New York State Has a New Education Plan: What Will It Mean For You and Your Kids?

Last Monday, September 11, 2017, New York State submitted its revised Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan to the federal government for approval.

The document includes slight tweaks to the standards for Math and English and shorter tests, a change to the way teachers are assessed and certified, and more emphasis on “student growth.”

It’s full of press-release friendly buzz-words like “personalized guidance and support,” “culturally-diverse” reading materials, “holistic” learning, and statistical “dashboards.” But let’s cut to the chase: what do these changes mean for your child?

Gradual Roll Out:

What Is It: Unlike the Common Core standards, which were adopted one year and implemented the next, the 2017 Next Generation standards, while still very similar in content to Common Core, are to be adopted at a more measured pace.

How Will It Work: 2017-2018 will be merely an “awareness campaign” to assess current standards and train educators. 2018-2019 brings more awareness, more assessment, and more training. Full implementation of new standards won’t happen until September of 2020.

What That Means To You: Revised state exams won’t be given to students in third through eighth grade until Spring of 2021.

Opt Out:

What Is It: Students may still choose not to sit for the exams

How Will It Work: Parents express their wishes on an individual basis

What That Means To You: Schools where more than 5% of students choose to opt out may lose federal grant funding. So even if your child takes the test, if enough other families decline, you could still end up paying the price via a loss of resources and services. In addition, families who opt out their kids and then apply to NYC middle and high-schools that require standardized test scores could be asked to submit private evaluation results (which cost money to take), or find themselves at a disadvantage at some of the more competitive public schools.

Year To Year Improvement:

What Is It: Previously, schools were judged merely on how many students scored a 4 (above grade level), a 3 (at grade level), at 2 (below grade level) or 1 (far below grade level) on English Language Arts and Mathematics. Now, improvement from grade to grade among similar peer groups will be factored in, even if the end result is still below average.

How Will It Work: If students enter 6th grade reading at the 2nd grade level but, over the course of the year, advance to a 5th grade level, schools and teachers will be rewarded for the achievement, even if the kids aren’t where they ultimately should be yet.

What That Means To You: Such plans tend to backfire on high-achieving schools, as there is a lot less progress for students who are already scoring at the highest-levels to make. As a result, the school looks weaker on paper. Conversely, parents with children at low-achieving schools might be confused when the school receives a high mark – but kids still aren’t performing at grade level. Also, comparing similar peer groups rather than all schools head to head will make it harder for parents to assess how well each school is doing objectively, rather than vis-a-vis those with a similar socio-economic/special-needs demographic. (This is a complaint parents of children with disabilities already have.)

College Readiness:

What Is It: Is a high-school graduate prepared to take college level courses without needing remedial help? Currently, over 50% of NYC high-school graduates are not ready for college-level work.

How Will It Work: High schools will be rewarded for growth in areas besides English and Math. These may include career skills, AP results, and college readiness. Also, five and six year graduation rates will be considered the same as four year graduation rates when it comes to success statistics.

What That Means To You: Just like “free” college means high-schools can pass on responsibility for educating kids to the next level, so does more time to graduate mean more “double-dipping” and asking taxpayers to fund the same course being taken multiple times, instead of demanding punctual results.

Teacher Quality:

What Is It: Teachers will be evaluated on more than just test scores, and the bar for receiving teacher certification is lowered.

How Will It Work: School and teacher ratings will now rely less on standardized test scores. The passing grade on the teacher certification exam has been dropped several points.

What That Means To You: Even as teacher union leaders fight against charter schools certifying their own teachers, traditional public school teachers will no longer be required to demonstrate previous levels of competency. Teachers will also now be evaluated on more nebulous standards. This can lead to results such as the case of PS 123 in Manhattan. According to official Department of Education surveys, the number of parents who say the school offers enough courses, activities, and services to keep their children interested in school is 80%. 67% of the students concur. The number of students who score a 3 or 4 on their state math exam? 7%.

For parents with children currently almost done with elementary school, the latest ESSA plan is likely to have little impact over the next three years, besides some tweaks to the curriculum here and there. By high school, you will see civics added to English and math as a test subject, but measuring student growth will be limited to elementary and middle-schools.

What changes would you, as parents, like to see to the current system? Tell us in the Comments!

What do you think?

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