The “loss of funding” concern due to low participation in test taking mania came up at the BOE meeting and at the local FB group recently. I think it’s appropriate time to patiently reiterate the facts.
The following text is a variation of the message the NYSED and, consequently, the BOEs have been circulating for the past two years. (Letter addressed to a member of the Executive Board of the West Hempstead Community Support Association, copied from the FB group):
From The Office of Accountability (NY SED)
Dear Mr. Martinez:
Thank you for your e-mail. The required student participation rate for ELA and mathematics for 2015 is 95%. However, in the event participation rate falls below 95%, State Education Department averages two years of participation rate. If the two year average participation rate is still below 95% the subgroup fails to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for that subject (English Language Arts or Mathematics). Participation rate for science is 80% and the two year average is used for science also.
The US Department of Education has made clear that when a district fails to ensure that students participate in required state assessments, the state education agency is expected to consider imposing sanctions on that district, including — in the most egregious cases — withholding programmatic funds. What sanctions to impose must be decided on a case by case basis, taking into account the degree and length of time the district has failed to meet participation rate requirements and the reasons for such failure. In most cases the first sanctions imposed will be those specified in a state’s ESEA waiver application, which in New York means a school could be identified as a Local Assistance Plan School if it fails to make AYP for three consecutive years for an accountability group on an accountability measure. Failure to make AYP could also contribute to a school becoming a Priority or Focus School and would preclude a school from becoming a Reward School.
Office of Accountability
The text is a summary of TITLE I regulations what districts can and can’t do with TITLE I grant. The complete regulations can be found online in the Student Information Repository System on many, many pages or in this 250-page pdf document.
TITLE I grant depends on how the formula of poverty is calculated, not on percentages of students taking tests. In 2013/14, the Malverne UFSD was granted $201,497 in TITLE I money. After 3 years of less than 95% participation, the NYSED “is expected to consider” how to “affect” 20% of the grant. So, considering the 2013 amount of the grant, $41K ($23 per pupil!) could be withheld from “programmatic funds.” They could be used differently than originally intended, but not taken away, as the poverty ratio hasn’t changed. TITLE I grant is not just a sum of money. It comes together with provisions allowing the stakeholders collaboratively develop a plan how to best use it.
Although the opt-outers’ main concern is the quality of education, we are concerned about the funds as well, of course. As a positive side effect of opting out we see eliminating the teacher evaluations that cost our residents $300K.
After regaining those funds, the stakeholders would be able to collectively develop programs, following and adjusting experiences of other school districts, among others the Mission Hill I mentioned at the very end of my previous post. The actual structure of regulations is not as rigid as it is being presented. There are many innovative approaches to doing business as usual. And they are, finally, gaining traction thanks to increased involvement of parents who, in return, are energizing educators.