The state Education Department is encouraging New Yorkers to review changes to its accountability plan​ required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The state Education Department proposed its plan Monday to restart federal accountability requirements for New York's 700 school districts while addressing ongoing disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Education officials modified the plan, meant to hold districts accountable through academic achievement benchmarks, by suspending some indicators, such as results for tests that haven't been administered since 2020.

"We've spent the last 18-plus months working through what that can and should look like," said Jason Harmon, deputy commissioner for the Education Department's P-12 Operational Support Office.

Federal school accountability requirements were suspended for the last two years because of the pandemic, but are returning for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. The state Education Department is finalizing its accountability plan for school districts with the goal of meeting federal testing and data reporting requirements. 

The state department wants teachers, parents and others to make comments on a few changes while the education system transitions into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Department of Education will send its final plan to the U.S. Department of Education in August for approval for the 2022-23 school year. Officials intend for it to be in place for one year, and continue to have ongoing discussions in the coming year about how indicators should look going forward.

"We are anticipating that the restart model that we've put forward that's out for comment right now will be a one-year solution," Harmon said. "We are hoping that it is a step, a small step, in a longer series of steps that will need to be taken."

The state Education Department revised the methodology in determining certain rankings while the education system remains in transition through the pandemic.

Data will be combined from the 2021-22 school year to determine student progress and college career or civic readiness.

"In 2020 and 2021... fewer tests were given, and some of the tests were changed, so that made it hard and inappropriate to rely on prior-year results in measuring how student performance or the performance of schools have changed," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the state Council of School Superintendents. "This plan is an attempt to recognize the impact of those facts on the state's accountability system and to make changes so that we have a fair system that's accurately representing how schools are doing."

The department will continue conversations with parents, teachers, principals, superintendents and school administrators to continue to devise a long-term model and how districts should be held accountable post-pandemic.

Lowry said the department and plan are on the right track to return to normal at some point in the near future.

"The primary focus isn't on satisfying requirements from Washington, it's doing the very best we can for every student, whatever their circumstances," Lowry said. "And if we do that, then hopefully, you know, we'll have the results to show for it."

The state applied for a waiver with the U.S. Department of Education to suspend making accountability determinations required in New York schools this year, but the federal department did not approve it amid concerns about the ongoing skills gap educators are seeing among students in the aftermath of the pandemic and remote instruction.

Officials with New York State United Teachers and the state School Boards Association are reviewing the plan and were not prepared to publicly share their thoughts on the proposal Tuesday. Both organizations will submit public comments and suggestions to the department by the end of next week.

The department will accept comments on the plan through Aug. 5.

“Accountability is a two-way street and for the process to be effective, there must be a system that focuses on continuous improvement through a sustainable partnership between our Department and schools and districts," SED Commissioner Betty Rosa said in a statement. "New York’s proposed plan to restart the accountability system accounts for the realities of the past three school years during the pandemic and how it affected the state’s ability to collect data on student learning. The accountability restart plan is required by federal law, and we will use it as a basis to continue to provide supports and resources to those schools and districts that most need them.”