ESSA draft: Schools to pick their own accountability measure

BLACKFOOT — Local school leaders may get to decide how their school is rated next year.

According to Idaho’s new draft plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, educators can choose either student test proficiency or student growth as a way to measure their school’s success.

“Both [proficiency and growth] are important,” said State Department of Education chief policy officer Duncan Robb. “This is our attempt to allow schools to consider both in terms of accountability.”

Robb and other state officials met in Blackfoot Wednesday to give educators their first glimpse of the draft plan, which includes several other proposed ESSA compliance measures. Officials spent much of the meeting walking roughly 45 attendees through the plan, including the process of determining the 5 percent lowest performing schools in the state.

Roughly 45 educators attended Tuesday's meeting
Roughly 45 educators attended Tuesday’s meeting

To identify low-performing schools, officials said, standardized test scores and other data will be used to measure student proficiency and growth in five key areas:

  • Math
  • English language arts
  • Graduation rates
  • English learner growth
  • School quality and student success

Schools will then be ranked based on their proficiency and growth in these areas. (A method for measuring school quality and student success has yet to be determined.)

School’s then choose what’s best for them — either proficiency ranking or growth ranking. The state will then average a school’s percentile scores in each key area for an overall state ranking.

Some of the teachers took issue with the proposed accountability model, arguing that the growth indicator compares two separate cohorts — something, they said, leads to an apples to oranges comparison.

Officials reminded attendees that the major purpose of the meeting was to gather concerns and feedback regarding the plan, though they also defended certain aspects of the proposed accountability model.

“Some schools need to focus on growth — others need to focus on proficiency,” said associate deputy superintendent Marcia Beckman.

School testing constitutes another change that could come as a result of ESSA. Currently, Idaho sophomores are required to take the ISAT by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. However, ESSA relaxes standardized testing requirements by giving states the option to collect data for other tests, including the ACT and SAT — as long as the tests comply with standards being used in the classroom.

There’s a good chance Idaho could allow districts to drop the ISAT and adopt either the SAT or ACT. State officials say they are waiting to make that call until they see how other states’ proposals pan out with the federal government. They also say any changes to which  standardized test is given in high school requires approval by the State Board of Education.

“Currently, other states are in that very process,” said State Department of Education interim assessment director Karlynn Laraway. “If it happens for them, then we’ll know it could happen for us.”

Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr attended Wednesday’s meeting and said she has yet to read the entire ESSA draft plan (officials uploaded it just hours before Wednesday’s meeting), though she said a step toward more local control is a step in the right direction.

Other topics on the draft plan include academic standards and assessments, as well as teacher and student support measures.

Here are the next four meetings to preview and discuss the draft plan:

Forum schedule (all events run from 6-8 p.m. local time)

  • Today: Jerome Joint School District Office, Administrative Conference Room, 125 Fourth Avenue West, Jerome.
  • Nov. 3: King Fine Arts Center Little Theater, adjacent to the Cassia County Joint School District Office, 1 Bobcat Boulevard. Burley.
  • Nov. 7: Moscow Middle School, Room 108, 1410 E. D St., Moscow.
  • Nov. 9: Canyon Springs High School, Caldwell School District, 516 N. 11thAve., Caldwell.

Idaho’s timeline and deadlines for complying with ESSA

  • November 2016: Public forums (see schedule above).
  • December 2016: The State Board of Education is expected to vote on whether to approve the state’s ESSA plan.
  • February or March 2017: SDE officials will review feedback; incorporate any relevant changes into the state plan and then, potentially, resubmit it to the State Board of Education for final state-level approval.
  • March 2017: Deadline to submit the state plan to the U.S. Department of Education.

The state is also collecting feedback for the proposal here.

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