Albert Leonard Middle School has been identified as a school in need of improvement under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Albert Leonard was cited based on low scores in the Middle Level English Language Arts exam.
Not surprisingly, school officials around the area are not happy, calling the rating system "unfair" and "insulting":
Local school officials are highly critical of New York’s fast-growing list of schools in need of improvement, contending that the system is unfair to schools with many non-English-speaking students and students with disabilities.
“It is borderline insulting to our school district,” said Deborah Gatti, president of the North Rockland Board of Education, which has four schools tagged as needing improvement. “We do wonderful things and spend good money to help every child, especially if they’re not doing well. But this system punishes us and doesn’t serve a purpose.”
The New York State Education Department released the following statement:
A total of 1325 elementary, middle and high schools and 123 districts statewide have been identified for improvement under ESEA. Of the identified schools, 1173 will receive Title I funds in 2011-12 and are required to offer extra help to eligible low-income students; 416 of these Title I schools must also offer public school choice (as appropriate) to all enrolled students.
The number of schools and districts that were newly identified for improvement is unprecedented. Last year, 102 schools and 4 school districts were newly identified for improvement. This year the number of newly identified schools increased to 847 and the number of newly identified districts increased to 89.
"This is just further evidence – as if we needed any – that we must move forward to reform our schools and change what is happening in our classrooms," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. "Our goal is to ensure every student graduates from high school college- and career-ready. These numbers show that too many schools are moving in the opposite direction. The Regents have adopted strong new reforms to improve student performance and increase accountability. If student performance doesn’t improve, schools must be held accountable. We are watching."
"The Board of Regents is developing an NCLB waiver proposal to establish a better accountability formula that incorporates growth,” State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said. "But we cannot and should not accept disappointing proficiency rates at the school or sub-group level. While the 2014 NCLB deadline for proficiency for all may not be achieved, it’s the right goal and it should be our goal. Our students are not graduating with the skills they need to succeed in college and careers. That has to change, and change now."
The Regents Reform Agenda brings a sustained systemic focus on improving student achievement in New York. The Board has acted to adopt the new Common Core Learning Standards and schools are beginning to pilot the Common Core this year. State assessments have been made more rigorous and will be aligned to the Common Core beginning in 2012-13. In 2014, the first PARCC exams -- developed by a consortium of 24 states -- will help ensure that the Common Core is fully implemented. Other key elements of New York’s Race to the Top plan are underway to develop stronger teachers and school leaders. For the first time this year, teachers and school leaders with students taking ELA or math in grades 4-8 will participate in Annual Professional Performance Reviews incorporating student academic growth. And in subsequent years, these evaluations will be required for all teachers and school leaders in the State.
President Obama recently announced an ESEA regulatory flexibility initiative, which will allow the Secretary of Education to issue waivers to States. New York is currently studying options for ESEA school accountability waivers that would give New York State an opportunity to reduce or eliminate mandates that have not proven effective in promoting student achievement. The waivers would not release school districts from accountability for student subgroup performance. Rather, they would allow for accountability sanctions requiring more specific responses to student performance.
A total of 23 schools that were identified for the 2010-11 school year have been removed from the improvement list because they made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years in all areas for which they were identified. No districts were removed from improvement status this year. An additional 16 schools that were in improvement status during the 2010-11 school year have closed or are in the process of closing. AYP is the minimum level of performance schools and districts must achieve each year and is based on student participation and performance on State assessments.
Factors contributing to the increase in schools and districts not making AYP and being identified for improvement include:
- Sunset in 2009-10 of a statistical adjustment for the students with disabilities subgroup that has made it more difficult for this group to demonstrate AYP.
- Change in grades 3-8 English language arts (ELA) and math testing dates, which requires students to show greater learning has occurred because tests are given later in the school year.
- Change in the methodology for equating grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, which eliminate a tendency to overcompensate for the comparable difficulty of tests from one year to the next.
- Changes to the grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, making them less predictable.
- Increase in the high school graduation rate goal and progress targets, which have substantially raised the percentage of students who must graduate or the yearly increase in the percentage of graduates in order for a school or district to make AYP.
- The aligning of new English language arts and mathematics proficiency standards for grades 3-8 to the college and career standards established by the Regents also contributed to the large increase in identified schools and districts this year.
ANALYSIS OF SCHOOL AND DISTRICT DATA
This year 847 schools and 89 districts were newly identified compared to 102 schools and 4 districts for 2010-11. For 2011-12, 350 of the newly identified schools and 12 of the newly removed schools were in New York City (NYC). Nineteen of the newly identified districts were in NYC (Note: For accountability purposes NYC consists of 32 community school districts.).
Of the 123 districts identified, 31 are in New York City and 92 are in the rest of the State. Districts in Need of Improvement (DINI) must develop a Local Educational Agency (LEA) Plan within three months of being identified. The LEA plans must be submitted to the New York State Education Department for approval.
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS
The New York State Education Department has taken steps to align the Accountability Systems under NCLB (Title I AYP), Title III (Annual Measurement Achievement Objectives [AMAOs]), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when identification of a school and/or district is a result of poor performance of the students with disabilities and/or the ELL subgroups. This action will result in greater continuity in the assessment of the needs of these schools/districts and the resulting supports and interventions.
To accomplish this, the Office of Special Education has revised its performance criteria for determination of school districts under IDEA as "Needs Assistance" or "Needs Intervention" to be based primarily on whether a school district has one or more schools not making AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup. The number of districts identified under IDEA as "Needs Assistance" is 255 and the number identified as "Needs Intervention" is 35 (including NYC counted as one district).
The State is, to the extent resources allow, assigning a Special Education School Improvement Specialist (SESIS) from the Regional Special Education Technical Assistance Support Centers (RSE-TASC) to provide technical assistance and participate as a subgroup specialist during the various differentiated accountability reviews. In addition, for districts determined to be "Needs Intervention," staff from the NYSED P-12 Office of Special Education (OSE) will participate in the Joint Intervention Team reviews. For more information regarding these changes, see:
For districts not meeting Title III AMAOs, the Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies (OBE-FLS) will focus on those schools identified because of the performance of ELL students. The number of districts identified for Title III improvement is 40, and the number identified for Title III Corrective Action is 9 (including NYC counted as one district). The State will also direct its technical assistance resources to the schools identified for the ELL subgroup. School districts identified for not meeting their AMAOs under Title III for two consecutive years are required to submit an Improvement Plan and those failing to make AMAO for four consecutive years are required to develop a Corrective Action Plan. Additional information regarding AMAOs and required plans can be found on the OBE-FLS website: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/biling/NEWTIII.html.
PERSISTENTLY LOWEST-ACHIEVING/SCHOOLS UNDER REGISTRATION REVIEW
Later in the school year, the Commissioner will identify schools that are persistently lowest-achieving and Schools Under Registration Review (PLA/SURR) for the 2011-12 school year. Schools identified as PLA/SURR are from among the lowest performing five percent of schools in New York State, based on school performance on State ELA and mathematics assessments combined. In addition, schools that have graduation rates below 60 percent for three consecutive years are also identified as PLA/SURR. Districts with PLA/SURR will be required to submit plans to the Commissioner for approval to implement one of four federally mandated intervention strategies: turnaround, restart, closure, or transformation. More information on the intervention requirements for these schools can be found at: http://www.oms.nysed.gov/press/attachb_jan2010.html.
The complete lists of schools and districts with their accountability status can be found at: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/accountability/designations/home.html. The lists are grouped by district. Lists also show newly identified schools, schools removed from Schools in Need of Improvement status, and schools in Good Standing.