Last week, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) joined several other states when it released its updated “Report Card” website as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Many of the new ESSA reporting requirements focus on increasing transparency and providing families, educators, and students with information about the performance of schools.
As a refresher, MDE’s ESSA accountability plan was approved by the US Department of Education on January 10, 2018. A primary purpose of the plan is to describe how MDE will identify public schools for support, which they did in August 2018.
Additionally, from December 2017 to April 2018, MDE convened three subcommittees, including a dashboard and data reporting committee that provided MDE with recommendations for improving the Report Card.
So what’s new about MDE’s Report Card? This post will describe the Report Card requirements under ESSA as well as describe the changes MDE made to it.
What are the New Reporting Requirements Under ESSA?
Whatever feelings you have about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), one of its most important contributions was that its data reporting requirements brought attention to the egregious and unacceptable inequities amongst different student groups in student academic achievement and growth. ESSA expanded on NCLB’s reporting requirements, now mandating all Report Cards include the following:
- Description of State’s Accountability System: The description must include the overall student achievement goal, number of students needed to be included for accountability purposes, list of accountability measures and how they will be weighted, how schools are selected for extra support, and what schools need to do in order to move out of improvement status.
- Foster Students, Homeless Students, and Military Students: For the first time, states will have to disaggregate student achievement data and graduation rates by these student groups.
- Long-Term ELLs: States and districts are required to report on the number and percentage of students who have been identified as ELL and attended school in the same district for at least five years without being reclassified as proficient in English.
- Per-Pupil Expenditures: States have to report how much they spend per student in each district and school, which could highlight spending inequities.
- Post-Secondary Enrollment: For the first time, states are required to report the post-secondary enrollment (where available) for students in the first academic year after their graduation.
- Cross-tabulation: States have to report the data so can it be “cross-tabulated,” so that stakeholders—like families, journalists, researchers, and policymakers—can more easily gain a nuanced understanding about student performance.
What’s Different About Minnesota’s Report Card?
Other than the data points described above (except Per-Pupil Expenditures) one of the biggest additions made to MDE’s report was the inclusion of a “My School” message section. According to MDE’s instructions, schools have up to 1,200 characters to tell their story about what makes their school stand out and how they are providing their students with an excellent education. This change by MDE was consistent with a recommendation Education Evolving made in a paper published last fall.
“My School” messages that were submitted to MDE by November 7 are visible on the Report Card. Starting in 2019, MDE will update the system quarterly as more schools send in descriptions or updates.
Another change is that information regarding how the school is doing on each of the accountability measures is on the school’s front page. The front page also has data about whether the school has been identified for support as well as student responses to the prompt “At my school, teachers care about students,” which is from the Minnesota Student Survey.
MDE’s Report Card also features new labels for each section of data. On the previous Report Card, the labels were very straightforward—Demographics, MCA/MTAS, Graduation Rates, etc. However, under the new Report Card, the labels pose a question that the user might have, and then the data under that section seeks to answer that question. Some of the questions are:
- Are students safe and engaged?
- What challenging classes are taken?
- Who works here?
- Are English learners progressing?
- Are students mastering standards?
In terms of the graphs and bar charts it appears MDE did not make any changes.
Fig. 1. Preview of the new Report Card website.
Changing the language is a feature that will be available in early 2019. Users will be able to change the language to English, Spanish, Somali, or Hmong. For more information about the new Report Card, read here.
In Education Evolving’s latest paper, Defining and Measuring Student-Centered Outcomes, we included several recommendations for improving the state’s Report Card. As Minnesota continues to update and refine the Report Card, we will be advocating for additional measures that tell a broader and deeper story of student outcomes and that also makes those measures more transparent and accessible for all educators, students, families, and other stakeholders.
Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on Minnesota’s ESSA state accountability plan, as well as relevant education policy topics related to ESSA nationally.