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.



Below we’ve compiled a set of resources that make a strong case for rethinking New York’s approach to alternative school accountability.

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 

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