University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

ESSA Plan Approved! Now What?

In The View from the OEP on January 23, 2018 at 1:46 pm


Last week, Arkansas’s ESSA plan was approved by the US Department of Education, which means that after lots of hard work on the plan development side, now comes the implementation!  While we recommend reading through the whole plan, we know you are busy so here’s what OEP thinks you need to know NOW.

The ESSA School Index: is a number calculated for every school in the state which will be used for the accountability system, for school grades (A-F), and for the recognition and rewards program. The index score is based on weighted achievement, growth, English learner proficiency progress, and School Quality and Student Success indicators (more info on what each of these pieces represents included below).

What is my school’s ESSA index?

DRAFT ESSA reports are available to authorized users in the Accountability Reports Center and you should be sure to check them out!   Authorized users click on the 2017 ESSA School Index & ESEA Reports tab, and login with their Triand account. The reports are PRIVATE and still DRAFT so school personnel can look them over and check for things that ‘don’t seem right’.  Some needed corrections have already been identified-like counts of student enrollment in AP/IB/Concurrent Credit courses. Many of the variables in the School Quality Success Indicator have not been used in accountability before, so the process for accurately pulling the information is being worked out.  New reports will be uploaded periodically, until the final reports are ready for public release.

Is my school’s index ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

Currently, your index is only informational, reflecting how your students’ achievement, growth, graduation, and SQSS indicators compare to each other and to other schools in the state. The ESSA index is calculated for every school in the state, and DRAFT values range from 31.11 to 97.84, with a statewide mean of 70.89.

This spring, however, the ESSA school index will be used to assign A-F school grades and award reward/ recognition money.  Using the ESSA index aligns these state-legislated with the federal accountability system for the first time, which helps us all be on the same page when we are talking about school success.  Letter grades must be assigned this year, so ADE is currently working with stakeholder groups to determine what ESSA school index score is an “A”, what is a “B”, etc.

OEP was happy to be included in the stakeholder meetings, and we found it difficult to use the overall ESSA score to assign a letter grade. We were concerned that the process of using the overall ESSA Index failed to differentiate between, for example, schools with very low growth, but high achievement and those with very high growth, but low achievement.

Consider what types of schools this situation may represent:

  • The low-growth (27th %ile), high achievement (87th %ile) school likely serves more advantaged students who demonstrate success on the state assessments.  These students are not, however, making predicted gains in achievement from one year to the next, which raised our concerns about the quality of instruction taking place.
  • The high-growth (97th %ile) , low achievement (44th %ile) school likely serves a population that is more at-risk for academic difficulty (economically disadvantaged, English learner, and/or students with special needs), and demonstrate lower achievement on the state assessments.  These students are making greater than predicted gains in achievement from one year to the next, indicating high-quality instruction taking place.

Which school do YOU think should get the higher letter grade? Based on the overall ESSA School Index, the low-growth but high achieving school gets a better grade. What we recommend is an overall grade (as required under the legislation), but also additional grades for each area: Achievement, Growth, and SQSS.   

The state’s ESSA plan does away with labeling schools (the old ‘Priority’ and ‘Focus’ labels are gone!), but does identify schools for support.  The identification of these schools, however, won’t happen until 2018-19 and will be based on the results of the Spring 2018 assessments so don’t even worry about that now.

For now, we recommend you focus on ensuring there is quality instruction happening in your classrooms, that staff are entering quality data into the system, and developing a plan for communicating with your stakeholders about the ESSA school index and letter grade your school receives (expected mid April).

ADE has done a fantastic job putting out resources to support our understanding of the ESSA plan.  We summarize the ESSA index pieces below, but you can get more info here or by watching this webinar (we know- but it’s FULL of great information)!  For more nitty-gritty details you can read the business rules. Keep you eyes out for additional webinars that will go into more detail about growth (Friday, Feb 2nd from 9:30 -10:30) and graduation rate (TBD).

Components of the ESSA Index:

Weighted Achievement: Part of the ESSA school index, weighted achievement reflects student achievement on the ACT Aspire (or alternative) math and ELA assessments. In contrast to the old “proficiency rates”, schools are awarded graduated points for each students’ achievement: In Need of Support=0 points, Close=0.5 points, Ready=1.0 points, and Exceed= 1.0 or 1.25 points (depending on how many In Need of Support students you have). Only non-highly mobile are included in the weighted achievement calculation.  Weighted achievement represents 35% of the ESSA school index for all school. DRAFT values range from 1.94 to 105.36, with a statewide mean of  63.35.

Growth: Part of the ESSA school index, school value-added growth reflects how student scores changed over time compared to what was predicted by the student’s prior score history.  Scores are calculated for ACT Aspire or alternative assessment and for the English language proficiency assessment (where applicable). Scores of 80 indicate that, on average, students in the school made expected growth.  Scores above or below 80 indicate that, on average, the students in the school made more or less than expected growth, respectively.  Only non-highly mobile students with a prior test score are included int he school growth score.  Growth represents 50% of the ESSA school index for Elementary and Middle Level schools, and 35% for High School Level schools. DRAFT values range from 70.18 to 89.66, with a statewide mean of 80.17.

Graduation rate:Part of the ESSA school index for schools that serve 12th graders, both a 4- and 5- year cohort graduation rate are used. This is the first time Arkansas has used a 5-year graduation rate so PLEASE NOTE that these are graduation rates for DIFFERENT groups of kiddos: the 2017 4-year rate is for students who entered 9th grade in 2013-14, while the 5-year rate is for the group of students who entered 9th grade in 2012-2013. Graduation rate represents 15% of the ESSA school index for High School Level schools, (10% for 4-year and 5% for 5-year). DRAFT values for the 4-year rate range from 22.22 to 100, with a statewide mean of 88.6. DRAFT values for the 5-year rate (remember this is a different group of kiddos) range from 0 to 100, with a statewide mean of 82.18.

School Quality and Student Success Indicators: Part of the ESSA school index, the SQSS are a combination of several measures of engagement, access, readiness, completion, and success criteria. Indicators include chronic absenteeism, science achievement, science growth, reading at grade level, high school GPA, ACT performance, and course-credit related measures. Districts and schools DO NOT pick and choose from the list of indicators- they are all included appropriately based on the grade level range (see the list and means and variability here). SQSS represents 15% of the ESSA school index for all schools.

Grade spans and grade configuration if you are confused about why you are labeled Elementary, Middle, or High School Level?

Comment your questions about ESSA and we’ll do our best to answer them!



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