A Look at State Accountability Plans Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

This is the second in a series of blog posts that will look  at the changes made by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal law that replaces No Child Left Behind, and what they might mean for Wisconsin schools.

Effective with the 2017-18 school year, under the ESSA states must have in place state accountability plans that, among other things:

  • Provide an assurance that the state has adopted challenging academic content standards in mathematics, reading or language arts and science  (and other subjects for which the state wishes to adopt standards) and has aligned those academic achievement standards with entrance requirements for higher education in the state and with relevant state career and technical education standards;
  • Demonstrate that the state education agency (i.e., the DPI), in consultation with local educational agencies, has implemented a set of high quality student academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science that are aligned with the challenging state academic standards, and provide coherent and timely information about student attainment of such standards and whether students are performing at grade level. (Each state retains the right to implement such assessments in any other subject chosen by the state.);
  • Ensure that assessments in mathematics and reading or language arts are administered math in each of grades 3 through 8 and at least once in high school, and that assessments in science at least once during grades 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12; and
  • Establish a state-determined methodology to identify one statewide category of schools for comprehensive support and improvement, which shall include:  the lowest-performing 5 percent of all schools in the state receiving Title I funds; all public high schools where the (four-year cohort) graduation rate is 67 percent or less; and public schools in which subgroup students are struggling.  States will generate this list at least once every three years. States must notify each school district of any school within the district in which any subgroup of students is consistently underperforming.

State accountability systems will be designed and implemented in consultation with local school districts and other stakeholders, but must contain certain elements. The concept of adequate yearly progress (AYP) is replaced by state-defined long-term goals that are “ambitious” and include measures of interim progress. The goals and interim measures will continue to apply to all students and individual subgroups of students. At minimum, goals will be set for:

  • improved academic achievement based on proficiency on assessments and may include measures of student growth;
  • high school graduation based on the adjusted four-year cohort formula. States may also include goals for extended year adjusted cohort;
  • another academic indicator for elementary and middle schools;
  • increased English proficiency for ELLs; and
  • at least one indicator that allows for “meaningful differentiation” among schools and is valid, reliable, and comparable across the state, such as student engagement, high-level course completion, school climate, etc.

States must also design an index for weighting the indicators it chooses for accountability purposes, in which  the academic indicators (in aggregate)  must receive “significant” weight.

Next…  A Closer Look at Testing under ESSA.