States push forward with new accountability measures

States push forward with new accountability measures

(Okla.) Like many states, education officials in Oklahoma want to use chronic absenteeism as one of their five indicators for measuring school success.

The new accountability system–which the State Department of Education has called stronger and more reliable–is the response to new federal and state laws requiring more comprehensive indicators. Education leaders in Oklahoma cited as influence a report published in October by the Brookings Institution which detailed various indicators that would contribute to a fuller view of school performance, such as attendance.

“The relationship between absenteeism and worse outcomes persists among students of all ages,” authors concluded. “As early as kindergarten, school absences lower subsequent achievement levels. Missing school lowers achievement in elementary school and middle school. Chronic absenteeism is also a valuable indicator of whether a student is on track to complete high school.”

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have new flexibility in designing their own accountability systems and how to intervene to support low-performing schools. That said, Congress requires each state to track academic achievement as measured by annual testing; a valid and reliable measure for junior and elementary students; graduation rates for high school students; and progress with English learners.

States are required to have on additional indicator of school quality, such as attendance and absenteeism., Although few states have released draft copies of new school accountability plans for public comment, many have also used chronic absenteeism as a key measure, including California, Illinois, Delaware and Washington–often citing the short- and long-term benefits of good attendance across all grades.

According to the Oklahoma Education Department, more than 16 percent of high school students were absent at least 15 school days in the 2013-2014 school year. The same was found of almost 12 percent of middle school students and 9.5 percent of elementary school students.

The new calculation, based on a 90-point rubric, gives equal weight to student performance in English language arts and mathematics as well as student growth in these subjects. In elementary and middle schools, accountability will also hinge on English language proficiency assessment progress for English learners and chronic absenteeism rates.

High schools will be graded on all of the above, as well as graduation rate and postsecondary opportunities.

Scores will be displayed as A-F letter grades, with A representing a score of more than 70, and an F as a score of below 30. Education officials noted that the majority of schools will likely fall within the B-D range.

The proposed accountability system has received widespread support from education leaders throughout the state, including the Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, and a handful of school districts.

“This report card system is vital for parents, communities and schools,” Tracy McDaniel, principal and founder of KIPP Reach College Preparatory in Oklahoma City, said in a statement. “The data it will provide can better inform people about how their schools are doing as well as giving educators tools to improve.”

The new rubric is pending before the Oklahoma State Board of Education, which will consider it this week. After that the plan will be submitted to the state Legislature and governor for final approval.