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Groups Urge Focus on High-Achieving, Low-Income Students Under ESSA


Three prominent education advocacy organizations are urging states to make high-achieving, low-income students a priority by including student growth in their new accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

In a Dec. 13 letter, the Center for American Progress, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute also urge governors and chief state school officers to recognize in their accountability systems those high schools that help students get college credit. Incorporating such measures into state accountability, the organizations argue, "will ensure that all kids count," including disadvantaged students who exceed expectations but still depend on schools to ensure they are recognized and allowed to thrive.

"The challenge going forward is to devise accountability systems that raise the ceiling as well as the floor," the three groups say in their joint letter. "This is partly about fairness: It's wrong for any child to miss out on academic challenges at school, and we should do everything we can to develop the full potential of all our students."

To prioritize student growth, for example, the three groups say, "policymakers could, for example, create an 'achievement index' that gives schools partial credit for getting students to 'basic,' full credit for getting students to 'proficient,' and additional credit for getting them to 'advanced.'"

This isn't the first time folks have raised student growth and related issues in the context of ESSA, which allows states to use student growth in different indicators in ESSA school accountability, depending on a school's grade span. But proficiency has to be included in ESSA's academic achievement indicator for all grade spans. 

Democrats in Congress, for example, have lobbied for making ESSA regulations more friendly to student-growth measures. Last July, a group of researchers asked the U.S. Department of Education not to mandate the use of proficiency rates in ESSA school accountability. And Fordham President Mike Petrilli (one of three signatories on the letter, including CAP Vice President Catherine Brown and Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold Levy) has previously warned that making low-achieving students a bigger priority than high-achieving students can unintentionally hurt the latter.

Read the groups' full letter below: 

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