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Connecticut Approves New School Accountability System

Connecticut's state board of education approved a new accountability system Wednesday that factors in several indicators other than just test scores and simple graduation rates, according to the Hartford Courant

Among them: post-graduation career preparedness, college enrollment, the percentage of chronically absent students, physical fitness, and access to arts. In addition, the indicators include three ways of measuring graduation rates such as whether freshmen are on track to graduate and the four- and six- year graduation rates. 

Each indicator is given a value, and schools are ranked on an index based on the amount of points accumulated, according to the Courant.  

The former accountability system was criticized by school district officials as only giving a "snapshot" of a moment in time. 

"Our new accountability system will tell a deeper, truer story of how well a school is preparing its students for success in college, career and life," Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell said in a statement. "The new system moves beyond test scores and graduation rates to provide a more holistic, multifactor perspective of district and school performance. It also shows where we need to invest more time and resources to help kids in the greatest need and where we can celebrate and share school success stories."

Also, as part of the new accountability system, the state categorizes schools as "excelling," "turnaround," or "focus" schools. 

While states have more flexibility in the coming years to create their own school and teacher accountability systems under the recently signed Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, some—including California and Alaska—already are in the process of revising their systems in ways that may or may not satisfy the law. The U.S. Department of Education has not yet said what it will regulate on, when regulations will be finalized, and when state accountability plans will be due and approved. 

California board members, for example, are considering a plan that would evaluate schools based on several indicators, but would not include an index performance rating. 

Alaska board members are considering an accountability system that would give more power to principals and superintendents to evaluate teachers, according to former Commissioner Mike Hanley.  

In a Q&A, posted on the Connecticut Education Department's website, administrators said that state's revised system was built with the new regulations with the new law in mind. 

"In fact, Connecticut's new accountability system is well aligned to the requirements for accountability indicators under ESSA," the post says. "We are still awaiting guidelines from the federal government on exactly what the new legislation means for Connecticut once the state's Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver expires and the new law takes effect."


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