It’s not just student achievement targets that underwent a makeover when the District won a waiver from key parts of No Child Left Behind. The whole accountability system has been revised and remade.
The city’s waiver application, which describes the new system, is long and complicated. Teachers, principals and other administrators are still wrapping their arms around the changes that it will bring. So are parents (and reporters). One mother told me that she looked at the waiver application, but “it was too many words for me to digest at one time” — which is pretty close to how I felt.
But here are some key takeaways:
•Proficiency rates aren’t the only thing that matter anymore. Growth counts, too.
Schools are aiming for the achievement targets — or “annual measurable objectives,” AMOs in edu-speak — described in this story. They also receive an “accountability index score,” generated via an algorithm that is supposed to reflect not just how high students score on tests, but how much they have progressed.
•Schools will be rewarded for pushing all students to improve, no matter how far behind — or ahead — they are.
A common complaint about No Child Left Behind was that it focused only on proficiency rates, creating an incentive for schools to heap attention on kids who were right on the cusp of becoming proficient. Kids who were shoo-ins to pass state tests — or fail them — got less of their teachers’ time, critics said.
Under the District’s new accountability system, schools get credit for kids who make strides, no matter where they start on the spectrum.
•The new system is meant to do a better job of distinguishing between schools that are in dire shape and those that are basically okay, but need improvement in some areas.
Instead of just two categories of schools — “made AYP” and “didn’t make AYP” — there are now five categories: priority, focus, developing, rising and reward. Schools are put into a category based on their accountability index scores.
Priority schools — which include both DCPS and charter schools — are those with the lowest overall performance and growth. They have to write a plan that shows how they’ll implement seven “turnaround principles,” such as ensuring strong leadership and curriculum.
Priority schools will also have to decide in the next year whether to adopt one of the federal government’s four “turnaround models,” which include closing the school, replacing its principal and half the staff and restarting the school as a charter.
According to the waiver application and officials with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, parents are supposed to be included in making that decision.
Here are the priority schools:
C.W. Harris ES
Kelly Miller MS
Luke C. Moore Academy HS
Malcolm X ES
Maya Angelou Public Charter School - Evans Campus
MC Terrell ES
Moten ES at Wilkinson
Options Public Charter School
The Washington Metropolitan High School
Woodson H.D. HS