Office of Accountability Newsline
Volume 2/Issue 9 - June 2019
This will be the last “From the Desk of the Associate Commissioner” column that I write, as personal circumstances compel me to retire this month. 
When I started at the New York State Education Department (NYSED or “the Department”) more than 37 years ago, there was no Office of Accountability because schools, districts, and individuals were, by and large, not held accountable for their performance by the Department. In 1981, the Board of Regents had recently implemented the requirement that students show minimal competency in order to earn a high school diploma, with students initially being required to pass the Basic Competency Tests and then the Regents Competency Tests. A structure to hold schools and districts accountable for student results largely did not exist.
What gave much momentum to the accountability movement in New York and the rest of the nation was the report entitled “A Nation at Risk,” which was released in April 1993 and which stated that, “Our Nation is at risk… the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.”
This report gave significant impetus to an educational reform agenda that was focused upon:
  • Raising educational standards, defined primarily in terms of language arts and mathematics
  • Using standardized assessments to measure student achievement in relation to these standards
  • Providing support to the lowest performing schools and districts to assist them to have their students meet these higher standards
  • Publicly reporting the results achieved by schools and districts in having their students achieve these higher standards; and
  • Holding schools and districts accountable for the results achieved by their students
By 1989, the Commissioner of Education had placed the first group of 43 public schools in New York under Registration Review, and by 1994 the Regents Advisory Committee on Low-Performing Schools had issued a report entitled “Perform or Perish,” which called for schools to either perform or perish and be replaced by institutions that will better serve students.
This structure of “standards, student assessment, reporting, technical assistance, accountability, and consequences” has been embedded in Federal educational policy since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and has driven much education policy for the past two decades.
In my personal experience the results of this paradigm have been mixed: it has driven additional attention and resources to the schools most in need of support; catalyzed school stakeholders to implement robust improvement efforts; shined a spotlight on underperforming schools and districts; and, in some cases, resulted in establishment of successor schools that are producing far better results than their predecessors. But these successes have not come without unintended consequences and diverted efforts. We have seen increased skepticism regarding the value of standardized assessments, a narrowing of curriculum, increased pressure on fragile educational institutions, improvement funds spent neither wisely nor well signifying very little, and the implementation of strategies that move the dial on accountability indicators without increasing actual student learning.
In the end, I believe there is value in having a system that seeks to support those schools in greatest need of improvement that is backstopped by a set of consequences when student achievement does not improve. At the same time, we should be humble and judicious in our use of such a system. As is Albert Einstein is attributed to have said, “Not Everything that can be Measured is Important, and Not Everything that is Important can be Measured.” The current state of accountability systems allows us only to make rough approximations about the degree to which schools are adding value to the education of students.
The work of the Office of Accountability this last decade has been to accurately identify those schools that can most benefit from additional support and engage their stakeholders in developing and implementing plans to improve student achievement. We have done this work to the very best of our ability within the confines of law and regulation. While my role in this work is ending, my colleagues shall continue to support you to achieve our common goal of ensuring that every child in New York State receives the best possible education.
Please click on the link to view the Board of Regents tribute to Associate Commissioner Ira Schwartz and Ira’s Farewell Speech to the Board of Regents.
The State Education Department recently identified 562 high achieving and high progress schools as Recognition Schools. Under New York’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan, Recognition Schools have high academic achievement, student growth and graduation rate, and have made progress during the 2017-18 school year. Each Recognition School will receive a certificate of recognition from State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. Find the list of Recognition Schools, information on the methodology by which the schools were identified, and details about the effort to foster equity under ESSA here.

