Even those listening closely might have missed it, but the House Education Committee voted to approve the state’s proposed new school accountability system on Friday.
Education leaders from the State Department of Education and State Board of Education’s Accountability Oversight Subcommittee spent 2016 developing a new accountability system that would satisfy requirements from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
The new accountability system is important because it is required under ESSA and because Idaho has been without a statewide accountability system since repealing the controversial five-star rating system in 2014.
The accountability system divides schools into three categories — kindergarten through eighth grade schools, high schools and alternative high schools. Under that system, school accountability will be based on multiple academic and school quality measures, not just a single high-stakes test or indicator.
Those measures include:
Four-year high school graduation rates.
Five-year graduation rates.
Proficiency rates on state assessment tests.
Reading proficiency rates.
Growth toward proficiency on assessments.
The percentage of eighth-graders enrolled in pre-algebra.
College and career readiness levels.
The results of a forthcoming parent satisfaction and engagement survey, and more.
There was no debate over the accountability system Friday and no reference to the Every Student Succeeds Act or the changes the accountability system would bring. However, a subcommittee comprising four of the committee members discussed the accountability system in detail Jan. 16 and voted to recommend the full committee accept the administrative rule it is included in.
Fast-forward to Friday, and the full House Education Committee voted to accept the subcommittee’s recommendation — taking official action that, in layman’s terms, amounted to approving the accountability system.
Only one chamber of the Legislature needs to approve an administrative rule for it to take effect, so the accountability system is on track to become effective when the legislative session adjourns — usually in March or April.
However, the State Board of Education is still expected to review the larger state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act that includes the accountability system. And Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra will be required to submit that state compliance plan — including the new accountability system — to the U.S. Department of Education for approval this spring or summer.
The State Department of Education is still on track to meet federal compliance deadlines, despite missing one of its self-imposed deadlines this week, a department spokesman said.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and her executive team still want to submit Idaho’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan to the feds in March.
This timetable would actually afford the state a couple of months to receive feedback from the feds, department spokesman Jeff Church said.
And if the plan doesn’t comply, submitting the paperwork in March would provide Idaho a buffer. The state could make revisions and still have time to resubmit the plan in the summer, meeting the feds’ second deadline.
The ESSA plan is required to take effect during the 2017-18 school year.
Originally, Ybarra’s timeline called for submitting a draft of the ESSA compliance plan to the State Board of Education on Tuesday.
Church said the decision to slow down the SDE’s timeline is a response to that feedback.
It also gives the SDE time to finish the plan. As of late last week, details of the plan surrounding teacher quality, student achievement and school accountability remained unfinished.
In the days and weeks ahead, Church said SDE leaders will draft a new plan that incorporates feedback collected during a series of five public hearings earlier this month. SDE leaders will also work to update and post a new ESSA timeline.
Then, Ybarra and the SDE will submit their new compliance plan to State Board in early 2017, although an exact date has yet to be determined. Ybarra will also make sure Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature have a chance to review the plan and offer suggestions.
State Board member Debbie Critchfield applauded the SDE’s decision to pump the brakes.
“At the most basic level, I wanted to see something that was complete before I voted on it,” Critchfield said. “I actually think that it is a good move on the part of the department if they are falling back and allowing themselves the opportunity to fill in the gaps and make accommodations for public feedback.”
At this time, Church said SDE leaders have not scheduled any additional forums or public hearings devoted to the ESSA plan. However, he said feedback will continue to be solicited and encouraged through the SDE’s website.
ESSA touches on a wide range of education issues, from school accountability and assessment testing to teaching English language learners, complying with federal programs and offering professional development training to teachers.
ESSA is notable, in part, because it pushes oversight and control of public schools away from the federal government toward the state.
Idaho has not had any kind of formal school accountability program in place since Ybarra took office in January 2015.