New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was in Plattsburgh Thursday to hold a public hearing on the state’s draft regulations to meet the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind.
In December 2015, President Obama signed ESSA, or the Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA’s requirements include provisions that all schools teach to high academic standards, annual statewide assessments to measure progress toward those standards, advancement of equity in schools and districts, and accountability and action to address low-performing schools. Commissioner MaryEllen Elia explains that since the law was signed states have been reviewing its regulations and determining their draft plans. “We have been working for over a year with representatives from organizations and groups and many teachers, parents and administrators and really practitioners in education to give us their thoughts on what should be included. So what we have is a draft plan. There are still requirements from the federal government that may not please everyone. We have to do those requirements. But we've taken the time I think to get feedback from professionals across the state in education to help us to craft a plan that's that is good and supportive.”
Elia adds that the draft plan relies on more than just test scores to assess schools. “That will be a big shift. The way, the approach that you take with the school that may be having a difficulty moving their students toward success is much more productive, much more supportive and understanding that every school's not the same, every community is not the same.”
Very few individuals spoke at the sparsely attended public hearing held on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus. School librarian Sara Kelly Johns began the comments. “Digital literacy has become more important in our society. A recent study from the Stanford history education groups point out that many students actually are not very good at distinguishing true from false. School librarians teach digital literacy.”
Moderator: “Speaker number four: Lorene Saunders from CVES.”
Saunders: “In reading the draft paper what you're proposing on the measuring, please let's keep it based in reality. The only other concern I had was more schools offering more advanced courses getting credit. That's wonderful. But is it truly reality based?”
Moderator: “Michele Bushey.”
Bushy: “Good evening. I am an educator with over 23 years experience in science and I teach at Saranac Central High School. One of the most important concerns that all of our educators have, all of our school districts have, is that in the upcoming school year in New York state owes public education, public school districts $3.6 billion. We've not fully restored the programs that have been cut over the past decade. So we are concerned that there aren't details in how the funding for some of the requirements within ESSA are going to be made.”
Warrensburg Superintendent of Schools John Goralski says he is most interested in the accountability provisions. “The concern for me is the idea of holding schools accountable for student attendance specifically chronic absenteeism. And while it sounds good that attendance is certainly an indicator of student performance the schools don't have a lot of clout in forcing kids to come to school.”
Plattsburgh was the sixth of 13 public hearings being held across the state. The New York state Department of Education is taking comments on the draft plan through June 16th.
Commissioner Elia is scheduled to comment on the Every Student Succeeds Act during the ESSA Educator Conference in Albany at 5:30 Friday.