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State education officials seek feedback on proposed school rating system

State education officials seek feedback on proposed school rating system
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Minnesota school districts won’t receive ratings and labels this year as the state finalizes a new plan to fulfill federal school accountability reporting and intervention requirements.

The state education commissioner and other Minnesota Department of Education officials are coming to Mankato next week to hear public feedback on the plan that will revise how schools are measured and how the lowest-performing schools must respond.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, replaces the controversial No Child Left Behind law and is the latest version of federal law first enacted in 1965 providing federal funding and oversight of public schools.

ESSA is intended to give states more local control and states must submit proposals to meet the revised federal requirements by mid-September.

The Minnesota Department of Education released a draft proposal Aug. 1.

The annual standardized math, reading and science assessments given to students in grades three through eight and once during high school aren’t changing. Except the math and science will now be available with Hmong, Spanish and Somali translations.

Under No Child Left Behind, the state annually released “multiple measurement ratings” that ranked schools and districts based on how well their students performed and improved on the math and reading tests and on high school graduation rates.

Last year and this year schools are not receiving any ratings. The new rating system will make its debut next summer.

The new system will weigh five factors, including the proportion of students that pass the test, how much proficiency rates improve from one year to the next, graduation rates, and how well students who are not native English speakers are progressing in learning English.

The fifth criteria is still evolving. Next year only chronic absenteeism rates will be counted. Later it will include yet-to-be-determined measurements of college and career readiness and whether schools are providing a well-rounded education.

Like the former rating system, the new system will evaluate not only a student body as a whole but also groups of students in different demographics such as ethnicity and income.

The lowest-rated 5 percent of schools that receive federal Title I funding will be required to develop improvement plans and will receive a variety of intervention resources.

There no longer will be reward designations given to the state’s highest-ranking schools. 

ESSA requires each state to develop student achievement goals. Minnesota’s proposed goals include:

* 90 percent of third-graders will be proficient in reading by 2025 and no group of students will be below 85 percent.

* 90 percent of eighth-graders will be proficient in math by 2025 and no group of students will be below 85 percent.

* 90 percent of students will graduate on time by 2020 and no group will be below 85 percent.

* 95 percent of students will meet attendance goals by 2020 and no group will be below 95 percent.

The Minnesota Department of Education is collecting public input on its plan through the end of the month. Public hearings are planned in six communities across the state, including Thursday, Aug. 17, at Mankato West High School.

Mankato Public Schools Director of Teaching and Learning Heather Mueller and St. Peter Public Schools Supt. Paul Peterson said they didn’t have any significant concerns about the proposal after giving the plan a precursory review. They will be monitoring the proposal and public response in coming weeks, they said.

St. Clair Supt. Tom Bruels said he is concerned about a provision that would count students who don’t take a test as failing the test. He’d like to see a waiver granted when parents exercise their right to not have their children take the tests.

“Penalizing us over something we have no control over and making it look like our students aren’t achieving as well as they are doesn’t paint an accurate picture to the public,” Bruels said.

The process for identifying the schools needing support has drawn critique from some state education groups for not putting enough weight on how much students are progressing toward meeting proficiency benchmarks on the state tests.

In a tiered evaluation, system schools would first be evaluated only on their proficiency rates. Only the lowest quarter of schools will also be evaluated on how well they are making progress toward improving their proficiency.

Schools could be removed from receiving support even if they aren’t making progress if other schools lose ground and bump them out of the bottom 5 percent.

To read more about the plan and to submit electronic feedback to the Minnesota Department of Education go to http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/dse/ESSA/StatePlanPublicComment.

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