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Meeting of the Board of Regents | October 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - 11:00pm

sed seal                                                                                                 







Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Submission of a Differentiated Accountability Model to the United States Department of Education



October 8, 2008


Goals 1 and 2







Issue for Decision


Should the Regents endorse the Department’s proposed differentiated accountability model for submission to the United States Department of Education (USED)?


Reason(s) for Consideration

              Required in order for New York to take advantage of the flexibility permitted by the USED to participate in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) differentiated accountability pilot program.


Proposed Handling


The question will come before the EMSC Committee for a decision in October 2008. 


Procedural History


              The differentiated accountability proposal was designed by Department staff to allow New York to take advantage of the flexibility provided by the USED pilot program to implement key elements of the recommendations for reauthorization of No Child Left Behind adopted by the Board of Regents in January 2007.  In that document, the Regents state that “Mandated interventions should match the needs of students, schools and districts. More should be done to ensure that school choice and supplementary education services are provided to students who would most benefit from them while at the same time minimizing the financial and administrative burdens that these programs sometimes place on districts. Schools and districts with systematic failure of all student groups require very different interventions than districts in which failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress is based on the performance of a small group of students.”


Consistent with the P-16 priorities presented to the Regents in April 2008, the proposal is also intended to increase academic performance by providing more flexibility to schools and districts, streamlining regulatory processes, reducing the number of “lists” of schools/districts in need of improvement and increasing the available supports to these schools.  


Under the leadership of the Board of Regents and consistent with Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 (Chapter 57), SED has been using funds provided by the Gates and Wallace Foundations to work with national experts to develop an enhanced accountability system that is the most educationally sound in the New York context and is consistent with the NCLB core principles. This differentiated accountability proposal has been developed in collaboration with experts from Education Counsel and RMC Research and is based on the nationally recognized research of such experts as Marzano, Center on Education Policy; Fullan; Learning Point Associates; and the Rand Corporation. Department staff held telephone conversations with senior managers of the education departments in each state that was approved to pilot a differentiated accountability model, and these conversations also informed the development of this proposal.


Background Information


On March 20, 2008, Secretary Spellings announced that states may apply to participate in an NCLB differentiated accountability model. States that are approved under this model are granted flexibility to modify, within certain constraints, the system of sanctions and interventions that occur when a school is identified as in need of improvement.  The differentiated accountability model would permit the SED to act on the recommendations of the Board of Regents to move forward in creating the next generation of New York’s accountability system. Although the differentiated accountability pilot is a separate initiative from the USED growth model pilot, the growth model informs the way in which schools are placed into categories and phases under the differentiated accountability model.


On May 2, the SED submitted a differentiated accountability model proposal to the USED.  That proposal called for New York to pilot during the 2008-2009 school year a differentiated set of supports and interventions for schools newly identified for improvement and to submit a fuller proposal later in the year. 


After a peer review, New York’s plan was not one of six approved by the USED.  However, New York was encouraged by USED to apply again to participate in the differentiated accountability model beginning with the 2009-2010 school year.  On August 18, USED provided training in Washington, D.C. to states interested in submitting a proposal for the 2009-2010 school year and followed up with additional technical assistance in a conference call to interested states on September 9.


              On September 17th a preliminary draft of New York’s revised proposal, which is consistent with changes that the Regents have sought in their NCLB reauthorization recommendations as well as other Regents directions to staff regarding ways to improve upon New York’s current accountability system, was submitted to the USED.  


              SED staff will participate in a peer review session with the USED in late October and will continue discussions with the field about the proposed model through the month of October. If the Regents endorse the proposed differentiated accountability model, the Department will submit the document, including any revision asked for by the Regents, to the USED. If approved by USED, the model will be  implemented beginning in the 2009-2010 school year based on assessments administered in the 2008-2009 school year.


