Mass. rating plan deemed unfair to high-poverty schools

Report faults state system for not using ‘growth’ as bigger factor

MASSACHUSETTS GETS A poor grade from a Washington-based policy organization on how its plan to comply with a new federal education law treats schools with high rates of poverty. But a number of education policy thinkers in the state are pushing back against the report and say its message undermines an important pillar of education reform policy aimed at precisely those same schools.

The Fordham Institute report, titled “Rating the Ratings,” looked at the plans submitted to the US Department of Education by 16 states and the District of Columbia and graded them on three measures. Massachusetts scored well on two of them, but tied with Louisiana for the lowest score on a third measure, which asked whether a state’s accountability system was fair to all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.

The report rated the Massachusetts plan for treating all schools fairly as “weak,” the lowest of three ratings, because the state uses achievement levels as the basis for 75 percent of a school’s accountability rating, while measures of student growth count for only 25 percent of the rating. Achievement levels measure how well students score on the state’s standardized math and English tests, while growth scores measure how much progress a student has made from where he or she performed the previous year.

States must submit reports this year to the US Department of Education outlining how they plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal law signed by President Obama in December 2015 that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The new law gives states much more leeway in developing accountability systems for schools than the No Child Left Behind law did.

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Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth Beacon

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