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The Empire State Supervisors and Administrators (ESSAA) had its monthly Stakeholder Meeting on Tuesday, March 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 – Shireen Fasciglione , ESSAA Vice President  – John Rickert, ESSAA Member – Jessimae Ossorio, ESSAA member –  Mary Haggerty, and ESSAA Regents Liaison – Paul Scampini .

Commissioner Elia began the meeting by commending administrators across the state for the outstanding work they did facilitating the recent student walk-out demonstrations.  She appreciated our efforts to provide opportunities for students to express their concerns over the recent acts of school violence while ensuring the demonstrations were carried out in a safe and orderly manner.

Topics discussed at the meeting included:

Every Student Succeeds Act – Accountability Reporting and Communication Regarding Students Who Refuse Assessments.

Commissioner Elia was asked about some of the specific components related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 95% participation rate requirement.  The Commissioner responded that she recognizes that there is still a great deal of confusion about the mandate and what it will mean for schools/districts.  She went on to say that accountability meetings are being set up across the state with superintendents and district accountability staff to clarify the guidelines.

Mr. Scampini asked how the scores for students who refuse 3-8 testing will be reflected in building level achievement reports.  Commissioner Elia emphasized that the 95% participation rate is a federal law and if a school intends to be deemed as high performing school, it must participate.  For buildings who do not meet the 95% participation rate, all non-testers below this threshold will be counted as non-proficient, and will be reflected as such in the school achievement results that are reported to the public.

Here’s a hypothetical example (which was not discussed at the meeting but  has been added to this summary as an illustration):

A school has a cohort of 200 students who are eligible to take a test.  To meet the 95% participation rate requirement, 190 students would need to take the assessment.   In this case, 50 of the 200 eligible students refuse, leaving the school with 150 students taking the test.  Since participation is 40 students below the 190-student participation cutoff, those 40 students they will be counted as non-proficient in the school’s accountability calculation. This will obviously have a significant negative effect on the school achievement level that is reported.

The Commissioner stated that SED will be using a second formula that will not count refusals in calculating the school achievement index, and that formula will be used mainly to assist with determining whether lower achieving schools are eligible for intervention and support funding.  Thus, high achieving schools whose achievement index is significantly affected by high refusal numbers will not be eligible for school improvement funds.

With regard to individual student achievement reports for students who refuse, Deputy Commissioner Ebert stated that the reporting format will remain the same as it has been in previous years.

Finally, Commissioner Elia stressed that all schools who do not meet the 95% participation rate will be required to submit annual detailed improvement plans specifying the steps they will be taking to increase their participation rate in the future.

School Safety

A great deal of public conversation continues about the need for increasing school safety funding.  Many advocates argue for security-related personnel such as school safety officers while others feel that supporting mental health initiatives through more counselors and social workers would be more effective.  Mrs. Fasciglione asked Commissioner Elia for her thoughts on the proposed funding increases and where she thinks we will end up at the conclusion of the budget process.

With regard to potential funding, the Commissioner mentioned that there are several school safety bills being discussed in the Senate. She anticipates that there will be some additional funds but does not feel they will be significant.  She went on to emphasize that Smart Schools Bond money can be used for improving building security and Community Schools funds can be used to support student wellness initiatives.  Mrs. Conklin-Spillane stressed that if additional funds are made available, it is crucial for districts to have flexibility in how funds are spent based on specific needs.

Mrs. Conklin-Spillane also asked about the possibility of requiring that a certain percentage of professional development be devoted to training school personnel in the area of school safety/mental health.  Commissioner Elia responded that she has concerns about the negative effects of issuing a mandate of this nature on schools.

APPR – Principal Evaluation Revisions

The Commissioner was asked for a progress update on the revisions to the APPR evaluations for principals.  Mr. Starvaggi expressed a specific concern that the majority of focus seems to be on teacher evaluations with little attention being paid to principals.

Commissioner Elia responded that she is very encouraged by the 21,000 APPR survey responses SED has received thus far.  She emphasized that while it might appear that the main focus of their current work is on the teacher evaluation process, equal attention will be paid to the revisions for principals. The Commissioner went on to say that meetings dedicated specifically to administrator evaluations will be held across the state in the near future to allow stakeholders to express ideas and concerns.  Focus groups will also be set up to assist with the revision process.  She concluded by mentioning that SED will be exploring the idea of broadening the scope of APPR evaluations to include more administrative roles, not just building principals.


Next Generation Standards

Mrs. Conklin-Spillane asked for an update on the rollout of the Next Generation Standards and their related assessments.  Deputy Commissioner Ebert responded that we are currently in the “Awareness Phase” of implementation.  Referring to a recently published roadmap document (see link below), she said that schools should currently be taking steps to ensure that staff members are familiar with the standards and evaluating where instructional changes will be necessary.  Full implementation of the 3-8 standards and assessments is still scheduled for the 2020-21 school year.

Mrs. Conklin-Spillane also expressed concern that she has seen little communication regarding plans for implementing the high school standards. With regard to the secondary level, the Commissioner said she anticipates the math and ELA Regents Exams which align with the new standards will be ready to be administered in 2021. She also mentioned SED’s continued efforts to expand multiple pathway graduation options at the secondary level and cited the recent approval of World Language 4+1 options for Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish. (see link below)

Also related to the new standards, Mrs. Conklin-Spillane inquired about the progress on developing early childhood standards and a roadmap for implementation.  Commissioner Elia responded that there is an Early Childhood Blue Ribbon Committee currently working in this area but cautioned that their work is in the early stages of development due to limited funding.


180 Day Calendar Update

Commissioner Elia stated that the newly developed 180 Day requirements will be going before the Board of Regents for emergency adoption at their April meeting.  While final approval will most likely occur at the May BOR meeting, she feels confident that districts should be able to move forward with developing their 2018-19 calendars using the new guidelines.

Teach NY Update

Commissioner Elia ended the meeting by sharing that the TEACH NY initiative is alive and well.  Eight teacher meetings are scheduled for the next two years to share and gather ideas.



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