The Need for A Differentiated Accountability Model


              Data on the performance of New York public schools once they are identified as in need of improvement or requiring academic progress shows that the large majority of schools that are newly identified because of the performance of a single student group on a single accountability measure will improve the performance of the identified group of students and make Adequate Yearly Progress.  However, the more groups for which a school is identified and the longer the school remains in the improvement process, the less likely the school is to make Adequate Yearly Progress. In the 2006-07 school year, for example, a school newly identified for the performance of a single accountability group on a single accountability measures was eight times more likely (73% versus 9%) to make Adequate Yearly Progress than a school that is in the restructuring phase because of the performance of the “all student” group.


This data shows a clear need for districts and the Department to utilize differentiated strategies of support and intervention to meet the needs of these very different types of schools.  In the case of schools where only a single group of students needs to be targeted, districts and schools can benefit from a process that focuses on self-assessment, gives schools considerable latitude to develop improvement plans, and makes districts primary responsibility to ensure the plan’s successful implementation. In contrast, when schools demonstrate systemic and persistent failure, the State Education Department must provide districts with experts who can partner with districts to guide and direct improvement strategies, which include the fundamental restructuring of and sometimes the phasing out and closing of schools.  


The Benefits of Differentiated Accountability


Upon approval from the Board of Regents and the USED, SED will be permitted to do the following:

  • Reduce the current number of school accountability categories from 17 to 8 by eliminating dual Title I and non-Title I streams of improvement, integrating federal and State accountability systems and collapsing identifications for improvement into three simplified Phases, each of which provides schools with diagnostic tools, planning strategies, and supports and interventions specific to that phase in the improvement process and the school’s category of need*.
  • Allow for differentiation in the improvement process, permitting schools and districts to prepare and implement school improvement plans that best match a school’s designation*.
  • Better align the SURR and NCLB processes and ensure that schools with systemic and persistent failure fundamentally restructure or close.
  • Maximize SED’s limited resources and utilize the resources of USNY while implementing the provisions of Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 that require the assignment of School Quality Review Teams, Joint Intervention Teams, and Distinguished Educators to schools in improvement.  
  • Strengthen the capacity of districts to assist schools to improve.
  • Empower parents by increasing combined participation in Public School Choice (PSC) and Supplemental Educational Services (SES) by offering SES in the first year of a school’s identification for improvement and school choice only after an identified school has failed to make AYP .*


* USED approval is required to implement these features of the differentiated accountability model.


Proposed Differentiated Accountability Model


              The following proposal for differentiated accountability focuses especially on changing the model for schools, in part by involving the district more intensively and making the district more accountable for school improvement.  The Regents have also declared that they want to change the model for school districts. SED staff are working with Education Counsel (formerly Holland & Knight) on revisions in the state-to-district relationship, in keeping with the Regents direction.


              New York State’s differentiated accountability model bases accountability designations on both the degree to which a school manifests systemic failure of groups of students to make AYP and the length of time such failure has persisted. The model creates threedistinct phases of improvement that are based on the number of years a school fails to make AYP: Improvement, Corrective Action and Restructuring.  Within each phase a school utilizes the findings of a specific diagnostic and/or support (School Quality Review, Curriculum Audit, and Assignment of a Joint Intervention Team or Distinguished Educator) to create and implement a school improvement plan. A school moves from one phase to the next phase when it fails to achieve AYP for two years. The rigor of the interventions as well as the intensity of district and SED oversight increases as a school moves from one phase to the next.


              The three phases are further differentiated into three categories: Basic, for the Improvement phase only; Focused; and Comprehensive. Each category is determined by the degree to which there has been systemic failure of groups of students to make AYP. The depth, scope and comprehensiveness of the intervention as well as the primary provider of support, oversight and intervention in a school vary depending upon the phase and category in which a school is placed.  In particular, this model is designed to give districts the support and assistance necessary to take primary responsibility for developing and implementing improvement strategies in schools that are not persistently failing to make AYP with large groups of students. In such instances, districts will have considerable flexibility to work with schools to design improvement plans that are tailored to the specific circumstances of the school.  By simultaneously giving districts both greater latitude and more responsibility for addressing this group of schools, the State Education Department provides both itself and the district a greater ability to concentrate resources on those schools that need more comprehensive interventions in order to ensure improvements in student performance.


