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GJSD awaits its ESSA designation

Nicole Panton, Greater Johnstown School District director of curriculum and professional development, addresses Every Student Succeeds Act designation standards in a presentation to the Board of Education on Feb. 12 at Johnstown High School. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District is waiting on its ESSA designation, a federal program which measures district achievement.

ESSA is the acronym for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

According to the state Education Department website, this federal program provides supplemental financial assistance to school districts/schools with a high percentage of children from low-income families, to provide all children a significant opportunity to “receive a fair, equitable, high-quality education and to close educational achievement gaps.”

Districts receive ESSA designations and Nicole Panton, the Johnstown district’s director of curriculum and professional development, presented an overview of the educational accountability system to the Board of Education on Feb. 12 at Johnstown High School.

“It is not released yet,” Panton said of Johnstown’s latest designation, but it was expected soon.

ESSA is the federal initiative that replaced the longtime federal No Child Left Behind program. It is a law that outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools. Achievement and growth is measured by such indicators as: academic achievement, student growth, academic progress, graduation rates, English language proficiency, chronic absenteeism, and college, and career and civic readiness

School designations include highest performing schools and schools in good standing, which Johnstown was designated last school year. Other designations include Comprehensive Support Improvement, or CSI school, for the bottom 5 percent of schools; or Targeted Support Improvement school, or TSI, for schools that place higher.

Signed by then-President Barack Obama on Dec. 10, 2015, ESSA reauthorized the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law built on key areas of progress in recent years by educators, communities, parents and students across the country. It covers six main areas: no more high stakes; more state and district control; multiple measures; measuring growth rather than proficiency; highlighting achievement gaps without punishing underserved students; and opting-out and the 95 percent participation rate, with states deciding what happens if the rate isn’t met. ESSA puts more onus on the states.

“We have a yearly self-assessment we need to be doing,” Panton said.

Panton said the Johnstown school system could be identified in 10 subgroups. She said the system includes accountability indicators such as: student academic achievement, student growth, academic programs, and graduation rates. Other indicators include: English language proficiency, chronic absenteeism, college careers, and civic readiness.

The Johnstown district has seen improvement in absenteeism, Panton said.

With ESSA, there are even indicators that special education students can achieve, she said.

Panton said the new accountability wants students not to achieve just Regents diplomas, but other achievements nowadays.

“This is an accountability system that is built on equity, not equality,” she said.

New York state looks particularly at the consistently low-performing subgroups to see how they can be improved, Panton said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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