Differentiated Accountability: An Overview

The Need for a Differentiated Accountability Model

School districts in New York currently have an excellent record in successfully exiting schools from accountability status when these schools have been identified for improvement for a single accountability group on a single accountability measure. However, when schools are identified for multiple reasons or for the performance of the “all student” group, the success rate for making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is dramatically decreased. In the 2006-07 school year, for example, a school newly identified for the performance of a single accountability group on a single accountability measure was eight times more likely (73% versus 9%) to make AYP than a school that was in the restructuring phase because of the performance of the “all student” group.

This data shows a clear need for districts and the New York State Education Department (SED) to utilize differentiated strategies of support and intervention to meet the needs of these very different types of schools. In the case of schools where only a single group of students needs to be targeted, districts and schools can benefit from a process that focuses on self-assessment, gives schools considerable latitude to develop improvement plans, and makes districts primarily responsibility to ensure the plan’s successful implementation. In contrast, when schools demonstrate systemic and persistent failure, the SED must provide districts with experts who can partner with districts to guide and direct improvement strategies, which include the fundamental restructuring of and sometimes the phasing out and closing of schools.

The Benefits of Differentiated Accountability

Implementation of Differentiated Accountability will permit SED to do the following:

Expected Outcomes

By implementing this plan, New York expects to be able to reallocate resources and better differentiate interventions so as to substantially increase the number of schools that make AYP and move more aggressively to close, phase out or fundamentally restructure those that do not. The goal of the plan is to reduce to no more than 10 percent the number of schools in identification status by 2012-2013.

How New York’s Differentiated Accountability Model Will Work

New York State’s differentiated accountability model bases accountability designations on both the degree to which a school manifests systemic failure of groups of students to make AYP and the length of time such failure has persisted. The model creates three distinct phases of improvement that are based on the number of years a school fails to make AYP: Improvement, Corrective Action and Restructuring. In addition to these phases, SED will continue to identify those schools farthest from State standards and most in need of improvement for Registration Review (SURR). Within each phase a school utilizes the findings of a specific diagnostic and/or support (School Quality Review, Curriculum Audit, and Assignment of a Joint Intervention Team or Distinguished Educator) to create and implement a school improvement plan. A school moves from one phase to the next phase when it fails to achieve AYP for two years. SURR schools that fail to make progress will be accelerated into the NCLB restructuring phase and may be assigned a distinguished educator. Under this proposal, the rigor of the interventions as well as the intensity of district and SED oversight increases as a school moves from one phase to the next.

The three phases are further differentiated into three categories (differentiated by the number of accountability measures and student groups not making AYP): Basic, for the Improvement phase only; Focused; and Comprehensive. Each category is determined by the degree to which there has been systemic failure of groups of students to make AYP. The depth, scope and comprehensiveness of the intervention as well as the primary provider of support, oversight and intervention vary by phase of improvement and category. In particular, this model is designed to empower districts and give them the support and assistance necessary to take primary responsibility for developing and implementing improvement strategies in schools that are not persistently failing to make AYP with large groups of students. In such instances, districts will have considerable flexibility to work with schools to design improvement plans that are tailored to the specific circumstances of the school. By simultaneously giving districts both greater latitude and more responsibility for addressing this group of schools, the SED provides both itself and the district a greater ability to concentrate resources on those schools that need more comprehensive interventions in order to ensure improvements in student performance.

If failure persists or becomes more systemic, the SED and its agents will enter into partnership with the district to improve student performance through the creation of a JIT. Ultimately, if failure continues to persist, the SED may assign a DE and direct how the district addresses the needs of students, which may include requiring the closure or phasing out of a school.

These interventions are designed to provide a school with the resources, time and expertise needed to improve to have all students meet proficiency in ELA and mathematics by 2013-2014. Meanwhile, progression along the school improvement continuum ensures that a school that consistently fails to make AYP does not continue to operate.

Transition Rules for 2009-2010

Schools new to accountability status in 2009-2010 will enter the first phase of improvement in the differentiated accountability model. Schools that have been identified previous to 2009-2010 will transition from their current accountability status into one of the three phases of the differentiated accountability model without starting over in the intervention timeline. The number of years that a school has failed to make AYP and the school’s 2008-2009 accountability status will determine the phase of improvement that the school will enter in 2009-2010. Schools that made AYP or are entering the second year of a phase will continue to implement intervention that was initiated in 2008-2009, with modifications if necessary. When a school enters the next intensive phase, the accountability measures and student groups for which the school has been identified will determine its category. The category is re-established upon entry into each two-year phase.

Both the current and the proposed models are based on the number of years that a school has failed to make AYP. The design of the new model is based on practices shown to be effective in the current model. The phases of improvement in the proposed model complement those currently in practice and therefore, support a seamless, smooth transition.


An annual evaluation will be conducted to assess both the implementation and outcomes of the proposed differentiated accountability system. To evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of the differentiated accountability model, the current State data repository system will be used. During the 2009 calendar year, SED intends to negotiate and enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with a State University of New York (SUNY) Research Center, including deliverables. In the 2009-2010 school year, the evaluation will focus on implementation. From 2010-2011 and forward, the evaluation will assess both the implementation and outcomes of the differentiated accountability system. This evaluation will provide annual reports of findings and recommendations.


As required by NCLB, SED allocates Title I School Improvement funds to the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) for schools identified for improvement. This funding is to be used by designated LEAs and schools to support the implementation of the goals and objectives identified in the required School Improvement, Corrective Action and Restructuring plans under the NCLB Act of 2001. Under the differentiated accountability model, SED will continue to use 1003(a) and 1003(g) funds as permitted by law. State funds will also continue to be used to provide planning grants to schools that have been designated as SURR. In addition, under Chapter 57, districts with at least one school in improvement-year 2, Corrective Action or Restructuring phases that receive certain increases in total foundation aid or supplemental education improvement plan grant are required to submit a Contract for Excellence (C4E). Commissioner’s regulations require that identified schools receive no less than their prorated share of a district’s C4E allocation, based on a school’s weighted need units. Therefore, schools in C4E districts, in which the vast majority of New York’s identified schools are located, that have the most intensive needs will have State funds allocated to support their research-based improvement strategies. Lastly, in addition to SED partnering with school districts, SED will seek to harness the resources that are available throughout the USNY, including institutions of higher education, as districts assume the central role in providing support to, intervening in, and monitoring the performance of schools.