As a school board member, you most likely ran for office to make an impact on education matters in your school district. Today begins the first of six opportunities for you to help develop Minnesota’s new accountability plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
ESSA will affect the schools and students in your district. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is traveling throughout the state seeking your experience and thoughts as they develop the new plan.
This week’s stakeholder meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. today in Duluth and 6 p.m. Thursday in Bemidji. See http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/dse/ESSA/state/stake for the remaining schedule. Visit http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3048386/ba9fa2885e44 to register.
MSBA has heard from members across the state. We would like to share some of the overall themes we have identified to help you prepare for the upcoming meetings.
1. Keep it simple: The new plan should focus on keeping the accountability simple and easy to understand for students, parents, teachers, administrators and school boards.
2. Focus on the positive: Overall, we believe the new system should focus on the positive things that are happening in schools and districts rather than the punitive measures of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
3. Support the plan with the needed resources: The new plan cannot become an unfunded mandate.
4. Maintain the spirit of ESSA: The intent of ESSA was to return decision-making to states and local school districts.
The passage of ESSA requires both states and school districts to make key decisions on how to implement different components of the new law. These decisions will be made in the next six months and here are some areas MSBA has identified.
1. Assessments (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments measure math, reading and science)
* Opt out — Districts are concerned about how this relates to the accountability plan. ESSA does require 95 percent of students to be tested. Families and students are increasingly opting out because they fail to see the value of the MCA state mandated exam. As more and more students opt out, this creates a false narrative of what is being taught and what is learned in our schools.
* Meaningful High School Testing — We encourage strong consideration to allow districts to replace MCA exams with a nationally normed assessment that measures college and career readiness.
2. Accountability Plan
Alignment of World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) — The federal government requires ambitious long-term goals and measurements of progress. Minnesota should make efforts to consolidate and align our state’s current accountability systems (WBWF and Achievement and Integration) into these goals.
3. Fifth Indicator
As required by ESSA, student performance will be measured by the following four indicators: (1) proficiency on state tests, (2) progress in achieving English Language proficiency, (3) short-term growth on state tests, and (4) graduation rates. Minnesota must define a fifth indicator focusing on school quality and student success. MSBA encourages an indicator that utilizes existing data and focuses on the end goal of college and career readiness.
4. Weighting of Five Indicators
The first four indicators must be given “much greater weight” than the fifth indicator. Please give some thought on how you would weight each indicator at each grade level.
MSBA has identified additional considerations as you prepare for these meetings and discussions.
1. Title I or Statewide Implementation
Some consideration must be given to whether the state has the capacity and resources to roll out a statewide accountability system in a short timeframe vs. phasing in the system, starting with a focus on Title I schools.
2. Grade Span Accountability by Growth and Proficiency
Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius has introduced measuring academic growth at every grade level while using the proficiency measurement for accountability purposes at certain grade levels. Two options brought forward are:
Option A — Include growth in math and reading for all grades and proficiency for math and reading for certain grades.
Option B — Include proficiency and growth at every grade level. Assign proficiency at a much greater weight at exit grades (i.e., elementary, middle school/junior high, high school).
Visit http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/dse/ESSA/state/index.htm and https://www.mnmsba.org/ESSA for additional ESSA resources.