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How New York and California's Draft ESSA Plans Stack Up

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Guest Post by Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa

The first round of official state plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act may be in the books, but some other states have also released their draft ESSA plans to the public recently. Among the latter are two of the five biggest by K-12 enrollment California and New York—California, the largest, had 6.2 million students enrolled in public schools in 2015-16.

We broke down the California and New York draft plans, using the same six categories we've used to analyze the plans from the 15 states and the District of Columbia formally submitted to the U.S. Department of Education so far. You can seen the results below. (We haven't included the California and New York plans in our interactive presentation of ESSA plans since they aren't final.)

New York's Draft ESSA Plan

  • Goals: By 2021-22, using a performance index linked to performance on state English/language arts and math exams, the state wants to cut gaps between baseline index scores and the maximum index score by 20 percent. For example, on a 200-point index, the 2015-16 baseline index score for all students in grades 3-8 in E/LA is 91, and 20 percent of the 113-point gap between 91 and 200 points is 22 points; therefore, the state's goal is to have all students improve from 91 to 113 points on the index by 2021-22. The long-term goal is for all students and all student subgroups to reach 200 on the performance index. New York ultimately wants 95 percent graduation for all students and student subgroups, with disparate interim goals laid out for the 2021-22 year.
  • School Ratings: The state plans to sort schools into four categories: Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools, Targeted Support and Improvement Schools, Schools in Good Standing, and Recognition Schools. (The first two categories are used in ESSA's statutory language.)
  • Academic Indicators: Achievement index based on state tests; growth in English/language arts and math; graduation rate using four-, five-, and six-year cohorts; English-language proficiency index.
  • School Quality Indicator: The state plans to use chronic absenteeism at elementary, middle, and high schools. In addition, high schools will also be judged on a "college, career, and civic readiness" indicator, which will include dual enrollment credits and performance on "nationally recognized exams" as factors.
  • "N-Size": New York wants to use an n-size of 30 for accountability purposes, with one exception: For measuring participation rates on required state exams, the state wants to use an n-size of 40.
  • Testing Opt-Out: New York's draft plan calls for schools that miss the 95 percent participation rate on tests for all students or student subgroups to conduct a self-assessment and improvement plan. Schools that still miss the mark after doing so are subject to escalating requirements, including possible state involvement. However, the plan does not specify that these schools will be subject to any penalties from the state.

California's Draft Plan

California has been working on a district-driven accountability system for years. But its ESSA plan, which has been laid on top of that system, is still a work in progress.

  • Goals: The state hasn't yet set a big overall student achievement goal. Districts will play a role in setting their own interim goals.
  • Academic Indicators: California will use its state math and reading tests. The state is considering adopting a growth measure for elementary and middle schools. It also plans to use chronic absenteeism as an academic indicator. (Many other states also are using it as a school quality indicator, which can carry less weight towards a school's overall rating.)  The state is considering adding tests like AP and IB to a college- and career-readiness indicator for high schools. It will also use four—and potentially five year—graduation rates for high schools, and English-proficiency for all schools.  
  • School quality indicator: The state will use suspension rates, although these will be measured differently for elementary, middle, and high schools.
  • N-size: California is going with a minimum subgroup size of 30.
  • Rating system: California was one of the first states to embrace the idea of a dashboard. The state's system is complex, with districts getting different color-differentiated levels for each indicator. The state is still finalizing its approach to identifying the 5 percent lowest-performing schools
  • Opt-Out: The state board of education is still mulling how California will respond when fewer than 95 percent of students participate in tests. 

Video: ESSA Explained in 3 Minutes


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