Helping Students Thrive: Shifting Accountability Policy in Transfer Schools
Current Transfer School Evaluation Policies Hurt Students
Transfer schools play a critical role in fighting racial injustice in our education system. Compared to traditional high schools, they serve a disproportionately higher number of Black and Latinx students, including youth with disabilities, students who face housing insecurity, and English language learners—students who are systematically denied the opportunity to thrive in a traditional public school setting. But when the New York State Department of Education evaluates transfer school performance, they label many as failing because the one-size-fits-all evaluation system simply does not make sense for these unique schools.
As a result, transfer schools waste valuable time and resources appealing their evaluation, instead of focusing on what matters most: supporting their students.
Too often, this evaluation system means that transfer schools are left with little to no additional funding or needed support. The system also leads to problematic incentives for transfer schools—ultimately hurting New York students who have already been failed by the education system.
Why Fairer Transfer School Evaluation Policies are Critical to Student Success
Transfer schools offer personalized instruction, important and tailored student support services, paid internships and more. But while transfer schools have proven that they help students learn and thrive—research shows they help reduce the dropout rate, support academic progress, and create supportive learning environments—they are evaluated unfairly based on metrics that don’t reflect their proven success. Under ESSA, NYSED’s evaluation system uses data such as:
- student performance BEFORE they joined their transfer school
- 4-year graduation rates, which unfairly punish students who are making up for lost time
- testing that doesn’t reflect student learning
- attendance rates, even though many of these students also work or serve as caregivers
This evaluation system upholds and worsens our education system’s racist status quo. It punishes schools for serving the exact students they are meant to serve—including a greater proportion of marginalized students—and serving them well. Our transfer schools deserve a school evaluation system that is tailored to them, ensuring they can focus on what they do best: delivering high-quality, personalized education to our students.
What We’re Doing
Eskolta has worked on transfer school-related advocacy for nearly a decade. Here is some of our progress and the steps we’ve taken to work toward creating a fair accountability system.
Collaborated on and produced actionable recommendations for the NYC Mayor
Collaborated on and produced actionable recommendations for the NYC MayorJanuary 1, 2014
Eskolta worked with the A+ NYC coalition that came together to put together educational policy recommendations for then-incoming mayor Bill de Blasio.
Facilitated principal working group to study and call for needed change
Facilitated principal working group to study and call for needed changeJanuary 1, 2014
Working with the New York City Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Readiness, Eskolta helped facilitate the Transfer School Council, a group of transfer school principals who worked together to study metrics and recommend changes to New York City’s accountability system for transfer schools.
- The Council produced Transfer School Accountability Recommendations, a compilation of key proposals for metrics, structures, and approaches to accountability for transfer schools.
Convened charter schools around accountability recommendations
Convened charter schools around accountability recommendationsJanuary 1, 2015
Eskolta offered thought partnership to charter schools through a series of meetings. Through these working sessions, charter school leaders created recommendations for how accountability data should be considered during charter renewals.
Convened members of the transfer school community to engage in research and advocacy
Convened members of the transfer school community to engage in research and advocacyJanuary 1, 2017
Eskolta launched NYC Educators for Better Alternatives, a coalition of transfer school educators, community partners, and alumni, to study and advocate for better alternatives within the public education system for students failed by traditional high schools.
- Classroom Resource: In collaboration with NYCEBA educators from several transfer schools, developed a curriculum guide exploring students’ experiences in transfer schools and examining issues of systemic inequalities and the role of transfer schools in public education. Studying Resilience: A Curriculum for Participatory Action Research at Transfer Schools | Eskolta
Collaborated with students on research and advocacy through the Discovery School Project
Collaborated with students on research and advocacy through the Discovery School ProjectJanuary 1, 2017
With students as co-creators, NYC Educators for Better Alternatives designed a survey to understand and highlight the experiences of overage, under-credited students and how transfer schools in New York City offer unique environments, pedagogy, and curricula that build on students’ strengths and support them in overcoming obstacles. A group of seven students helped conduct a preliminary analysis of the 800+ responses from over 20 schools that they presented to educators at our 2018 Transfer School Conference.
In partnership with with the Center for American Progress, published a national analysis of alternative schools and data-backed recommendations for better evaluating alternative high schools
In partnership with with the Center for American Progress, published a national analysis of alternative schools and data-backed recommendations for better evaluating alternative high schoolsJanuary 1, 2018
Blueprint for Accountability Systems for Alternative High Schools | Center for American Progress, Eskolta
- The team presented findings from the report to partners and stakeholders at the 2018 Alternative Accountability Policy Forum.
Published research findings highlighting the challenges students face in navigating NYC alternative high schools
Published research findings highlighting the challenges students face in navigating NYC alternative high schoolsJanuary 1, 2020
And Still They Rise | CUNY Graduate Center
Conducted research through a participatory process with educators, students, alumni, and community partners on the experiences of students in NYC alternative transfer schools
Conducted research through a participatory process with educators, students, alumni, and community partners on the experiences of students in NYC alternative transfer schoolsJanuary 1, 2020
- Presented findings to educators and advocates at the 2020 Reaching At Promise Students Association (RAPSA) conference.
- Hosted an online panel discussion to explore findings from the research.
Hosted virtual information sessions to build understanding and momentum
Hosted virtual information sessions to build understanding and momentumJanuary 1, 2021
Eskolta presented sessions about the accountability crisis for transfer school educators and advocates.
Began Transfer School Alumni Study
Began Transfer School Alumni StudyJanuary 1, 2021
(ongoing) – a quantitative and mixed-method study to understand how transfer school alumni define their successes and challenges.
Drafted a set of recommendations for building an Ethical Framework for alternative school accountability
Drafted a set of recommendations for building an Ethical Framework for alternative school accountabilityJanuary 1, 2021
Below we’ve compiled a set of resources that make a strong case for rethinking New York’s approach to alternative school accountability.
- Slides from our recent ESSA informational session. These slides explain how traditional schools fail to serve all students, why transfer schools are so important, how the current policies penalize transfer schools and ideas for how to move forward.
- Video of our recent ESSA informational session. This presentation explains the accountability crisis in less than 30 minutes.
- National scan deck. This resource breaks down key findings about what other U.S. states are doing to help set the scene for our work.
- Publications. The following help explain the accountability crisis.
- Blueprint for Accountability Systems for Alternative High Schools – Eskolta, Center for American Progress
- Minding the Gap – A-Game
- I Hope I Make It: Alternative School Students’ Attendance and the Need for an Expanded Accountability – University of Chicago
Recommendations for an Ethical Framework for Alternative Accountability
Beginning spring of 2021, Eskolta developed a set of recommendations to revise how transfer schools are held accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These recommendations are based on a national scan of alternative accountability systems, relevant research, Eskolta research and expertise, and conversations with New York City alternative school educators, partners, families, and alumni.
Get in Touch
If you are interested in getting involved or have questions, resources, or ideas to share related to alternative school accountability, reach out to Jessica Furer at email@example.com