward the time requirements in elementary schools. Commissioner Elia responded that NYSED’s focus is on ensuring that appropriate instructional time is offered in all schools. She does not feel recess qualifies as instructional time, and that districts/unions will need to be flexible and work collaboratively to ensure the requirements are met.

  1. School Safety

In light of the recent incident in Lakeland, Florida, Dr. Schoenfeld asked the Commissioner for any thoughts she has on how we can keep schools safer. She responded that each district/school has its own unique environment and staff must be as proactive as possible.

With regards to possible future planned student walkouts, Commissioner Elia felt it was important for educators to figure out ways for students to express themselves. She hopes educators will take the opportunity to use this time as a teachable moment to promote active participation in government.

Mrs. Conklin-Spillane expressed concern regarding the calls for increased funding for school safety that we are hearing from many legislators. She recommended to the Commissioner that if money does become available, she advocate for districts to have flexibility in how the funds are spent, and that mental health support be included as an option for funding expenditures.

  1. APPR – Principal Evaluation Revisions

At the most recent Board of Regents Meeting, Board members were updated on the progress and timeline for the revised teacher APPR regulations. We asked Commissioner Elia if any progress has been made in the area of APPR for Principals. She responded that they are still in the organizational stages of the process.

The Commissioner shared that despite NYSUT’s efforts to discourage teachers from participating, SED has received 11,000 responses to a Teacher APPR survey that was sent out to the field in February. We responded that ESSAA is encouraging our members to complete the surveys and we look forward to participating in the APPR Revision Committees that are currently being formed.

  1. Graduation Rate Data

Mr. Voorneveld congratulated the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner on the improvement in the 2017 graduation rate and expressed appreciation for the including 5th and 6th year students and August graduates in the formula. Mrs. Conklin-Spillane suggested the idea of extending eligibility for 21 year old candidates to August as another way to increase the number of graduates. Commissioner Elia thought this was certainly an option for consideration, but feels it is an issue that would need approval through the legislature.

  1. Every Student Succeeds Act – 95% Participation Requirement

Dr. Schoenfeld asked for clarification on the guidelines that have been established with regards to the 95% Participation Rate requirement associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Deputy Commissioner Ebert responded by first expressing appreciation to Dr. Schoenfeld for participating in the ESSA Workgroup. With regards to the Participation Rate requirements, she outlined two formulas NYSED will use to evaluate school achievement.

  1. ESSA mandates that any student who does not participate in testing be counted as         non-proficient. As a result, these students will negatively affect a school’s                        ESSA accountability index.
  2. NYSED will also use a second formula to calculate an achievement index that will not include students who do not take the test. Schools that do not meet the 95% participation rate however, will not be eligible for recognition as high achieving schools or for certain awards. They will also be responsible for submitting an annual improvement plan for each year the 95% rate is not met.

Commissioner Elia asked us to promote the recent testing changes that have been implemented and encourage parents to have their students participate in the assessments.