NY Graduation Rate Continues To Increase, But Achievement Gap Remains

New York’s graduation rate ticked upward by a half percentage point to 80.2 percent, an improvement of 11 percentage points from a decade ago, the state Education Department announced Wednesday.

The graduation rate, which reviewed the progress of students who entered high school in 2013, found it had approved from the 79.7 percent of students who graduated in the class of 2012.

Meanwhile, when factoring in August graduates, the graduation rate grew to 82.1 percent, exceeding a federal accountability threshold established in 2010. Growth in graduation rates also was seen in the state’s five largest school districts, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Yonkers and New York City, all of which exceeded the statewide 0.5 percentage point average.

But it was not all good news: School districts with high needs and large city schools continue to have the lowest graduation rates in the state. A gap continues to be seen, too, among black and Hispanic students compared with white students.

SED found the achievement gap stands at about 20 percentage points, though it has been narrowed slightly over the last two years. Graduation rates also declined for English language learners.

“New York’s graduation rate continues its steady, upward trend,” said Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

“We see incremental improvements across the State, holding onto last year’s gains and slowly building upon them. And that’s good news. At the same time, however, troubling gaps in achievement persist, and we must accelerate the pace of improvement. With its focus on equity, the State’s newly approved ESSA plan will help drive the changes we need to ensure all children have the same opportunities for success.”

The graduation rates were cheered by the New York United Teachers, the statewide teachers union.

“Rising graduation rates show the positive effects of strong state aid increases that are coupled with tremendous work by educators and staff,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “In order to maintain this momentum, the state must fully meet the needs of school districts in this year’s budget.”

Top Education Leaders Call For Dream Act In Senate

Top education officials in New York on Tuesday called for the passage of the Dream Act in the state Senate after the Assembly approved the legislation a day earlier.

“We applaud Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the members of the New York State Assembly for their leadership in once again voting to pass the DREAM Act – legislation that will allow undocumented college students to participate in the state’s Tuition Assistance Program,” said Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa.

“We thank, as well, Governor Cuomo for his continuing support for this vitally important legislation. And we must once again call on the State Senate to act; the refusal of Senate leadership to support this legislation flies in the face of everything that New York stands for – equality, hard work, and a level playing field for all.”

The legislation would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, a group commonly referred to as dreamers. The bill has stalled in the Senate and it is unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate, where GOP lawmakers feel it unfairly punishes middle class families who have saved.

But the debate over immigration on the national level has led to a renewed push on immigration issues in New York, including the long-sought Dream Act.

“New York is the Empire State; we must lead the way, not blindly follow what now passes for leadership from our nation’s capital,” Rosa and Elia said. “The vast majority of Americans and New Yorkers support our Dreamers, and so do we. The Board of Regents and the State Education Department will continue to advocate for fairness and equity throughout our entire education system. It is time for the New York State Senate to join us as we seek to build a better, stronger, and more well-educated workforce. That is precisely what the Dream Act will deliver.”

School District Fiscal Health Improves

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Thursday reported 26 school districts around the state face a form “fiscal stress” on their budgets — a steep decrease from last year.

On the other end of the scale later in the day, Moody’s released a report finding school districts are in better financial shape in part thanks to an increase in allowable growth under the state’s tax cap.

In all, it’s some comparatively good news for school districts in New York that have struggled to make up ground in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that led to an economic recession and decreased revenues.

“While it is welcome news that so few school districts across the state have been classified as in fiscal stress, school officials should remain vigilant and carefully consider how their budgeting decisions will affect their long-term fiscal condition and local taxpayers,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

School districts have sought to make changes under the tax cap, which limits levy increases to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower. This year, the cap will grow to 2 percent for the newly 700 districts in the state.

“Overall, the number of districts seeking tax-cap overrides has declined over the five years since the cap has been in effect for a variety of reasons,” the Moody’s report found. “Those reasons include conservative budgeting and otherwise strong financial management, flat to declining pension contributions and increases in state aid.”

Challenges still remain for school districts in New York, especially in upstate regions. DiNapoli’s office found 8.3 percent of the districts facing tough finances are in central New York and 8.1 percent are in the long struggling Southern Tier region.

Cuomo’s $168 billion budget proposal increases school aid y $769 million, with foundation aid due to grow by $338 million. Advocates have often sought increases of more than $1 billion — a difficult figure to reach this year given the tighter finances for the state.

Group Finds NY Has Made Strides On Education Standards

A report released Thursday by a group that’s backed education standards found New York has made strides on the issue following several years of contentious debate in Albany.

The report found the state has, along with 19 other states that adopted the Common Core standards, kept those standards closely aligned with the national model.

