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!