For more information about Recognition Schools, please contact the Office of Accountability via e-mail at
On Thursday, June 13, 2019 the Office of Accountability released the 2019-20 Title I School Improvement Grant 1003 (Basic). Section 1003 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that State Education Agencies allocate funds to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) for Comprehensive Support and Improvement schools (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement schools (TSI), and Target Districts to develop a plan that will meet the progress goals in their 2019-20 District Comprehensive Improvement Plan (DCIP) and 2019-20 School Comprehensive Education Plan(s) (SCEP) and thereby improve student performance. These funds are to be used to support planning and implementation of school improvement activities as required in the ESEA.
The following districts/schools are eligible for 2019-20 Section 1003 Basic School Improvement funding: Title I Target Districts; CSI Schools; and TSI Schools. The list of identified districts and schools is available here . Eligible districts and schools will receive the following allocations for 2019-20:
  • Target District - $50,000 per district;
  • Comprehensive Support and Improvement School - $100,000 per school; and
  • Targeted Support and Improvement School - $50,000 per school.
2019-2020 Title I School Improvement Grant 1003 (Basic) funds are available for use from September 1, 2019 to August 31, 2020. Completed applications are due by Friday, August 30, 2019, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
For more information about the Title I School Improvement Grant, LEAs may contact the Office of ESSA Funded Programs via phone at 518-473-0295, and via e-mail at .
As the end of the school year approaches, and as Local Educational Agencies (LEA’s) begin planning for summer school, it is of the utmost importance to consider the summer school needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
Summer school offers an especially valuable opportunity for students to make up for lost time, re-take failed courses, gain extra credits and work toward timely graduation.
Please view the May 2017 NYS ESSA Field Memo for more information about summer school for homeless students. This memo reviews the central protections for students in temporary housing attending summer school, including:
  • access to summer school,
  • removal of barriers to summer school, and
  • transportation. 
For more information about McKinney-Vento Summer School, LEAs may contact Melanie Faby in the Office of ESSA Funded Programs via phone at 518-473-0295, and via e-mail at .
The Office of Field Support Services is providing this reminder that each Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) school must submit its School Comprehensive Education Plan (SCEP) and a scanned copy of the SCEP Development Team signature page to the Department for approval by Monday, July 1, 2019. CSI schools in need of an extension may request one by emailing .

Any questions pertaining to SCEP submissions may also be sent to .
Schools identified as Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) are not required to submit their School Comprehensive Education Plans (SCEPs) to NYSED for approval; instead, TSI SCEPs must be submitted to the district for approval. 
The district should keep a copy of the approved TSI SCEP and the TSI Needs Assessment (e.g. District-led DTSDE review) on file. NYSED will review a sampling of the TSI SCEPs and Needs Assessments to determine how best to support districts with TSI schools next year. Currently, TSI schools are not required to submit any documents to NYSED.
The Office of Field Support Services is providing this reminder that all Target Districts must submit their District Comprehensive Improvement Plan (DCIP) and the DCIP Planning Document to the Department for approval by Monday, July 1, 2019. Target Districts in need of an extension may request one by emailing .

Any questions pertaining to DCIP submissions may also be sent to .
All CSI and TSI schools are required to implement at least one evidence-based intervention in the 2019-20 school year. The Department has developed an online resource to support schools and districts with this requirement. 

The Department has also identified a number of interventions and strategies that would fulfill the evidence-based intervention requirement if implemented following parameters outlined by the Department. 

You may review the parameters outlined by the Department at: State-Supported Evidence-Based Intervention Strategies .
The Department has developed a series of short tutorials to assist districts and School Comprehensive Education Plans (SCEP) Development teams with the completion of their SCEP. These tutorials provide guidance on specific components of the SCEP development process. 

Each tutorial is presented in the list below in the order in which teams would address each component, with the first step being identifying the stakeholders that will work on the SCEP development team. 

While the tutorials focus on the development of the SCEP, districts completing the District Comprehensive Improvement Plan (DCIP), including those without any identified schools, should review the information contained in the last three tutorials, as these steps are also part of the DCIP development process.

The full tutorial series is as follows:
  1. Working with Stakeholders to Develop Your School Comprehensive Education Plan
  2. Reviewing Needs and Identifying Root Causes
  3. Selecting an Evidence-Based Intervention
  4. ESSA Indicator Option & Effective Practices Option
  5. Goals and Baseline Data
  6. Developing Actions to Meet Your Goals
  7. Identifying a Mid-Year Benchmark