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ESSA Means the End of How These States Use 'Super Subgroups' for Accountability

One of the more interesting features of the era of waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act was that many states chose to use "super subgroups" for school accountability purposes. Super subgroups combine smaller subgroups of students often deemed low-performing or disadvantaged in some way, like the bottom 25 percent of students for academic performance. States liked the flexibility these super subgroups afforded in NCLB waivers, but civil rights advocates argued they allowed states to mask the performance of some student subgroups. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act changes the landscape for this issue. Under ESSA, these super subgroups can no longer be used in place of individual subgroups of students for accountability purposes. (Proposed ESSA regulations released last month put a fine point on this.) That naturally raises the following question: How many states will have to transition away from using super subgroups in the place of traditional subgroups, at least when it comes to federal accountability?

The Politics K-12 team, along with Daarel Burnette II of State EdWatch, surveyed all 50 states to get an answer to the question of how many states currently use at least one form of super subgroups for federal accountability. (Remember: ESSA won't fully kick in until the 2017-18 school year, although waivers themselves expire relatively soon, on Aug. 1 of this year.) Not every state got back to us with an answer to that specific question. But 43 states did respond. We compiled their answers and highlighted them on the map you can see below.

The final tally:

Twenty-five states said they use super subgroups for federal purposes. 

Eighteen states said they do not use super subgroups for federal purposes.

Seven states did not respond to our survey. (And states: If you have an answer for us that's not portrayed on our map, please let us know!)

Keep in mind that states that never obtained a waiver from NCLB, like California, have never had the option of using these super subgroups for federal purposes. 

For more on the transitions states face as they move from NCLB and NCLB waivers to ESSA, check out our write-up of a report released last month by the Center for American Progress.


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