              If failure persists or becomes more systemic, the SED and its agents will enter into a collaboration with the district to improve student performance through the creation of a Joint Intervention Team. Ultimately, if failure continues to persist, the SED may assign a Distinguished Educator and direct how the district addresses the needs of students, which may include requiring the closure or phasing out of a school.


Schools in the comprehensive category that are also farthest from State Standards may by identified for registration review.  SURRs are assigned an SED staff person, i.e., SURR Liaison, who works on-site with the school immediately after the school is identified, during the Registration Review, during the development and implementation of the plan and until the school makes its targets or phases-out or closes. If SURRs that are in the improvement or corrective action phase continue to fail to demonstrate progress toward improving student performance they may be directly accelerated to the Restructuring phase.


              These interventions are designed to provide a school with the resources, time and expertise needed to have all students meet proficiency in ELA and mathematics by 2013-2014. Meanwhile, progression along the school improvement continuum ensures that a school that consistently fails to make AYP does not continue to operate. 


              Details of the differentiated accountability model are presented within the figure below and in the appendix to this item.
















Figure 1: Differentiated Accountability Model



chart of 2007-08 accountability status school counts



              The figures below demonstrate how the total percentage of schools that are currently in school improvement would be better distributed within three Phases of Intervention: Improvement, Corrective Action, and Restructuring.  By combining a fragmented system of State and NCLB accountability designations and intervention strategies, New York’s differentiated accountability model will support a more focused approach, permitting districts and schools to efficiently implement one specific intervention within each phase.  The figures also suggest that the new differentiated accountability model will offer the public greater levels of transparency and simplicity.



chart of projected differentiated accountability group school counts 2009-10


not available at this time


              A more detailed explanation of the proposed interventions is attached.




              The Department recommends the Regents endorse the proposed accountability model and direct staff to prepare the final proposal for submission to the USED.


Timetable for Implementation


              SED will participate in a peer review session with the USED in late October and will continue discussions with key constituent groups about the proposed model through the month of October. If the Regents endorse the proposed differentiated accountability model, the Department will submit it to the USED for approval. If approved by USED, implementation will begin in the 2009-2010 school year based on assessments administered in the 2008-2009 school year.

Appendix A: NY Differentiated Accountability Draft Proposal:

  Description of Interventions





The New York State Education Department (SED) submits this proposal to participate in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Differentiated Accountability Pilot Program for implementation in the 2009-2010 school year based on assessments administered in the 2008-2009 school year. The proposal employs the flexibility of the pilot while maintaining continued focus on the “bright-line principles” of NCLB: improving achievement and narrowing achievement gaps by holding schools and districts accountable for results using annual assessments; providing real choice for parents; ensuring that parents have accurate and meaningful information about their children’s schools; and improving teacher quality. The proposal also complements the State’s action to implement a strong accountability model that is combined with a rigorous approach toward reform.


As reflected in the proposal, the timing is ideal: New York, under the leadership of the Board of Regents, is in the process of building a broader world class system of accountability, supports and interventions, consistent with the requirements of Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007, which charge the Board of Regents with creating an enhanced accountability system for New York State. Implementing the proposed differentiated accountability model in 2009-2010 will permit SED to align the proposed plan with the ongoing work of the Board of Regents. Upon approval from the United States Department of Education (USED) and the Board of Regents, SED will implement a new method of categorizing schools identified for improvement, use differentiated diagnostic tools to assist schools and districts to develop and implement appropriate plans to address the needs of students, vary the intensity and interventions to match the academic reasons that led to a school’s identification, compress the length of time a school is supported through improvement, and further merge elements of the New York State and NCLB accountability systems.




 New York State’s interventions are research-based and intensify as a school moves through the school improvement continuum.  The depth, scope and comprehensiveness of intervention vary by phase and category as does the provider of support and oversight.  District staff have a central role in this model as participants on the SQR Teams and in Curriculum Audits; as partners with SED and its agents as a member of a JIT; and in the final stage, as implementers of the plans developed with the guidance of DEs for closing or fundamentally restructuring schools.  New York is confident that its differentiated interventions are educationally sound and will provide meaningful reform in schools in order to have all students proficient in ELA and mathematics by 2013-2014.  A description of the types of interventions for each phase and category is provided below.


