Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NYC Public School Parents: How NY & Other States Should Count Opt-Outs in the New School Accountability System

NYC Public School Parents: How NY & Other States Should Count Opt-Outs in the New School Accountability System:

How NY & Other States Should Count Opt-Outs in the New School Accountability System

Below is a memo that Class Size Matters and NY State Allies for Public Education sent to Commissioner Elia and the NY Board of Regents last week, on what may seem like an arcane and technical subject but is actually critical to ensure that opt-out students aren't counted as failing in the new State Accountability system under ESSA.

ESSA, or Every Student Succeeds Act , passed last year by Congress, was an attempt to move away from the overly-prescriptive No Child Left Behind and the even more prescriptive NCLB waivers imposed by Arne Duncan.  Not only does ESSA authorize states to allow parents to opt their children out of exams with no fear of consequences, as the below memo points out, it also specifically bars the Secretary of Education from telling a state how school participation rates must be factored into its accountability system.


And yet then-Secretary King and the accountability hawks managed to slip a poison pill into the law: that for the academic component of the system, at least 95% of all students in the testing grades must be included in the denominator -- whether they took the state exams or not.

This provision appears to be written with the goal of forcing schools to try to force parents to make their children take the tests - lest the schools be counted as failing.  Since many NY schools had opt-out rates of 20 percent or more, this would incorrectly identify many otherwise successful schools as the lowest performing and in need of comprehensive improvement and support.
What we point out in the memo is that though the denominator may be specified in the law, there is nothing that specifies the numerator.  Thus, we propose that instead of counting opt-out students as having failed these exams, the state should insert into the numerator scores that are average for other students at the school or for their subgroup.

If and when we receive a response from the Commissioner or the Board of Regents we will let you know.  Meanwhile, this memo could be useful for advocates and parents in other states as well who don't want their children's schools unfairly penalized on the basis of high opt-rates.






 NYC Public School Parents: How NY & Other States Should Count Opt-Outs in the New School Accountability System:

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