This is Part 2 of a series about Alabama’s waiver (the “waiver”) from No Child Left Behind accountability requirements. Please review Part 1 if you have not done so. [Part 3 is here.] The waiver releases Alabama from the strict Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) calculation and allows the ALSDE to implement a new way to determine school, district, and state achievement progress.
I cannot stress enough how VERY different the new way is from the old way. Clear your mind of everything you ever knew about AYP, cause we’re starting over.
In Part 1, we reviewed the following five areas of the waiver, all having to do with accountability:
- Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) – the benchmarks used to determine achievement levels
- Graduation Rates
- Change in the minimum number of students (“n-size”) needed for a group’s achievement to matter
- Local Annual Report Cards
- Overall promise of improved accountability
Today, in Part 2, we will look at the School/District Performance Index.
In Part 3 (tomorrow’s post), we will look at the last two areas in accountability:
- what the plans are for Reward Schools, Priority Schools, Priority Districts, and Focus Schools
- the school grading system
The School/District Performance Index
The Performance Index is the heart of the determination of whether students are making improvements in achievement at a school and will be the single trigger for recognition and support for schools and districts. Here is Attachment 36 from the waiver, showing the way the Index score will be determined for the next two school years.
As you see, there are three main areas, Achievement, Gap and either Attendance or Graduation Rate (depending on grade span of school) that will be utilized for the next two school years. The Index gets much more complicated for 2015-2016. Let’s stay focused on this one for now.
A few definitions before we move ahead:
- “gap” refers to the difference in proficiency (achievement) percentages between the “all students” group and each of five subgroups.
- “subgroups”, also referred to as “ESEA subgroups” are based on characteristics of students and include: Black, Hispanic, Limited English Proficiency (also referred to as “English-language learners”), Free/Reduced Meals (meaning students who receive a free or reduced-price lunch), and Special Education (any student with an Individual Education Program or IEP).
- “ESEA” stands for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the name of the law authorizing all of this stuff at the federal level.
- “AAA” is the Alabama Alternate Assessment, which is a test for students whose learning is based on the Alabama Extended Standards. From the Alabama Learning Exchange website: The Alabama Extended Standards are designed to allow students with significant cognitive disabilities to progress toward state standards while beginning at each student’s present level of performance. As required by law, the Alabama Extended Standards are clearly related to the grade-level content, but are reduced in scope and complexity.”
- “cohort graduation rate” refers to the percentage of students who start 9th grade and graduate either four or five years later. It will be noted as a “4-year cohort” or a “5-year cohort” or a combination of the two.
The tests that will be used to determine achievement levels for grades 3 through 8 are the ACT Aspire and the Alabama Alternate Assessment (for students utilizing a modified set of standards). The ACT Aspire is still being developed and thus we do not know how achievement levels will be expressed in terms of proficiency other than it will be a 3-digit benchmark linked to the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. Some Alabama schools participated in the “equating study” to determine where benchmarks should be set.
From the ACT Aspire/Pearson Testing web site: “ACT Aspire’s new 3-digit ACT Readiness Benchmarks are empirically linked to the ACT College Readiness Benchmark scores, which gives educators and parents/guardians the ability to identify if a student is on track for college and career readiness at the appropriate grade/subject level (English, math, reading, and science). ACT Aspire will link to the familiar and meaningful 1-36 score scale of the ACT college readiness assessment. ACT Aspire and the ACT will be aligned by linking to a vertical score scale that measures college and career readiness.”
There are more than a few concerns that have been aired about Pearson’s creation and administration of common-core aligned tests, which is how the ACT Aspire is billed, though the actual “Aspire” won’t roll out till spring of 2014. Hopefully, they will get all of the kinks worked out before they begin testing our Alabama children for real.
The waiver states that schools will receive full credit for students scoring at proficient or above. No credit will be given for students scoring below proficient. Students will take the ACT Aspire in the spring of 2014.
The tests used to determine achievement levels for grades 9 through 12 will be the Quality Core End-of-Course Tests in Algebra I and English 10, along with the Alabama Alternate Assessment. Still struggling to understand why Algebra I and English 10 are the bar that we have set, but nobody asked me. Obviously, our educators and administrators believed that was a good place to stop assessing.
It should be noted that the Alabama Alternate Assessment is being revamped according to the waiver. From the waiver, page 46: “The Alabama Alternate Assessment will be revised to reflect the new Alabama Extended Standards in ELA and mathematics for implementation in the spring of 2015. Science will follow with implementation in the spring of 2016. New assessments will be as follows: Since the new assessments in Grades 3-8 will include English, reading, writing, math, and science, alternates will be developed in those grades and subjects. Since the ACT assessments given in Grades 8, 10, and 11 will include English, reading, math, and science, alternates will be developed in those grades and subjects. Writing will also be developed for Grade 11 since writing will be a part of the ACT. An alternate assessment will be developed in Grade 9 in English, reading, math, and science. This will give consistency across Grades 3-12. Since WorkKeys, scheduled to be given in Grade 12, will include Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information, alternates will be developed in reading (to include locating information) and mathematics.”
The calculation used in the Index is “based upon the percent of proficient (or above) students meeting the Annual Measurable Objectives for reading and mathematics multiplied by the assigned weight in the School/District Performance Index” (p. 52 of the waiver). While it isn’t clear, my guess is that they will use the “all students” calculation. The waiver notes that “disaggregated ESEA subgroups will be reported individually” (p.52).
How Achievement Gaps Are Calculated
The gaps between subgroups are used in the Performance Index calculation. This is difficult to explain. Instead, here’s the info straight from the waiver:
So there. Understood?
Basically, each of the subgroups (race, ethnicity, English-language learners, and special education status) are looked at individually. If there are more than 20 students in that group, their percent proficient is compared to the “all students” group. If there is no gap between the groups, a score of “1” is given. If there IS a gap, you then look at last year’s gap and compare it with this year’s gap to see if there has been improvement. If there has been NO improvement, a score of “0” is given for that subgroup. If there HAS been improvement, then you assign a value based on where it fits within the chart they reference (but in no case will it be higher than “0.5”).
Add all of the subgroup objective points that you’ve just calculated together, divide it by the number of subgroups you are using, multiply that by the number of points possible (which is actually wrong in the example above) and there you have it! [Yes, you are allowed to use a calculator.]
Students will count one time in each subgroup in which they meet the definition. For example, a student who is Hispanic and in special education will count one time in each group, a total of two times for that school.
The gaps will be calculated using the ACT Aspire (grades 3 through 8) or the graduation rate (high school).
Attendance or Graduation Rate as Part of the Performance Index
Each K-8 school’s attendance rate will be multiplied by the number of points to get that number.
Both four- and five-year cohort graduation rates will be used for high schools, though more points will be awarded for four-year cohorts than five-year cohorts.
The Performance Index for 2015-2016 – A Preview
In 2015-2016, the Index changes to a 200-point Index. It gets a little more complicated, and takes into account “learning gains” for students in a school and district in each of the subgroups. No detail is offered as to how that will be calculated, as it will be based on the results of the ACT Aspire test series, which will be given for the first time to Alabama’s students in the spring of 2014. It allows points to be earned for program reviews, effective teachers and leaders and a local indicator determined by each local school district (and approved by the State Board of Education).
Here’s what it looks like:
Come back tomorrow to learn about how the ALSDE will classify Reward Schools, Focus Schools, and Priority Schools and Priority Districts under the waiver, along with what we know about the school grading system.
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