Fifteen States Turn in ESSA Accountability Plans: What Can Minnesota Learn?

Monday was the first, official deadline for states to submit their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plans. In total, fifteen states and the District and of Columbia (DC), submitted their plans to either the US Department of Education (USDE) or their governor for review. States that submitted the plan to their governor will have until May 3rd to officially turn it into USDE.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) did not submit the State’s plan on Monday. Instead, they opted to turn it in on September 18, USDE’s second and final deadline. However, since July 2016, MDE has done extensive stakeholder engagement and, from those meetings, have settled on chronic absenteeism for their SQ/SS indicator and laid out preliminary indicator weights.

What’s In Other States’ Plans?

Given that MDE has until September to submit its ESSA accountability plan, there is ample time to learn from the other states’ plans and, if necessary, make amendments or additions. To recap from our earlier posts, there are three primary areas or “big decisions” left up to states under ESSA, which they must address in their plans.

1. School Quality or Student Success (SQ/SS) “Fifth Indicator”: The measure(s) must be shown to contribute to student achievement or higher graduation rates, as well as differentiate schools from one another.

2. Indicators and Weights: In aggregate, the four required academic indicators—proficiency and growth for mathematics and reading, graduation rates, and English language proficiency—must count for “much more” than the fifth SQ/SS indicator. States can also choose to include other academic measures like proficiency and growth on science assessments.

3. Overall Rating System: Due to Congress’ repeal of the Obama administration’s final state accountability regulations, states are no longer required to provide each school with an overall summative rating. Rather, states can choose to identify schools for support by a summative school rating system or a dashboard of multiple measures.

Below are summaries of what the fifteen states and DC have indicated they intend to do, with regard to the three areas described above, in their state accountability plans, as well as some considerations for MDE.

Measures for the SQ/SS "Fifth Indicator"

Several states indicated that they intend to use chronic absenteeism for at least one of their SQ/SS measures. Additionally, as we have previously written about, a number of states noted that career and college readiness and/or 9th grade on track are two other measures they intend to include in their SQ/SS indicator. Some of the other measures are described below.

Postsecondary Entrance: Connecticut will measure the percentage of the graduating class that, by the end of their first year after graduation, has enrolled in a two or four year postsecondary institution. Vermont has a similar measure that examines the percentage of alumni who are “pursuing a career and college ready outcome” within 16 months of graduation.

Teacher/School Administrator Longevity: Michigan will measure the percentage of teachers employed in the same school for at least five years. Similarly, school administrator longevity measures the percentage of school administrators who are employed in the same school for at least four years.

Student Engagement: North Dakota will measure student engagement, via a survey, that is designed to “provide quick access to meaningful and actionable data at the school and district level to improve teaching and learning practices.” Nevada will also examine student engagement, but they will use a mixture of measures—chronic absenteeism, school climate, and high school readiness.

Future Measures: Colorado noted that, in the future, they want to include SQ/SS measures for climate, school safety, student and educator satisfaction, social-emotional learning, and workforce readiness. Illinois indicated that they plan to engage stakeholders in spring 2017 to create an SQ/SS measure that would focus on students in grades PreK-2.

Considerations for Minnesota: Given the state’s current data limitations, chronic absenteeism is likely the only viable SQ/SS measure that can initially be used. However, we recommend that MDE add to the state plan SQ/SS measures that they intend to implement in future years. There has been a lot of interest from MDE’s Committees and other stakeholders for the future inclusion of college and career readiness and student surveys measures.

Indicators and Weights

Growth v. Proficiency: Several states—Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Michigan—have chosen to weigh academic growth higher than academic proficiency. On the other hand, Tennessee has chosen to assign more weight to proficiency, while Vermont has chosen to weight them equally.

SQ/SS Weight: The allocated weight for the SQ/SS indicator varies by state and the number of measures identified for inclusion. For example, North Dakota has allocated 22 percent for student engagement, their only SQ/SS measure. Conversely, Louisiana has only assigned 5 percent to their SQ/SS indicator.

Other Academic Indicators: North Dakota has chosen to include GED completion as one of their high school academic indicators, assigning it 8 percent. Vermont and Illinois indicated that science will be added as an academic indicator, with both states allocating 5 percent.

Considerations for Minnesota: According to MDE’s most recent ESSA update, they are leaning towards placing “slightly more” weight on academic growth than proficiency. We recommend MDE consider placing significantly more weight on growth, given the growing body of research indicating that holding schools accountable for proficiency adversely impacts those serving low-income populations. MDE might also consider including other academic measures like dropout rates or GED completion, which would provide a more comprehensive academic view of students.

Overall Rating System

Summative School Rating: Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, and Tennessee will rank schools on an A-F system. New Jersey will do percentile rankings, DC will use a five-star system, and Massachusetts will use a hybrid approach of normative and criterion-referenced methodologies.

Dashboard: Oregon will use a dashboard approach that reflects “opportunities for students to learn, academic success, and college and career readiness.” And, even though they have submitted their ESSA accountability plan, California’s State Board of Education recently approved the California School Dashboard.

Considerations for Minnesota: Since states are no longer required to give each school a summative rating, we recommend MDE consider looking into creating a dashboard of multiple measures for identifying schools for support. This has the potential to shift identification from a system that relies primarily on test scores to one that employs a host of measures like social and emotional supports, engagement, and professional learning.

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