The Empire State Supervisors and Administrators Association (ESSAA) held its monthly Stakeholder Meeting on Monday, April 29th, 2019 with Commissioner of Education – Mary Ellen Elia, Senior Deputy Commissioner – Beth Berlin, and Jessica Todtman from NYSED’s Office of P-20 Education Policy.
The general stakeholder meeting was attended by ESSAA Executive Director- Mike Starvaggi and Regents/NYSED Liaison – Paul Scampini.
Following the general meeting, Commissioner Elia and Jessica Todtman met with ESSAA members to discuss concerns that have been shared by members. Mike Starvaggi and Paul Scampini were present at the meeting, while ESSAA Officer – Kristin Randare and ESSAA Vice President – Greg Avellino participated by phone.
Topics discussed at the general meeting included:
1. Update on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Commissioner Elia updated the group on the status of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). She stated that the final regulations have been formally approved by both the Board of Regents and the Department of Education, but emphasized that adjustments will continue to be implemented when necessary.
2. Teacher and Principal Evaluation Update
The Commissioner informed us that that the changes to Law 3012D, which relates to teacher and administrator evaluations, have been formally adopted into law. Now that evaluations have been decoupled from standardized test scores, the department is refocusing the efforts of APPR Advisory Groups that had been formed previously to work in the areas of assessment and evaluation.
We were informed that the work of the APPR Advisory Groups has been suspended and that there are no plans to reconvene at this time. A letter was recently sent out to group members, informing them of the change and inviting them to future meetings to discuss how to make evaluation policies compliant with the new legislation.
Commissioner Elia added that that a portion of the May Board of Regents meeting will be dedicated to a presentation of the new policies and an overview of the next steps that are planned.
3. Status of Computer Based Testing
Commissioner Elia addressed the recent problems that occurred with Computer Based Testing during the 3-8 ELA exams. The Commissioner acknowledged that there were significant technical glitches making completion of the testing very difficult for the 23% of New York schools who participated. Commissioner Elia stated that they have been in constant communication with their technical assistance vendors to ensure that the issues have been addressed as they move into the 3-8 math testing.
4. Change in Stakeholder Meeting Format
At the conclusion of the general meeting, the group was informed that, in the future, NYSED will be moving back to the previous stakeholder meeting format. The general session for all stakeholder groups will be discontinued and groups will again meet individually with NYSED staff on a monthly basis in 45 minute blocks.
The following topics were addressed during the Commissioner’s meeting with ESSAA representatives:
1. Principal Preparation Project
At the April Board of Regents Meeting, information was presented relating to new initiatives that are occurring through the Principal Preparation Project. With financial support from the Wallace Foundation, eight school districts are currently partnering with college/university principal preparation programs to research best practices. We asked Commissioner Elia for some specific information on the goals of the project and the scope of the work being done.
The Commissioner replied that the primary focus of this phase of the project is to examine the higher education component of principal preparation and make recommendations for improvement. All participants are high need schools. Six of the schools are focusing on general principal preparation while two are focusing on specific skills related to leading turnaround schools. Commissioner Elia went on to say that they have contracted with a Principal Talent Management organization to also assist with the project.
Mr. Avellino asked if the development of micro credentials is included as part of the project. Commissioner Elia responded that potential micro credential skills are being looked at as part of the work being done with turnaround school leaders.
2. State in Need of Improvement – Special Education
Mr. Starvaggi asked Commissioner Elia for an update on the work being done to address the New York’s federal designation as a State in Need of Improvement in the area of Special Education.
Commissioner Elia responded that they are continuing to restructure NYSED’s Office of Special Education to address the areas of concern. They are also negotiating new contracts with Support Centers to refocus priorities.
We asked if there are plans to better assist school leaders with supporting and monitoring special education services in their schools. Commissioner Elia responded that she is in favor of working to improve the ability of school leaders to better lead the delivery of special education services and will seek opportunities to provide assistance.
3. Financial Transparency Requirements
Mr. Starvaggi asked for an update on the new Financial Transparency Requirement associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act which requires the reporting of per-pupil expenditures by each school. Commissioner Elia responded that proposed guidelines are being finalized and will be sent out for public comment in the near future. NYSED is also currently working on a guidance document which will be sent out to schools clarifying the logistics of the new requirement.
4. New Student Teaching Requirements
Mr. Scampini asked the Commissioner for some clarification regarding the proposed changes in student teaching requirements which were discussed at the most recent Board of Regents meeting. Commissioner Elia responded that she is very much in support of the change which will require that student teaching include the equivalent of a full college semester effective September 2022. Commissioner Elia also mentioned that discussions are occurring about expanding the requirements for the pre-student teaching field experience.
Finally, in an effort to increase the number of schools across the state that are working with student teachers, all school districts will now be required to have a MOU with a higher education institution.
5. 3-8 Assessment Scores Not Allowed in Student Permanent Records
The Board of Regents recently approved an amendment prohibiting the inclusion of 3-8 assessment scores on student permanent records. Commissioner Elia was asked for some clarification on how school leaders should best organize student data to ensure they are in compliance with the regulation.
While we did not receive a clear response, we were forwarded a guidance document the Commissioner hoped would provide some clarity (see link below). After reviewing the document, there still appears to be uncertainty regarding what constitutes a “permanent record” and we will revisit the question at our May stakeholder meeting to obtain more clarification.