Coalition of civil rights, education, parent and business groups comments on New York Board of Regents submission of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plan

Press Release

NEW YORK – The accountability plan approved by the New York State Board of Regents on Monday for submission to the U.S. Department of Education represents a critical moment for the future of accountability and school support and improvement in New York, according to a coalition of civil rights, education, parent and business organizations from across New York State.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is an opportunity to advance equity by defining what it means to be a successful school, setting clear expectations that schools must raise achievement for all of their students — not just some — and helping schools and school districts by targeting attention, resources and support to the places where students are struggling.

The coalition — which has advocated for a strong and meaningful accountability system over the last year and generated hundreds of public comments on the state’s draft ESSA proposal – applauds many aspects of the revised plan, including:

  • Academic achievement is clearly prioritized in identifying schools that need additional assistance.
  • The “end goals” for academic achievement are the same for all groups of students and are generally both ambitious and achievable.
  • The number of accountability indicators is targeted to an essential few, and they are focused on student outcomes. Other important sources of data are reserved for other appropriate purposes in the accountability system.
  • There is a meaningful college and career readiness accountability indicator, which will provide an incentive for schools to improve access to advanced courses, industry-recognized workforce credentials and dual enrollment programs such as P-TECH.
  • The plan commits to holding schools accountable for reducing suspensions, beginning in the second year. Our analysis found that African American elementary and middle school students are nearly four times as likely as their white peers to receive at least one out-of-school suspension per year.
  • There is a chronic absenteeism accountability indicator. Chronic absenteeism is a good indicator of school climate, and research shows that schools have the power to take significant steps to address chronic absenteeism.
  • The plan ensures that parents and the community are involved in all steps of the school improvement process in meaningful ways and commits to reject improvement plans that do not demonstrate sufficient engagement.
  • To help schools improve, the plan includes an emphasis on assessing a school’s strengths and needs, focuses on job-embedded ongoing professional development and calls for resource audits that examine the use of time, space and staff.

As the new accountability system is implemented, the coalition will also continue to work to ensure that key issues are addressed, including:

  • Providing meaningful transparency to parents on how their child’s school is performing.
  • Maintaining consistent high expectations for all groups of students and reflecting those expectations in how school performance is evaluated.
  • Taking test participation seriously for historically underserved groups of students, so that every student counts.
  • Identifying and supporting schools that are underperforming for historically underserved groups of students.

“We are encouraged that New York’s new accountability system includes a strong focus on academics and hope to build on that to ensure that schools prepare all students for college and beyond,” said Brenda McDuffie, President and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League. As the City of Buffalo undergoes what many call a Renaissance, it is imperative that all young people – regardless of race or income level – have a fair shot at benefitting. That must start with a high quality education.”

“I want to thank our fellow coalition members for consistently putting our children and our state’s future first as we build toward an education system that will have us prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State Inc. “While we do not agree with everything in the accountability plan, and we will continue to fight for the changes we deem necessary, this is a great start and everyone involved should be applauded.”

“The chamber applauds the Regents for approving an ESSA plan that includes a strong focus on academics and places a new emphasis on college and career readiness,” said Mark Eagan, Chief Executive Officer of the Capital Region Chamber. “This plan will help reduce the current skills gap and will provide all students with better opportunities upon graduation.”

“The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. is grateful to have been involved with the ESSA Coalition in discussions surrounding the creation of a New York State ESSA plan that is dedicated to achieving equity for all of New York’s students,” said Diana Noriega, Chief Program Officer of the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families. “CHCF is eager to participate in the next stages of implementation.  We are committed to helping ensure that all community needs are being considered as NYS moves towards fulfilling the goals they set out in the plan.”

“The ESSA plan presents a new opportunity for federal resources to be shared with schools that need them most,” said Nicole Brisbane, Director of New York State Democrats for Education Reform. “We applaud the work of the Board in ensuring that students and families were at the center of this plan.”

“After listening to recommendations from parents, we are pleased that New York’s new accountability system takes important steps to ensure that families have a strong voice in the school improvement process,” said Samuel L. Radford III, President of the District-Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo. “As the State Education Department shifts its focus to implementation, we will continue to work to guarantee that parents – and especially elected parent leaders – have a seat at the table and that the accountability system provides the necessary urgency for schools to meet the needs of all students.”

“New York’s accountability plan includes many promising components that can help ensure all students have access to a high quality education,” said Ian Rosenblum, Executive Director of The Education Trust–New York. “It will be critical to continue building on and strengthening that framework to ensure transparency for parents, maintain high expectations for all groups of students and address underperforming schools with urgency and support.”

“We are pleased to see the state plan includes recommendations from a broad coalition including the critical voice of over 1500 E4E members,” said Evan Stone, Co-CEO of Educators for Excellence. “Increasing accountability and transparency around school suspensions and absenteeism will help to shine a critical light on exclusionary discipline practices that disproportionately affect students of color.  When students are routinely suspended they are five times more likely to drop out of school. This increased transparency will help our members’ efforts to break this cycle and ensure schools are welcoming, safe places for all students. Our teachers look forward to continuing our partnership with the state to ensure that implementation includes meaningful community engagement and that transparency extends to ensuring every student counts and has the supports to meet high expectations.”

“EPIC (Every Person Influences Children, Inc.) has been pleased to be part of the state wide think tank to ensure that the plan meaningfully involves parents and the community in all steps of the school improvement process,” said Michelle Urbanczyk, President of EPIC. “We applaud the NYS ESSA plan and many of its strengths including a commitment to reject improvement plans that do not demonstrate sufficient engagement. We also feel strongly that the New York State Education Department and local school districts continue to promote transparency to parents on how their child’s school is performing to ensure student success.”

“Both parents and community play a vital and integral role in the improvement process of schools,” said William Clark, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Rochester. “By transparently communicating a comprehensive but understandable analysis of student performance to these key advocates, a better system of engagement can be utilized.  An engaged process leads to excellence in education.”

New York’s ESSA plan will now be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education, which may provide feedback to the New York State Education Department before approving or rejecting the state’s new accountability system.

The ESSA coalition includes Better Schools Better Neighborhoods, the Buffalo Urban League, The Business Council of New York State, Business Council of Westchester, Capital Region Chamber, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Democrats for Education Reform-NY, District-Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo, Education Trust–New York, Educators for Excellence, EPIC-Every Person Influences Children, High Achievement New York, National Center for Learning Disabilities, New York Educator Voice Fellowship, New York Urban League, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, Public Policy Institute of New York State, UnidosUS, United Way of New York City and the Urban League of Rochester.