Types of Interventions



  • School Quality Review: The School Quality Review (SQR) is a school improvement support and intervention strategy for low performing schools in New York State. SQR involves the development of a culture of review and ongoing improvement to guide schools and districts on a continuous journey of improvement. A research-based, reflective process is utilized to provide high need schools and districts with guidance on key factors that affect school success. The SQR process enables staff to participate in shared decision-making for the purpose of improving student achievement. SED conducts SQRs for schools in the Improvement phase that are in the Basic,Focused, and Comprehensive categories. The type of review is differentiated for these groups - a portfolio of evidence review is conducted for Basic schools while an on-site review is conducted in Focused and Comprehensive schools.  During the on-site review, the SQR Team members conduct building tours, classroom visits, and interviews of administrators and staff, and review relevant school or district documentation. The SQR Team also assesses the alignment of curriculum and instruction with the State Learning Standards and performance indicators for ELA and mathematics for the accountability measures/student groups identified.  The length of time for the on-site review varies from two to three days for Focused to three days for Comprehensive.


The SQR Team is assigned to provide technical assistance and to train the district staff.  The number of team members varies according to the differentiated Improvement category, i.e., Basic-        at least two, Focused- three to five and Comprehensive -seven to nine. The Team includes a representative from the district who is familiar with the school’s needs as well as other team      members whose knowledge of school improvement and content areas will have a significant           impact on assisting the school and district to develop a two-year improvement plan.  The two-year improvement plan addresses the results of the self-assessment and includes a description of activities that targets the performance of the student group and accountability measure for which the school has been identified. The district approves the improvement plan according to the parameters established by the SED, and the plan is subject to SED review upon request.  This district involvement is expected to increase ownership for the school improvement planning process as well as the implementation of the plan. The district is responsible for paying the reasonable and necessary costs of the SQR Team.


     The self-assessment tool used by all schools in the SQR process is the Quality Indicators (QI) document. SED trains the district staff to use the QI document. This instrument is designed to       assist administrators and staff in assessing their school’s program. Administrators and staff use a four-point scale to rate their school in six categories: Collection, Analysis, and Utilization of Data; Teaching and Learning; School Leadership; Infrastructure for Student Success; Professional Development; Facilities and Resources.  Each category consists of between four to nine specific review criteria that require responses to detailed information regarding school effectiveness. These categories correlate with the components necessary for schools to enable their students to achieve at a high level. In a statistical analysis report, Monitoring School Quality: An Indicators Report, December 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics substantiated the importance of Quality Indicators on student learning.  A supplementary SED guidance document entitled Quality Indicators: Evidence to Look For provides examples of the types of evidence that may be submitted by the school to substantiate their self-assessment.


         As a result of three-day on-site review that takes place in an Improvement Comprehensive school, the SQR Team may make a recommendation that the school engage the services of a content area consultant to address systemic school improvement issues and the improvement of teaching and learning in the identified accountability measure(s) for all students. The district is responsible for the reasonable and necessary cost associated with the SQR team. 



  • Curriculum Audit: The Curriculum Audit is a school-based improvement intervention that is used in the Corrective Action phase for those schools in both the Focused and Comprehensive categories. The Audit identifies how schools, designated as failing AYP for more than four years, have delineated, interpreted, aligned, articulated, and implemented the New York State Learning Standards for one or more accountability measures and student groups. The Curriculum Audit assesses the alignment of instruction in ELA, mathematics and/or science to the New York State Learning Standards indicators and assessments and whether instruction promotes student achievement.  The district is an integral member of this review process and is responsible for identifying and providing supports required for implementation of the new curriculum as written and taught, including professional development. In addition, the district is responsible for paying the reasonable and necessary costs of the Curriculum Audit, SQR team and, if assigned a distinguished educator. The research-based recommendations are a guide for the district and school in the development of a Corrective Action Plan for improvement in each identified accountability measure. 


