- While most states are taking advantage of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) flexibility to use academic growth measures as part of their accountability systems, only nine states are applying a separate growth measure to the lowest-performing groups of students, according to a new policy brief from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).
- In addition, two states — Mississippi and Wyoming — are attaching a higher weight to those measures as an added incentive for schools to focus on more than just raising average levels of student performance. “Since schools with the greatest concentration of students living in poverty tend to fare poorly on grade-level proficiency measures, this additional measurement encourages schools and districts to provide more resources and focus on these students’ needs,” Joseph Hedger, NASBE associate editor, writes in the brief.
- In Mississippi, schools earn more points when students advance by two or more of the five proficiency levels, and when students in the lowest-performing quartile show growth on state tests. And Wyoming’s accountability model includes an “equity indicator” that applies to students in grades 3-8 who score in the bottom quartile in reading, math or both, making up 25% of a school’s accountability score for those grade levels.
Experts tend to agree that a positive contribution of ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, was that it required schools to track — and work to improve — the achievement of student subgroups. That focus continues under ESSA, but now schools have more flexibility to implement strategies they think will work best for their students.
In some schools, the arts are a vehicle to strengthen achievement in core content areas. Others are placing a heavy emphasis on teacher preparation and training to improve scores among struggling students.
A 2016 report from the American Institutes for Research supports that approach and emphasizes the role of principals in creating positive working conditions for teachers and emphasizing the use of data. The researchers write that principals need authority to assemble teams of teachers who best fit the needs of the school and to remove the ones who do not. And they recommend that districts work with their unions to “ensure that low-performing schools are staffed with experienced, effective teachers who embrace the challenge of turning around a low-performing school.”