State officials prepare to identify lowest-performing schools

State education leaders will publicly identify Idaho’s lowest performing schools next month as part of a new accountability plan.

As a provision of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, state leaders will single out 24 or more schools, the lowest performing 5 percent of public schools. The announcement is likely to occur around Aug. 15, said Karlynn Laraway, the State Department of Education’s director of assessment and accountability.

That same week, SDE will also identify all schools that fall short of the 67 percent graduation rate benchmark. The SDE will also celebrate high-performing schools, identifying schools that perform in the top 90th percentile of each school quality indicator, and schools that meet or exceed the state’s interim progress goals.

The lowest-performing schools will be identified based on several criteria — student achievement, student growth, graduation rates, English proficiency and school quality and success indicators such as college-readiness metrics and the new K-8 surveys.

The point isn’t to shame low-performing schools or encourage parents to pull their children out of school. Instead, the goal is to provide assistance and resources as these schools implement a plan for improvement.

Once a school is identified, it will be classified for comprehensive support and improvement for three years. The state’s technical assistance team will work with the schools to develop and implement a turnaround plan. The state will provide each school an educational coach, and a share of about $2.1 million in federal funding, SDE federal programs director Karen Seay said.

“One of the strengths of Idaho’s school improvement system is this ongoing, close connection with the schools,” Seay said.

SDE officials were still finalizing test participation data last week and have not finished calculations to determine the low-performing schools. Once a school is identified, Laraway and Seay encourage building leaders, school board members, parents and community residents to have open discussions about the designation, and the steps that are being taken to improve student achievement.

“We want parents to know that the schools are getting as much support and resources as the state can offer, and that the one-on-one (educational) coach will be very critical (for that support),” Seay said.

Idaho has been without an accountability plan for much of Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra’s four years in office. State leaders approved the new accountability plan last fall, and the feds approved it as part of the ESSA consolidated state plan in March.

The accountability plan, based on feedback from Idaho teachers and taxpayers, replaces the unpopular five-star rating system repealed under previous state superintendent Tom Luna.

Idahoans who testified at public hearings in 2016 and 2017 said they wanted an accountability plan based on multiple measures of school quality and student achievement, not a single high-stakes test score.

Ybarra and State Board of Education President Linda Clark used this feedback to push back against basing an accountability plan on a single, summative rating — as was the case with the five-star rating system.

“The state was really clear it wanted an accountability system for all schools,” Laraway said.

In order to exit the lowest performing schools list, a school will need to improve from the lowest 5 percent criteria by 2021. In addition to clearing that threshold, those schools would need to achieve math and English language arts results above the 20th percentile in each school category and submit a plan in writing to sustain improved student achievement.

SDE school identification timeline:

Phase 1, About Aug. 15:

  • Identification of the lowest 5 percent of public schools.
  • Identification of the top 10 percent of public schools.
  • Identification of the “goal makers” schools, schools that meet or exceed the state’s interim goals.

Phase 2, week of Sept. 4:

  • Identification of targeted support and improvement schools that show achievement gaps among student subgroups. For these schools, districts will intervene, with support from the state.

Phase 3, December 2018:

  • Rollout of a revamped K-12 public school report card.

Clark Corbin

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