Particular focus is placed on the plan of action for students with disabilities (SWDs) and English language learners (ELLs), as appropriate.  A comprehensive examination of the delivery of instruction for SWDs takes place, including how SWDs access the general education curriculum and how the educational experiences and outcomes may vary according to the setting where SWDs are served.  Quantitative data on placement and achievement, teacher certification/experience, training opportunities, classroom observations, as well as data from focus groups with teachers and principals are collected.  Analysis of these data assists the school to structure and implement a continuum of services for SWDs to maximize their success in the general education curriculum.   


The purpose of the ELL component is to provide a synthesis of data from multiple perspectives regarding the school’s curriculum, instruction, assessment, and student supports as they impact ELL students.  Data collection activities to inform the review include teacher interviews with both ESL teachers and monolingual general education teachers who serve ELLs.  Classroom observations; focus groups with parents; and a review of formal documents provide insight into the policies, plans, and procedures the school uses to ensure services to ELLs. 


  • One Additional Corrective Action:  Based on the needs of the school, the district selects one additional appropriate NCLB corrective action:
    • replace school staff who are relevant to the failure to make AYP;
    • decrease management authority at the school;
    • appoint an outside expert to advise the school;
    • extend the school day or school year; or
    • restructure the internal organization of the school.

Phase 3- Restructuring

  • Joint Intervention Teams (JITs):  A school identified for Restructuring is assigned a Joint Intervention Team (JIT) by the Commissioner to assist in the planning and restructuring requirement.  The Team is composed of at least two members and is facilitated by a former or current education leader with extensive expertise and experience in school improvement work and in turning around low-performing schools.  The district has representation on the JIT and all members of the JIT have expertise and/or certification in such areas as: school organization, leadership, curriculum content, assessment, instruction, special education, English as a second language and/or cultural relevancy.  The district is responsible for paying the reasonable and necessary costs of the Team. The responsibilities of the JIT are  to conduct a review of the school to guide the school’s planning and restructuring initiatives; gather information about the district and school by reviewing school documents; conduct structured walkthroughs, classroom observations; attend scheduled meetings (grade level, curriculum, special education, guidance, administrative) and conduct interviews/focused meetings with administrators, teachers, parents, students and other staff.  The JIT will work approximately one day per month in each assigned building.  This time includes at least one half day for direct work with the school and district plus time for debriefing, planning and reporting.  Within 30 days of the JIT review, the Team develops an intervention plan with recommendations based on their observations, targeting the accountability measure(s) and student groups identified.  Additional restructuring actions may be recommended and may include phase-out/closure of the school. The district and/or Commissioner approve the plan.  Oversight and support of the plan is provided by the district with the assistance of SED.


    • Distinguished Educator (DE): A school identified for Restructuring in the Comprehensive category is assigned a DE. The DE may be a member of the assigned JIT (see description above).  DEs are empowered by the Commissioner to require rather than simply recommend change.  After the assessment of the programs by the JIT and DE, recommendations are made that may include phase-out/closure.  To the extent practicable, DEs must have experience working in districts and schools with similar demographics and difficulties as the district that they are assigned to assist.  They are non-voting members of the school district board of education.  The district is responsible for paying the reasonable and necessary expenses of the DE.  A written plan is developed and the district and Commissioner approve the plan. The DE may recommend that a district modify its plan and the district must accept these modifications, unless the district receives the permission of the Commissioner to not implement the recommendations of the DE. Oversight and support of the plan is provided by the district and the DE.  Responsibilities of the DE may include:
  • working in a maximum three school buildings to build school leadership; 
  • working with the district administration and Boards of Education to review data, analyze school structures; plan for improvement; assist in targeting district priorities, as needed; and  ensure increased student performance across the district;   
  • developing a plan for the school within the first two months of their assignment and submit to SED and the district; 
  • working collaboratively with the district and other support providers;
  • participating in ongoing professional development as directed by SED; and   
  • overseeing the development of a closure/phase out plan for the school as well as the plan for replacing the school with a new learning environment.

If a school enters the Restructuring phase and it has continuously failed to make AYP for six or more consecutive years a DE or JIT may recommend that the school be phased-out or closed.  This intervention ensures that if a school continues to fail, it does not continue to operate.