Schools to escape individual grades under new government rules to judge performance

28th November 2016 at 21:10
school accountability, ESSA, Obama, students, teachers
Government responds to its critics as it publishes new regulations to hold schools to account under the Every Student Succeeds Act

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Schools will no longer be given individual grades to judge their performance under new regulations published by the Obama administration today.

The rules were watered down following a hostile reaction to proposals to give schools an A-F rating as part of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

But publishing the final version of the regulations today, education secretary John B King Jr said the government had responded to the criticism and handed states more flexibility in assessing their schools’ performance.

Mr King said state education chiefs were keen to introduce the rules. However, given the change of administration and Donald Trump’s vow to reduce the power of the education department, questions have been raised about whether the regulations will be implemented.

Under the finalised accountability regime, students must sit tests in math and reading, but test scores will not be the only way to judge academic performance.

States will be able to “choose their own indicators of academic progress and school quality or student success”. These might include graduation rates, post-secondary enrolment or career success.

Instead of grades or numbers, schools can use more general descriptions of performance and must identify underperforming schools for “comprehensive” or “targeted” support beginning in the 2018/19 academic year, 12 months later than previously suggested.

Mr King said feedback had been incorporated from more than 20,000 respondents during the consultation period.

"The final rules give states more time and flexibility to provide every student with a high-quality, well-rounded education while ensuring that states and districts keep the focus on improving outcomes and maintaining civil rights protections for all children, particularly those who need our support the most," he said.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said she was pleased that the department had made “some commonsense changes from its draft version, like the timeline flexibility to allow states to fully develop accountability systems so they can include new and multiple measures envisioned by the law.”

She added: “One area that surprises us involves testing. Given that new accountability measures are not yet in place, it’s hard to fathom that the department insists on punishing schools that do not test at least 95 percent of students. Punishing schools when students (or their parents) opt out of testing is a throwback to No Child Left Behind.”

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