Monday, February 22, 2016

Meshing SB 1 with ESSA? Some Challenges

| By Susan Perkins Weston | 

Kentucky's Senate Bill 1 (SB1) and the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) both address standards, assessments, accountability, and public data reporting. On many issues, the two line up well, but there are definite mismatches on lowest performing schools, low graduation rates, and the contents of school report cards. The Q-and-A below explains those issues and the implications.

SB 1 is a Kentucky bill that has been approved by our Senate. Depending on action by the House and Governor Bevin, SB 1 could become state law in a matter of months. Our PrichBlog summary is available here, but needs updating to show that Senate floor action restored social studies testing.

ESSA is the replacement for the federal No Child Left Behind law and includes rules for what states must do to receive certain types of federal funding. ESSA was signed into law in December 2015, and EdTrust offers an overview here. This PrichBlog post looks specifically at section 1111 of ESSA and its requirements for statewide accountability systems and school improvement and support activities. To qualify for federal Title I funding, states must submit plans that show alignment with ESSA in these areas in time for the 2017-18 school year.

If SB 1 becomes law in its current version, it will identify priority schools based on overall scores “in the bottom five percent of overall scores by level for all schools that have failed to meet the achievement targets of the state accountability system under Section 5 of this Act for at least three or more consecutive years.”

ESSA says states must identify schools with achievement results “in the lowest-performing 5 percent of all schools receiving funds under this part in the State” for “comprehensive support and improvement.”

That is, under SB 1, schools will not be identified so long as they have met their target for any one of the last three years. If only 200 schools missed three targets in a row, SB 1 could identify just 10 priority schools. In contrast, ESSA says that if 800 schools get Title I funding, the lowest 5 percent –40 schools– must be identified for added support, and it does not matter whether they met or missed targets while bringing in those low results.

SB 1's current language will require focus school identification if the graduation rate “has been less than sixty-eight percent for three consecutive years.”

ESSA calls for states to identify high schools that are “failing to graduate one third or more of their students” for “comprehensive support and improvement.

Again, the three-year provision in the state version does not match the federal one. If a school graduates 69 percent of students in one year, 40 percent the next, and 30 percent the year after that, SB 1 does not identify that school for focus assistance. ESSA does require that school to be identified for support and improvement.

SB 1 also calls for four elements to be included in school report cards published by the state, and allow a further local-option element:
  • Student academic achievement on state tests, broken out by gender, English proficiency, free/reduced-price meal eligibility, disability status and minority/non-minority background.
  • Advanced Placement, Cambridge Advanced International, and International Baccalaureate participation and results, broken out by “gender, race, students with disabilities, and economic status”
  • School's attendance, retention, graduation rates, and student transition to adult life
  • Parental involvement
  • Other school performance data that local school districts want to see added
To fit ESSA, school report cards must include elements that are not in the SB 1 list, including:
  • Achievement results disaggregated for migrant students, homeless students, students in foster care, and students with a parent on active duty in the armed forces
  • Graduation results and an “other academic indicator” disaggregated the same ways
  • School climate and safety data
  • Preschool enrollment numbers
  • Teacher qualification information
  • Per-pupil expenditures, broken out by local, state, and federal sources
SB 1 does not appear to allow state officials to add those ESSA elements. The existing statute says report cards “shall include but not be limited to” a set of components, and that lets the Kentucky Board of Education add other things. SB 1 deletes the “but not be limited to,” which seems to mean that the listed items are the only items that can be in the state-issued report cards.

Not necessarily. If SB 1 becomes law, Kentucky can probably keep the funding if we live with two overlapping set of rules. That is, we can:
  • Use low assessment results to identify a small group of SB 1 priority schools and a larger group that get the ESSA-required support and improvement efforts
  • Use low graduation rates to identify a small group of SB 1 focus schools and a larger group for ESSA support and improvement
  • Issue state-published school report cards that fit the SB 1 data limits and have school districts responsible for publishing the rest of the ESSA-required information on each of their schools on their websites
Those side-by-side systems might be confusing and require intensive efforts to explain, but they can offer a possible solution if SB 1 becomes law in its Senate-approved form.

SOURCE NOTES: SB 1’s full text is available here. The full text of ESSA is here, using the last link in the Resources sidebar to download the law, and Section 1111 on state plans can be found at pages 19-51. For lowest performing schools and graduation rates, see SB 1, page 69, and ESSA, page 36. For school report card contents, see SB 1, pages 36-37, and see ESSA, pages 45-49, looking first at the listed requirements for a report on the whole state and then noting that local reports must include all the same data except for NAEP results.

ADDED NOTE: This post has been mildly edited to make it clear that SB 1 is legislation being considered, rather than a bill that has already become state law. 

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