House Education approves new school accountability system

Even those listening closely might have missed it, but the House Education Committee voted to approve the state’s proposed new school accountability system on Friday.

Education leaders from the State Department of Education and State Board of Education’s Accountability Oversight Subcommittee spent 2016 developing a new accountability system that would satisfy requirements from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The new accountability system is important because it is required under ESSA and because Idaho has been without a statewide accountability system since repealing the controversial five-star rating system in 2014.

The accountability system divides schools into three categories — kindergarten through eighth grade schools, high schools and alternative high schools. Under that system, school accountability will be based on multiple academic and school quality measures, not just a single high-stakes test or indicator.

Those measures include:

  • Four-year high school graduation rates.
  • Five-year graduation rates.
  • Proficiency rates on state assessment tests.
  • Reading proficiency rates.
  • Growth toward proficiency on assessments.
  • The percentage of eighth-graders enrolled in pre-algebra.
  • College and career readiness levels.
  • The results of a forthcoming parent satisfaction and engagement survey, and more.

The new accountability system is expected to govern public schools beginning in the 2017-18 school year. (The accountability system is available online, scroll down to page 116 to begin reading it.)

There was no debate over the accountability system Friday and no reference to the Every Student Succeeds Act or the changes the accountability system would bring. However, a subcommittee comprising four of the committee members discussed the accountability system in detail Jan. 16 and voted to recommend the full committee accept the administrative rule it is included in.

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Fast-forward to Friday, and the full House Education Committee voted to accept the subcommittee’s recommendation — taking official action that, in layman’s terms, amounted to approving the accountability system.

Only one chamber of the Legislature needs to approve an administrative rule for it to take effect, so the accountability system is on track to become effective when the legislative session adjourns — usually in March or April.

However, the State Board of Education is still expected to review the larger state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act that includes the accountability system. And Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra will be required to submit that state compliance plan — including the new accountability system — to the U.S. Department of Education for approval this spring or summer.

The State Board already approved the accountability system in August, while it was still under development.

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