‘Gotcha’ grades out for schools; more sup­port planned

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - CYN­THIA HOW­ELL

The 2017-18 school year will be one in which the state’s sys­tem for hold­ing schools and dis­tricts re­spon­si­ble for stu­dent learn­ing will fea­ture more state sup­port for dis­tricts and less “gotcha,” Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sioner Johnny Key said in mark­ing the new year.

Classes be­gin Mon­day for most of Arkansas’ more than 470,000 pub­lic school stu­dents.

It will be a year in which schools and dis­tricts will say good­bye to the long­stand­ing Arkansas Com­pre­hen­sive Test­ing, Assess­ment and Ac­count­abil­ity Pro­gram and the fed­eral No Child Left Be­hind Act of 2002, Key said last week in a pre­sen­ta­tion to the Arkansas Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Gone or go­ing will be “aca­demic im­prove­ment plans,” “ad­e­quate yearly progress” and school la­bels such as “pri­or­ity,” “fo­cus” and “aca­demic dis­tress,” he said. shouldn’t be,” the com­mis­sioner

“‘Gotcha’ didn’t get us to said of what he de­scribed where we wanted to be,” Key as a de­mean­ing “us said about the ac­count­abil­ity ver­sus them” sys­tem of la­bel­ing sys­tem that is be­ing re­placed schools. “We’re try­ing to with one that em­pha­sizes change the na­ture of ac­count­abil­ity.” state sup­port of school dis­tricts, a team ap­proach to The three prongs of the re­vised rais­ing achieve­ment and the sys­tem are the fed­eral flex­i­bil­ity to be in­no­va­tive in Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act, craft­ing “suc­cess plans” for the Arkansas Ed­u­ca­tional all stu­dents in eighth grade Sup­port and Ac­count­abil­ity and above. Act, which is Act 930 of 2017, “Ac­count­abil­ity has be­come a neg­a­tive and it

and the state’s School Rat­ing Sys­tem Act, which is Act 744 of 2017.

The School Rat­ing Sys­tem law ex­pands the cri­te­ria for ap­ply­ing A-F let­ter grades to schools. Those per­for­mance ratings for the 2016-17 school year will be an­nounced in mid-April 2018.

Act 930 does away with the aca­demic dis­tress la­bels for schools and the re­quire­ment for in­di­vid­ual aca­demic im­prove­ment plans for

stu­dents who score be­low pro­fi­cient on state ex­ams. In­stead, the act calls for ev­ery eighth-through 12th-grader to have a suc­cess plan that sets out a path to col­lege and ca­reers. Still an­other com­po­nent of the act es­tab­lishes five lev­els of state sup­port — from gen­eral to in­ten­sive — for school dis­tricts in their ef­forts to pro­mote stu­dent achieve­ment at their cam­puses.

The fed­eral Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act is the suc­ces­sor to the No Child Left Be­hind Act that called for all stu­dents to achieve at their grade level on math and lit­er­acy by the 2013-14 school year. It also re­quired schools to make yearly progress to­ward that 100 per­cent or be pe­nal­ized.

The new law re­quires states to set long- term achieve­ment goals for schools, but that doesn’t have to be 100 per­cent pro­fi­ciency. Nor are schools pe­nal­ized for short­falls in an­nual progress to­ward long-term goals, un­der the new law. The law con­tin­ues to re­quire schools to eval­u­ate the achieve­ment lev­els of sub­groups of stu­dents at a school for their progress to­ward the long-term achieve­ment goals. And the fed­eral act con­tin­ues to re­quire states to in­ter­vene in the 5 per­cent of low­est-scor­ing schools in the state.

Arkansas’ pro­posed plan for com­ply­ing with the new fed­eral law will be sub­mit­ted for ap­proval to the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion by next month’s dead­line.

The pro­posed plan, which has been un­der de­vel­op­ment for about a year, will go beyond eval­u­at­ing schools based on the re­sults from a sin­gle test, Key said.

Stu­dent re­sults from the an­nual As­pire ex­ams in math and lit­er­acy will con­tinue to be a fac­tor in the new ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem, but year-to-year achieve­ment growth, high school grad­u­a­tion rates, and in­di­ca­tors of school qual­ity and stu­dent suc­cess are also fac­tors. In­di­ca­tors of school qual­ity and stu­dent suc­cess could in­clude stu­dent ab­sences, grade-point av­er­ages, col­lege en­trance exam re­sults, com­mu­nity ser­vice cred­its, and earned cred­its in com­puter sci­ence, Ad­vanced Place­ment or con­cur­rent col­lege cour­ses, ac­cord­ing to the state’s draft plan.

The new school year is a tran­si­tion year for the ac­count­abil­ity sys­tems, Key said.

The state’s plan to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment needs ap­proval. Act 930 just went into ef­fect ear­lier this month. Schools must sub­mit school im­prove­ment plans by Oct. 1 to the state, an old sys­tem re­quire­ment, and then schools must present their im­prove­ment plans to their lo­cal school boards by May 1 for the 2018-19 school year — a re­quire­ment of the new ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem.

The state Ed­u­ca­tion Board will de­cide Nov. 9 whether schools pre­vi­ously la­beled as pri­or­ity schools for low achieve­ment or fo­cus schools be­cause of large stu­dent achieve­ment gaps qual­ify to be re­leased from those la­bels.

Also as part of the tran­si­tion, the state’s two school dis­tricts that are un­der state con­trol — Lit­tle Rock and Dol­lar­way — have been newly la­beled as Level 5 dis­tricts un­der Act 930. The act pro­vides new op­tions for deal­ing with dis­tricts un­der state man­age­ment. Those op­tions in­clude per­mit­ting an elected school board to ex­ist in the district with lim­its on its au­thor­ity.

Ed­u­ca­tion Board mem­ber Mireya Reith of Fayetteville asked if the state Ed­u­ca­tion Board might de­cide on the fu­ture of the Lit­tle Rock and Dol­lar­way dis­tricts at the Nov. 9 meet­ing.

Key said tran­si­tional sup­port plans will be de­vel­oped for those two dis­tricts in the com­ing weeks but no date has been sched­uled for pre­sent­ing those plans to the state Ed­u­ca­tion Board.

“It is such a big task of do­ing that sys­tems analy­ses for those two dis­tricts that we re­ally don’t have a set time for when we will bring that back to you,” he told the Ed­u­ca­tion Board.

Ed­u­ca­tion Board mem­ber Su­san Cham­bers of Bella Vista said the new ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem “sounds like a big change” but a good one in that district own­er­ship or buyin of the sys­tem feels bet­ter than be­ing di­rected to com­ply. Cham­bers spec­u­lated that there could be a larger gap be­tween high- and low-per­form­ing school sys­tems as a re­sult of the new sys­tem. She urged state lead­ers to be ready to spot that and ad­dress it quickly.

“We don’t want to leave any­body be­hind,” she said.

Key told the board that the change in the ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem is not a de-em­pha­sis on achieve­ment.

“It’s look­ing at it dif­fer­ently and not overem­pha­siz­ing achieve­ment while sac­ri­fic­ing all the other com­po­nents of the school ex­pe­ri­ence and learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

“We don’t want to leave any­body be­hind.”

— Su­san Cham­bers, Ed­u­ca­tion Board mem­ber

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