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Student growth part of accountability plan

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New York State no longer wants to measure a school’s success solely on tests scores and graduation rates. The State Education Department put multiple measures, including student growth, in its draft plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, the 2015 federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind.

The singular focus on proficiency that predominated in the No Child Left Behind era has been jettisoned as unfair to schools serving many high-needs students who tend to start school below grade level. To remedy that disparity, the state plan gives significant weight to student growth in rating elementary and middle schools and would factor in both fifth- and sixth-year graduation rates in determining high school success. Both of these moves would allow schools that have large numbers of struggling students to receive recognition for helping their students improve.

The Every Student Succeeds Act granted states the flexibility to determine how to measure a school’s success, allowing them to include factors such as school climate and measures of college, career and civic readiness. New York’s draft plan gives schools credit for giving students access to college-level courses and lowering the rate of chronic absenteeism.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the state’s introduction of multiple measures was a step in the right direction. “There is still a long way to go, but the draft plan is definitely more reflective of our values,” he said.

The federal government still requires states to identify schools that fall into the lowest 5 percent of all schools after the multiple measures have been tallied. Schools will be grouped into one of four broad categories: Recognition Schools (the highest tier), Schools in Good Standing, Targeted Support and Improvement Schools or Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools (the bottom 5 percent).

“Making sure that members in schools in the bottom category are treated fairly and receive adequate support will be the union’s work as we move ahead,” Mulgrew said.

Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa called the state’s draft “a work in progress” when it was introduced at the state Board of Regents meeting on May 8. “The road to success,” she noted, “is always under construction.”

Public hearings on the plan will be held before the state submits it for approval to the U.S. Education Department in mid-September for approval. Educators may also submit written comments.

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