“New York educators, parents, and community leaders spent the last two years reviewing and improving the standards without compromising what matters most – a quality education for all students. The Next Generation Learning Standards continue the high expectations of Common Core, without the political baggage of the name. Like the vast majority of states that undertook a review process, these standards are a local revision, not a replacement,” said Stephen Sigmund, the executive director of High Achievement New York. “Now we must ensure the smoothest possible implementation to give every student the chance to be on track for a successful future.”

The report found New York’s review of its standards was the longest and the most comprehensive and the state’s revised standards did not replace the controversial Common Core standards. At the same time, 41 states are still using education standards that are largely in line with Common COre.

Nationally, there are 21 states in the country that have finalized their review of academic standards that remain similar to Common Core.

“Our members need skilled employees now more than ever, and our schools must provide our children with the skills necessary to compete outside the classroom,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “This study proves that New York is leading the nation – not only by setting high standards, but by taking the time to listen to parents and teachers about improving them. Together, these steps are paving the way for a successful future for our children and the economic growth of New York State.”

HANY — Much Ado Update (1) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Charter Schools Call SUNY Reg ‘Right Decision’ (Updated)

As teachers unions decry the teacher certification process rule for charter schools adopted by SUNY on Wednesday, charter schools are cheering the move.

“The Trustees made the right decision. The opportunity to offer specialty training and a pathway to certification is smart policy centered on flexibility and quality,” Northeast Charter Schools Network New York Director Andrea Rogers said. “Too many students are still waiting for their classroom hero. Let’s celebrate decisions focused on getting children the kind of educators they need.”

The New York State United Teachers union as well as the United University Professions are blasting the regulation for what they consider to be looser standards for certification.

But the charter group pointed to the regulations only impacting “high-performing SUNY charters” an “alternative route” to certification.

Updated: Add the state Education Department to those who are concerned with the certification regulations by SUNY.

“We strongly disapprove of today’s actions by the SUNY Charter Schools Committee,” said Chancellor Betty Rosa and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in a joint statement.

“With the adoption of the latest proposal, the Committee ignored our concerns and those of many others in education. Over the past several years, the Board of Regents and the Department have raised standards for our teachers and are working to uplift the entire profession through efforts such as TeachNY. This change lowers standards and will allow inexperienced and unqualified individuals to teach those children that are most in need – students of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities – in SUNY-authorized charter schools. Lowering standards would not be acceptable for any other profession; this is an insult to the teaching profession. With this irresponsible action, the SUNY Charter Schools Committee has eroded the quality of teachers in New York State and negatively impacted student achievement.”

Unions Knock SUNY’s Charter School Rules Change

Regulations adopted by the State University of New York’s committee on charter schools is illegal and allows unqualified teachers to work, the state’s umbrella teachers union group on Wednesday said.

The rules change allows for an increase in the number of required instructional hours for teachers who go through the charter school program to 160 hours, up from 30 hours. But at the same time, the regulations lower the amount of time for teacher candidate field experience and lessen requires for charter school certification for ESOL and special education.

There are additional issues the labor union has with degree requirements for teachers.

NYSUT is concerned the regulations essentially allow charter schools to have unqualified teachers in the classroom.

“The committee can amend this bad proposal until the cows come home, but it doesn’t change the fact that these regulations sell out the state’s most vulnerable children to score political points,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

The United University Professions, a union that represents SUNY professors, also criticized the move.

“In the face of overwhelming opposition to their first proposal, the committee came back with a proposal built to look like it addresses concerns,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “The bottom line is that SUNY intends to create an insulated and self-regulated system, which would contradict and undermine state and national efforts to raise standards and accountability in teacher preparation and certification.”

Student Need Not Keeping Pace With Resources, Superintendents Say

School districts are seeing improved financial situations, but that growth has not kept pace with the increasing needs of students, a report released Tuesday by the New York State Council of School Superintendents found.

“Our survey does show improvement in the financial condition of some school systems,” said Charles Dedrick, executive director of the Council. “But superintendents are reporting increasing needs among the students their districts serve and those needs are growing at a faster rate than gains in financial condition.”

A top priority among superintendents surveyed was funding and improving mental health services. The issue climbed to the top of the list of priorities for district leaders. Previously, they had cited helping struggling students as the top issue.

“While the funding and educational models of our schools have largely stayed the same, the needs of students and communities have continued to increase,” one superintendent from the Mohawk Valley told the survey. “We cannot simply maintain the status quo due to the increasing mental health, special education, and ELL [English Language Learner] needs while the fiscal conditions and employment prospects of our communities continue to worsen.”

