State Ed. Department and Regents Infringe on the Right of Struggling Students to Extra Support

You may not know this, but New York students who score below proficiency on state tests (i.e., kids who get 1s and 2s)—as well as students who are at risk of not meeting such standards—have a right, according to state education regulations, to extra supports to ensure they succeed. All of these students are entitled to “academic intervention services” (AIS), which may include tutoring, small group instruction, or even an extra class, and/or counseling and study skills help.

This extra support is vital to give some children the boost they need to master material and progress at grade level and graduate on time. It particularly critical when test scores have such high stakes attached to them — for students, teachers, and schools. Such extra help is also part of the “platform of extra services” that the court in the CFE litigation said was necessary to provide “at risk” students a meaningful opportunity for a sound basic education.

Last week however, in response to large numbers of students doing poorly on the tougher new statewide tests that were administered last spring, the New York State Education Department asked the Board of Regents (its boss) for permission to limit the number of students who would be eligible for AIS services during the current school year to approximately the same number who were eligible last year. The Regents approved the request even though the test results show that many more students need extra support to meet the more demanding new standards. Schools and school districts are now compelled to provide extra supports to only some of their students who score below proficiency.

At a time when the state is loudly touting its efforts to raise standards, this makes NO sense —that is, unless, you recognize that providing children with extra support to help them meet the new Common Core State Standards means more teacher time and expertise and would probably require the state legislature to provide local school districts with additional funds to be able to meet the needs of all the students who should now be eligible for these services.

Resources for sufficient, effective academic intervention services were already in short supply even before the recent Regents’ action. Research conducted by the Campaign for Educational Equity during the 2011-12 school year uncovered shocking deficiencies in schools’ ability to provide AIS (see pages 38-40) in high-need districts around the state. The state learning standards that year were lower, and, yet, even then, in every single school in our study, students struggling academically were being shortchanged on extra support.

This latest reduction of protections for vulnerable students is a big step in the wrong direction. Instead of providing school districts with permission to provide needed extra help to fewer students, the NYSED and Regents should insist that currently inadequate efforts be improved and expanded.

Is your school providing extra supports to all students who need them? Let us know!

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Know Your (Educational) Rights

At the Campaign for Educational Equity, we have been working hard over the past couple of years to help New Yorkers understand and safeguard students’ educational rights. Yes, our students have educational rights! These rights are granted not by the U.S. constitution but from the constitution of the State of New York. And they don’t disappear during hard economic times.

This is important. The state constitution says our students have rights that must be honored, regardless of the color of our skin, the size or value of our family’s bank account or home, where we happen to live, or whether we happen to be attending school during flush financial times or lean ones.

What educational rights are guaranteed to all New York students by the state constitution?

In December 2012, the Campaign published a report that, for the first time, analyzes all of the relevant judicial, legislative, and regulatory requirements and sets out in detail what resources, services, and supports every school must be able to provide for all of its students. State-required resources include such basics as enough qualified teachers to provide a complete curriculum, including art, music, and gym, and advanced and AP classes; class sizes that are appropriate to the needs of the students; and suitable facilities, including libraries and laboratories that all students can use.

We also released a major research study in which we investigated the availability of these constitutional resources in 33 high-needs schools throughout New York State. Following dozens of on-site school visits and interviews with administrators, teachers, and student-support staff, we found evidence of serious resource deficiencies that represented extensive violations of students’ rights. In the months since those reports debuted, funding inequities have not changed significantly, and schools are still unable to provide students with the basic educational resources to which they are entitled.

Starting today, and over the coming weeks, we are publishing some of our study’s findings in the form of user-friendly, two-to-four-page research briefs (in English and Spanish). We hope these short handouts will provide useful information to New Yorkers who don’t have the time to read through our lengthy reports.

When you see our initial summary brief (available now!) and the issue-specific briefs that will follow, you may get angry about the educational injustices they point out, you may be disappointed in New York State’s perennial failure to honor children’s educational rights, but we hope you will not stop there.

Please use and share these briefs to raise awareness among your friends and family members, at your school, at community meetings, in your blog writing and social-media posts. Make sure other New Yorkers know their educational rights, so that we can work together to secure the resources to ensure all New York children the educational opportunities they deserve and on which all of our futures depend.

Some upcoming issue briefs:

School Facilities
Class Size
Resources for English Language Learners

Welcome to the Campaign for Educational Equity blog!

We are a research and policy center at Teachers College, Columbia University, that strives to define and secure comprehensive educational opportunities for all children. Headed by education scholar and legal advocate Michael A. Rebell and policy director Jessica R. Wolff, the Campaign is focused on achieving systemic change through research, legal work, policy development, and advocacy.

We hope this blog will serve as a catalyst for conversations around students’ rights, school resources, and educational opportunities. We will use the posts to share our work with you — parents, students, educators, elected officials, advocates, community members, media, researchers, CBOs, school officials. Additionally, taking a national perspective but with a focus on New York, we will share our analysis of education news from around the country and how these issues affect students. You can also expect posts from guest bloggers, including students and teachers.

To learn about the Campaign’s Safeguarding Sound Basic Education project, check out our recent Essential Resources and Deficient Resources reports, which enumerate the resources constitutionally required for a meaningful education and document the extent to which students across the state have (or lack) access to these basic resources. And please sign up to join our listserv, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for your interest and for joining us and our guest bloggers in an important dialogue to help solidify and secure students’ rights.