The Department of Education (ED) released its proposed rules on the accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in May. The public comment period concerning those proposed accountability rules closed yesterday and ATPE was among the nearly 20,000 commenters.
ATPE’s comments focused on a piece of the proposed rules that requires states to assign summative school ratings based on performance under a state’s accountability system. Our comments raised concern over such a summative rating and asserted that “a single label cannot accurately, holistically, or fairly capture the performance of a school and the school children within that school.”
This is a proposal with which ATPE is familiar. Just last year during the 2015 legislative session, we fought lawmakers’ successful attempt to grade schools and districts on an A through F scale. As we were fighting those attempts, other states were backing away from their similar systems, recognizing their shortcomings and stigmatizing effects. We argued at that time that the overly-simplistic rating does not give parents a clearer picture of their child’s school. Rather, it provides a misguided, narrow snapshot that is too strongly based on the increasingly questionable standardized testing system and with no acknowledgement of other very important factors, such as funding inequities, teacher quality, and parental engagement. Further, when a school is labeled a failure the kids within it are also labeled failures, and such a label can be detrimental. The Virginia lawmaker who passed his state’s A through F system ultimately repealed it after seeing the stigmatizing affect it can have on schools.
The same problems exist with ED’s proposed rules requiring a summative accountability rating. ATPE’s comments on the rule request that ED maintain the flexibility provided by Congress under ESSA, which would give states the opportunity to utilize a dashboard or another more holistic approach to providing a picture of a schools success under the state’s accountability system. While recognizing that Texas has already begun down the wrong path toward summative ratings, ATPE asked ED to “not permanently trap Texas’s and other states’ school children into a rating system that inaccurately, incompletely, and unfairly stigmatizes the schools they attend.”
Read ATPE’s full comments to ED here.