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The Proposed ESSA Accountability Rules: What You Might Have Missed

If you're still reading up on the draft accountability rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act—don't worry, lots of folks are still going through the 192 pages and figuring out what they mean. Last week and in an online story posted Tuesday, we tried to pick out the key portions of the proposed ESSA regulations that would govern things like summative school ratings, turnarounds, and more.

Of course, this is far from a comprehensive list, we'll be wonking-out on this for days.

But below are just a few pieces of the draft rules that might have escaped your attention before the long Memorial Day weekend:

School Quality Indicator and 'Varied Results'

• We've focused quite a bit on how the much-discussed indicator of school quality and student success factors into the U.S. Department of Education's proposed ESSA rules for turnarounds and performance ratings. But here's another dimension of that indicator: In selecting such an indicator, which could be something like school climate, the indicator would be required to "produce varied results across all schools in order to support the statutory requirements for meaningful differentiation and long-term student success."

That means there has to be differences in outcomes when it comes to that new-to-the-mix indicator. States can't just give all schools an "A" for the school climate indicator. And importantly, the department singles out average daily attendance as one indicator that may not help distinguish struggling schools from their peers. 

The Timeline

• You might have heard that ESSA goes into full effect for the 2017-18 school year. And these ESSA draft rules make it clear that the "single statewide" accountability system must be up and running that year. As we mentioned previously there are two deadlines for state to submit their accountability plans: March 2017, for those states making relatively quick time in developing them, and July 2017 for other states.

That could put the Education Department, which will be under a new presidential administration, and potentially some states, in a tight spot. The new administration will have barely turned the lights on and made some key personnel decisions before having to review any plans submitted in March. And for those plans submitted in July, the 2017-18 school year will be right around the corner—so comprehensive reviews, with a lot of feedback and substantive changes to those plans, might be tough. 

Here are a few more details about the timeline for ESSA:

The schools needing "comprehensive support" must be identified as such beginning in the 2017-18 school year. Those schools are the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I schools; a high school failing to graduate at least a third of its students, and Title I schools with "consistently underperforming" subgroups that have failed to improve after previous interventions.

However, schools needing "targeted support," or those with "consistently underperforming" subgroups of students, would be identified for the first time in the 2018-19 academic year. 

Special Education in Accountability

The draft rules state that ESSA's language itself is "silent" on whether students who were previously identified as children with disability, but who no longer receive those services, can be included in the subgroup of students with disabilities for a period of time when calculating their performing on academic accountability measures.

The department notes that while the goal for English-language learners is for them to achieve English proficiency and exit English-learner programs, that's not necessarily the goal for students with disabilities. The department said it is specifically looking for comments as to how to handle students with disabilities after they are no longer identified as such, and whether they could be included in the special-education subgroup for up to two years after they exit special education services for accountability purposes (the current Elementary and Secondary Education Act regulations), or up to a shorter period of time.

There's a 60-day comment period for feedback on the proposed ESSA accountability rules, open from May 31 to Aug. 1.


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