Still, the financial picture for school superintendents has brightened somewhat amid an influx of state funding. Superintendents told the survey they will likely be able to allocate money for student services, instruction at each level, academic help and counseling as well as social work.

“State aid increases over the past few years have improved or at least stabilized the financial condition of most school districts,” said the group’s deputy director, Robert Lowry. “But many have not made much progress in recovering from damage they suffered during the Great Recession and now they are struggling to help their students with problems that start outside of school.”

Excelsior Scholarships Spur Change At Buffalo School

From the Morning Memo:

A private institution in Buffalo – Canisius College – is taking its cue from the state in attempting to make tuition more affordable for its students, announcing a plan to reduce its annual pricetag from $35,000 to $27,000 next year.

The $8,000 drop makes the cost of attending the school equal to what it was a decade ago. Canisius said it also plans to lower the cost of room and board by $2,000 a year.

School officials said the reason for the drastic move is declining enrollment, which is down more than 500 students from just six years ago.

“It holds the prospect of increased enrollment, that there will be more families and students who will take a look at Canisius and see how this education might be affordable for them,” President John Hurley explained.

The announcement comes just days after the state announced more than half of its public school students are attending college tuition-free this year, in part due to the new Excelsior Scholarships.

Hurley said he believes the program is in part responsible for Canisius coming up 50 students short of its projection for the incoming freshman class.

“Who were those students? They tended to be New York State residents and they tended to have family incomes between and $60-100,000, which is kind of the target area for the Excelsior Program,” he said.

Current students are not surprisingly pleased by the development.

“Especially in the grand scheme of things, when I’m taking out $200,000, $300,000 in loans in my future,” sophomore Adam Dryfhout said.

Cuomo Releases Results Of Compliance Study For Campus Sexual Assault Law

A New York study of its colleges and universities has found most schools are “significantly compliant” with the state’s law to protect students from sexual assault on campus. The governor’s office however, said there a number of concerns many institutions still need to address to come into full compliance.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Enough is Enough” law in 2015, which he called the “nation’s most aggressive policy” on the issue. The review of more than 240 schools found about 39 percent in full compliance and another 49 percent to be significantly compliant.

According to the report, 29 institutions were non-compliant, meaning their policies were deficient on the majority of elements. Schools with issues are required to submit an action plan within 30 days and submit documentation of full compliance within 60 days of notification from the state Office of Campus Safety.

The governor noted the study comes in the aftermath of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announcement she plans to revamp Obama administration guidelines regarding sexual assault and harassment.

“In New York, we know that sexual assault is a crime, and we will continue to hold our colleges and universities to the highest possible standards to ensure the safety of all New York students,” Cuomo said. “Regardless of the federal government’s dangerous actions to rescind Title IX protections, this state and this administration will continue to stand with and advocate for survivors, and we will not go backwards in the fight against sexual assault.”

The “Enough is Enough” law required colleges to adopt a uniform definition of affirmative consent, an amnesty policy to encourage students reporting sexual assaults, and comprehensive training for administrators, staff and students. The governor’s office said the study was just a preliminary review based on information the colleges and universities submitted.

A second phase, it said, will include an in-depth review of practices beyond documentation.


EnoughisEnoughPreliminaryReport_September192017 by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

Education Coalition Promises To Continue ‘Opt-Outs’

Claiming the Next Generation standards approved this week by the Board of Regents are “little more than a rebranding” of Common Core, a coalition of parent and teacher groups is vowing to continue boycotting New York’s standardized tests. NYS Allies for Public Education said the new standards do little to move away from the test-based accountability that spurred the Opt-Out Movement.

“Although there have been minor improvements that move us in the right direction, we continue to institutionalize a test-focused curriculum throughout our entire pre-k to high school education system,” Jeanette Deutermann, parent and founder of NYSAPE said. “We can do better.”

The coalition preferred a classroom-based system that focused far less on the importance of test results. Parents said throughout the public input process they stressed the importance of Opportunity to Learn (OTL) factors, such as class size, the number of guidance counselors and physical education officers.

They said the state ultimately opted not to use an OTL index.

“Our leaders are fixated on standards and assessments, not what is best for the growth and development of children. We cannot keep allowing money to drive critical decision making. Children are brilliant, natural learners, who love to explore, and teach us as well. Children and teachers should not be treated as standards or assembly-line products, but should be empowered to learn in ways that will change their lives and the world around them. Parents and children feel abandoned and opt out is the only way we can fight for what we expect and deserve,” Rochester parent Eileen Graham said.

Earlier this week, other parent, educator and stakeholder groups commended the new standards.