sed seal                                                                                                 

 

THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

TO:

EMSC Committee

FROM:

John B. King, Jr.

SUBJECT:

Proposed Methodology for Identification of Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools

DATE:

December 9, 2009

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Discussion

What should be the methodology by which the Commissioner identifies schools as persistently lowest-achieving?

Procedural History

At the Regents meetings in June, July, September and November 2009, Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Regent Lester W. Young provided updates on activities related to New York State’s Race to the Top application planning and strategy.  One key area of Race to the Top involves how states will identify their persistently lowest-achieving schools and support local educational agencies (LEAs) in turning such schools around.  In November, Department staff will review with the Regents a proposed methodology for identifying these schools as well as a recommendation for how the process for identification of persistently lowest-achieving schools can be used to strengthen the Schools Under Registration Review Process. (SURR).

Background Information

For more than two decades, the Board of Regents has had in place a process by which the Commissioner annually identifies those schools that are farthest from State standards and most in need of improvement and places these schools under registration review. Districts with identified schools are required to develop plans for turning these schools around and are provided support by the State Education Department to implement these plans.  If turnaround does not occur, districts must phase out and close these schools or have the Commissioner recommend to the Board of Regents that it revoke the registration of the schools.  This process has helped to improve academic performance in more than 200 schools while resulting in the closure of more than 60 schools that failed to achieve performance targets established by the Commissioner.

In November 2009, the United States Department of Education announced the priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria for the Race to the Top (RTTT) fund.  One of the four key selection criteria is the State’s plan for turning around its persistently lowest achieving schools.  The process by which states are expected to identify the lowest-achieving schools that will be subject to intervention strategies has many parallels to SURR identification. When the Regents first established the SURR process there were no comparable programs at the Federal level and no legislation pertaining to school accountability at the State level.  Now with New York’s approval to operate a differentiated accountability model under No Child Left Behind, the issuance of the Race to the Top and School Improvement Grant applications, and the Regents actions to use the authority provided to them under Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 to create an enhanced accountability system, the time is opportune to revise the SURR process to better align it with other accountability programs. New York can use its Race to the Top application as an opportunity to strengthen the SURR process and further the Regents agenda for turning around low performing schools.

Race to the Top’s definition of persistently lowest-achieving schools when applied to New York calls for the identification of the lowest achieving five percent of Title I schools identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring as well as the lowest achieving five secondary schools that are eligible for but do not receive Title I funds. In addition, states are also required to identify high schools that have graduation rates below sixty percent over a number of years.  In determining which schools are “lowest achieving” states must take into account the “all students” group’s performance in terms of proficiency in English language arts and mathematics as well as a school’s lack of progress over a number of years with the “all students” group. Within these parameters, each state must submit as part of its application for Race to the Top the state’s plan for identifying its persistently lowest achieving schools.  In addition, the USED has determined that the Federal School Improvement Grant will use the same definition to determine the schools to which LEAs must give priority in terms of funding. The recently released School Improvement Grant application requires that SEAs allocate $500,000 to each persistently lowest achieving Title I school that an LEA will serve with School Improvement Grant funds. LEAs may, at their choosing, reallocate additional SIG funds to support implementation of an intervention strategy in these schools.  Under the SIG application guidelines,  non-Title I persistently lowest-achieving schools do not generate funding to an LEA, but an LEA may choose to use part of its SIG grant to serve these schools.

Recommendation

              In devising a methodology for identification of persistently lowest-achieving schools that results in resources being focused where they are needed most and can effect the greatest good, the Regents must balance Federal requirements with New York’s unique circumstances. For example, a methodology that simply identified the schools in improvement status with the lowest percentages of students proficient in English language arts and mathematics would yield a list that primarily consisted of schools that are already in the processing of closing; schools serving exclusively high risk populations, such as special act schools and transfer alternative high schools; and new schools that are likely to show dramatic improvement as the school staff gain experience and revise their model to meet the needs of their students.

To achieve this balance, Department staff recommends that the following methodology be used to identify the New York’s persistently lowest-achieving schools:

Step

Action

Rationale

1

Determine the number of Title I schools and Title I eligible schools that must be identified as lowest achieving. Based on 2008-2009 school year results New York is expected to identify 22 Title I schools and five non-titles I schools.

RTTT requires that the state identify as lowest-achieving five schools or five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, whichever is greater and the lowest-achieving five secondary schools or the lowest five percent of  secondary schools that are eligible for but do not receive Title I funds, whichever is greater. In the 2009-2010 school year, there are 433 Title I schools and 67 Non-Title I secondary schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring.  

