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During the 2012 session, the Governor proposed and Legislature approved $8.4 million for training related to Common Core and other key areas.
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Proposed accountability system relies on multiple indicators

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is based on the proposed model for accountability as of February 2012. The department expects pieces of the model to change as we go through the waiver process with the U.S. Department of Education.

South Dakota has applied for an ESEA Flexibility Waiver from the federal government. The waiver allows states and school districts flexibility from certain tenets of No Child Left Behind.

If approved, South Dakota’s new model would take a more comprehensive approach to school accountability – relying on multiple indicators of performance, rather than a primary focus on test scores. Furthermore, the model is based on continuous improvement, rather than a bar of 100 percent proficiency for all students.

“While NCLB did some good things, we all know the system has flaws,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp. “This proposed new model takes a broader, more meaningful approach to school accountability, and it focuses on continuous improvement.”

South Dakota began the process of creating a new accountability model last fall, shortly before the U.S. Department of Education announced its flexibility package. A work group of 23 individuals representing various education stakeholder groups provided input to the department in developing a proposed new model for accountability.

In its current form, South Dakota’s proposed accountability model centers around a 100-point School Performance Index, or SPI. That index includes the following factors, each of which accounts for a certain number of points out of 100:

• Student Achievement

• Academic Growth (elementary and middle schools) OR High School Completion (high schools)

• Attendance Rate (elementary and middle schools) OR College and Career Readiness (high schools)

• Effective Teachers and Principals (implemented in 2014-15)

• School Climate (implemented in 2014-15)

Because the various indicators on the School Performance Index will be phased in at different times, the point system changes in 2014-15, when the full index is expected to be in place.

What’s different?

Educators will see some big changes under the proposed model of accountability; however, the basic concept of accountability remains tight. For example, the annual AYP process will be gone, although there will still be an annual Report Card based on the School Performance Index. And the NCLB “school improvement” process, as we currently know it, also will be gone. Here’s a brief summary of some of the major changes.

Super subgroup, unduplicated student count

While the proficiency levels of the various subgroups will still be reported each year, South Dakota proposes using two subgroups – Subset 1 and Subset 2 – for accountability purposes.

Subset 2 consists of the students who belong in subgroups that have historically experienced achievement gaps. The students in these subgroups will be aggregated into one larger subgroup. Subset 1 consists of the aggregate of the remaining subgroups. The proficiency levels of these two groups would be summed to come up with the score for the Student Achievement indicator.

In addition, the proposed model would use unduplicated counts of students when calculating the Student Achievement indicator. Each student is counted only once, which is contrary to the current system. Under the current system, schools can be “penalized” for one student multiple times if he or she scores below the proficiency mark.

Accounting for growth

At the elementary and middle school levels, the proposed model includes Academic Growth as one of the key indicators on the SPI. Growth is a concept that has universal support among educators, according to Schopp.

High school completion vs. graduation

Under the proposed model, South Dakota would use a High School Completion indicator, compared to the current four-year cohort graduation rate. This High School Completion indicator would include both the four-year cohort grad rate and a high school completion rate that would give schools credit for those students who finish high school, even if it takes longer than four years to complete. The two rates would be weighted, with more weight (75 percent) going to the high school completion rate.

“Schools are doing the right thing by working with students to see that they complete their high school program, no matter what the timeframe,” Schopp said. “We all learn at different rates, and we all have life circumstances that can impact our educational experiences. We think it’s important to acknowledge and recognize that work,” Schopp said.

The proposed new model also includes an indicator for College and Career Readiness – based on college-going rates and ACT scores – at the high school level. Per feedback from the field, the department also is continuing to pursue a way to give schools credit for those students that enter the military, Schopp said.

No AYP; individual school goals

Under the current system, each school and district receives an annual adequate yearly progress determination. With the proposed model, AYP would no longer be determined. Instead, each school would have a five-year goal for growth, as well as yearly targets. The goals would be re-set every five years.

In the first year of the proposed School Performance Index, which could be as early as the 2012-13 school year, all public schools would receive a SPI score. That score would serve as the base, and five-year goals would be set for each school depending upon where it falls on the continuum.

Schools whose scores rank in the top 10 percent would have a goal of maintaining those high scores. Schools that rank in the middle would be expected to make moderate growth. Schools that rank in the bottom 15 and bottom 5 percent would be expected to make greater strides in improving their SPI score. Title I and Title I-eligible schools, called Priority (bottom 5 percent) and Focus Schools (bottom 6 to 15 percent), would implement interventions and supports related to school reform.

Assessment of English language learners

South Dakota proposes that, beginning in 2012-13, the state would not require English language learners to take the Dakota STEP until they are designated as proficient on the WIDA ACCESS test or a limit of three years, whichever occurs first.

Next steps

South Dakota fully anticipates that the U.S. Department of Education will have questions and feedback regarding its waiver application. “We know that there are pieces of our proposal that U.S. Ed will have concerns with, but we’ve heard from other states that there seems to be a willingness to work with states,” Schopp said. “Bottom line: We want to do what’s right for South Dakota.”

During the 2012 legislative session, SB 25 was passed. That bill gives the state Department of Education the go-ahead to begin writing new school accountability rules, based on the proposed model of accountability outlined in the waiver application. “That means educators and others will have another chance to weigh in on the proposed model when the rules go before the state Board of Education,” Schopp said. “And we look forward to getting that feedback and input.”

To view a summary of the proposed accountability model, click here.

To view South Dakota’s entire ESEA Flexibility Waiver application, click here.