It’s out with the old and in with the new in the world of federal school standards, as Washington prepares to implement the successor to No Child Left Behind — and some local districts are eager for the change.
The new federal education act, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is slated to take effect this school year. The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, under the leadership of Superintendent Chris Reykdal, will submit the state’s ESSA plan on Sept. 18, and Washington residents can continue to submit comments on the plan through Tuesday by visiting www.k12.wa.us/ESEA/ESSA.
According to the new standards, gone will be the days of schools being branded as “failing” if they didn’t meet federal test-score targets. Rather, schools will be assessed based on state-set accountability systems, allowing more flexibility from state to state in setting goals for their schools.
While test scores will stay in the mix for school accountability, Washington will also monitor other data to determine what schools — and what subgroups within those schools, be it minority, low-income or special education — need additional support. The state has proposed the following categories:
• How much students improve in English and math scores.
• The percent of students who graduate high school in four years, and those who take additional time.
• The percent of English-language learners who make progress toward proficiency.
• Chronic absenteeism rates, marked by the state as 18 missed days in a year.
• Whether ninth grade students are academically on track in their first year.
• The number of students participating in dual-credit programs — which include Running Start, College in the High School, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International and CTE Dual Credit.
District officials with Vancouver Public Schools and Battle Ground Public Schools say the proposed draft builds on work the districts are already doing to help students achieve so-called “non-academic” marks — things like encouraging attendance, supporting minority and low-income groups, and caring for students’ social and emotional wellbeing.
“The transition to ESSA is expected to be very smooth here,” said Travis Campbell, assistant superintendent at Vancouver Public Schools.
The district has been tracking this type of data for several years, especially student attendance, said Kym Tyelyn-Carlson, executive director of teaching and learning for the district.
Schools target 90 percent attendance for 90 percent of the school days, she said, offering incentives like prizes for students at schools that have high attendance. Still, Washington’s focus on attendance in its proposed ESSA plan takes that a step further.
“It’s that elevation of how important it is to show up,” Kym said.
In Battle Ground, Jill Smith, executive director of federal programs and instructional support services for the district, said the “one-size-fits-all model” of measuring students under NCLB was “impossible” to meet.
“Basically everyone knew there was no way you were going to get 100 percent of achievement of all kids,” Smith said. “It was a ‘Pie in the sky, we’ll get there someday.'”
Smith echoed Vancouver Public Schools’ comments, saying the district has already been studying its chronic absenteeism rate and working with at-risk freshmen to ensure they’ll earn a diploma in four years.
“Looking at progress rates, that’s really something that we’re already on board with,” Smith said.
And, as a bonus: Parents won’t have the added stress of seeing letters telling them their child’s school is failing.
“It was hard describing why they got that letter,” Smith said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article did not accurately describe a dual-credit program. Dual credit courses include: Running Start, College in the High School, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International and CTE Dual Credit.