2

Remove from consideration schools that are in the process of closing, alternative high schools, and schools in Special Act school districts.

Schools that are already in the process of phasing out will have completed or largely completed the process prior to the start of the 2010-2011 school year and therefore should not be identified. Because Special Act schools serve highly at-risk populations for limited periods of times, the performance indices for these schools in English language arts and mathematics are of limited utility in assessing the educational quality of these programs.  A key goal of Race to the Top is for states and districts to address schools that are “drop out factories.”  Alternative high schools typically enroll students who will not graduate within four years of first entry into grade nine.  Despite having low reported graduation rates, these schools are intended to be part of the solution to the drop out problem rather than part of the cause and therefore should not be identified.

3.

Remove from consideration schools that are in improvement or corrective action.

Race to the Top is intended to focus on schools that have failed to respond to multiple, earlier school improvement and turnaround efforts. Schools in improvement and corrective action have been subject to far fewer interventions than have schools in restructuring.  

4.

Remove from consideration schools that have shown either at least a 25 point increase in ELA and math for the all students group between 2005-2006 and 2008-2009 or have made AYP on all ELA and math measures in 2008-2009.

Race to the Top requires a state to take into account whether a school has shown lack of progress over a number of years in ELA and math for the all students group. We consider a 25 point increase in both ELA and math to demonstrate progress.  Since schools that made AYP in 2008-2009 are eligible for removal from improvement status if AYP is made again in 2009-2010, we believe these schools should not be considered for designation until after 2009-2010 results are available.

5.

Average each remaining school’s Performance Indices for the all students group on all 2008-2009 ELA and math accountability measures for which a school was accountable and then place each potential lowest-achieving school in rank order based on this average.  Identify the 22 Title I schools and 5 Non-Title I schools with the lowest average performance Index.

This step meets the RTTT requirement that states take into account proficiency of the all students group in ELA and math combined and results in identified schools being among those that have the lowest percentages of students proficient in ELA and math.

6.

Identify schools that had graduation rates below 60% for the 2002, 2003, and 2004 school year cohorts for the all students group.

This step meets the RTTT requirement that states identify schools with graduation rates below 60% over a number of years.

 

The USED is in the process of issuing additional guidance as to the degree of flexibility that both state education agencies and local agencies may have to identify subsets of schools that would be provided with RTTT funds to implement a school intervention strategy. Based on clarifications that staff expect to receive shortly from USED, SED may either need to identify for potential participation in RTTT all schools in improvement, corrective action, and restructuring that have graduation rates below 60% for three years or may be able to limit this group to a subset of these schools (see step 6). Similarly, depending on clarification from USED, districts may have flexibility as to the schools they select to implement an intervention strategy.

Pending this clarification, SED is anticipating that the number of schools that would be identified as persistently lowest achieving would be approximately 45 to 50, with the majority being high schools.

The intention of the Department is to collaborate with districts to implement an intervention strategy in schools that SED has identified as having the highest priority (i.e. schools among the lowest achieving five percent and schools in restructuring that have had graduation rates below 60 percent for three years) and to provide incentives to school districts through the Secondary School Innovation fund and other mechanisms, including the School Improvement Grants, to implement these intervention strategies in other secondary schools that have low graduation rates.

Department staff recommend that the list of persistently lowest achieving schools be updated each year to include newly identified schools. .

Using the Persistently Lowest Achieving Identification Process to Strengthen Registration Review.

The process for identification of schools for registration review shares much in common with the process for identification of schools as persistently lowest achieving:

 

 

The key differences between the processes are as follows:

 

 

Staff recommends the following steps to align the SURR process and the identification process for lowest-achieving schools. The two programs will be coordinated, and the Regents will retain the ability to close and direct the development of the plan to replace any school that does not successfully implement a school intervention strategy.

Staff recommend that:

 

 

With the concurrence of the Regents, staff will incorporate these concepts into New York’s RTTT application and develop regulations for submission to the Regents later this school year to implement these recommendations beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.

 

 

Special Act schools are currently held accountable for making AYP in the same way as other school in New York and are identified for improvement, corrective action or restructuring in the same way as other schools. For purposes of SURR identification, special act school districts are participating in a pilot program under which their schools are being held accountable for pre- and post-test scores of their students in Reading and math.  The base year for the pilot was 2008-2009 and SED has agreed that no special acts schools will be identified as SURR until the after 2009-10 results become available. So long as Special Act schools do not receive Title I funds, the Board of Regents can choose to create a different set of consequences for these schools when they fail to make AYP.  We suggest this issue be discussed at a future Regents meeting.