Dozens of educators, policymakers, and advocates gathered at United Federation of Teachers headquarters this morning for the first in a series of public forums to discuss proposed changes to New York State’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability system. The Board of Regents is seeking feedback on a new growth model, which is designed to provide “differentiated accountability” for schools, before they submit it for approval by the federal department of education in mid-October.

Ira Schwartz of the New York State Education Department presented the proposal, stressing that a growth model allows the state to more carefully assess the work of schools by looking both at the number of students meeting absolute proficiency standards and the rate of growth of students who have not yet reached proficiency.

Adapted from NYSED presentation.
Adapted from NYSED presentation. Statements in quotes are from Ira Schwartz about each type of school.<br />

By combining these measures, he said, the state could differentiate between schools with low absolute scores where students made significant growth, and schools with both low scores and low growth. The same distinction could be made for schools with high absolute scores, separating schools that continued to push students to higher levels from those where individual students do not make much progress.

The state hopes to use a growth model both to “make more refined… decisions” about whether schools have made Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), and to go beyond AYP to measure the growth of students who have already reached proficiency. Schwartz noted that while the use of a growth model for determining AYP status must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, the second part of the proposal, going beyond NCLB to look at the growth of proficient students, does not require federal approval.

Schwartz’s presentation mentioned New York City’s Progress Reports as an example of a locally-developed initiative that takes student growth into account, which sparked criticism by some educators in the room.  “I hope they’re not using New York City as a model of success for this,” one principal said during the question-and-answer period.

And Leo Casey, who spoke for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), emphasized that any accountability model must be fair and complete, accurate, and transparent — no “statistical hieroglyphs,” in order to be meaningful to teachers and families. “If grades and accountability careen all over the place, from F to A and A to F, educators will experience them like the weather,” he said. Casey concluded that although there are still areas needing work, the state’s proposal is an improvement over the current system.

Upcoming posts will detail the state’s proposals for elementary and middle schools, high schools, and for measuring the growth of already proficient students.