The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) today released a white paper that raises serious questions about state accountability plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver program of the U.S. Department of Education—including whether the use of “super subgroups” could lead to fewer students of color receiving the supports and interventions they need to succeed in school. The white paper is available on the CHSE website.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education announced that states agreeing to certain requirements would become eligible for waivers from core accountability provisions of the current version of the ESEA—the No Child Left Behind federal education law (NCLB). The waivers allow those states to create systems of accountability and improvement that differ greatly from those required under NCLB. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have received waivers.
CHSE’s analysis shows that the waivers could weaken efforts to highlight inequities, narrow achievement gaps and improve education for all students. According to the analysis, in 13 waiver states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri , Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington), the number of schools identified for intervention has dropped by more than 100 schools. This raises questions as to whether or not struggling students will receive the support and services they desperately need and deserve.
“Reporting is important, but it is no substitute for strong accountability. TT Both t the word desperately here.fied but also their complex nature and inability for advocates to hold states accountable forransparency and robust parameters are essential to achieving equity in education,” said Rufina Hernández, executive director of CHSE.
CHSE urges the department to ensure low achievement and graduation rates among African-American students, Asian and Pacific Islander students, English language learners, students with disabilities, Native students, Latino students and economically disadvantaged students each trigger clear interventions in schools.
CHSE further recommends that the department strengthen its requirements for states to focus on narrowing the achievement gaps between students of diverse backgrounds. This can be accomplished by maintaining the department’s policy regarding reporting of student achievement, but strengthening its policy regarding accountability for student subgroups.
Where the role of states is concerned, CHSE calls on them to ensure that student subgroup performance is a primary factor in school accountability, that struggling students receive effective instruction and support tailored to their specific needs and that performance data be provided to the public in an accessible and timely fashion. CHSE also believes states must focus on student achievement and academic growth, engage diverse stakeholders in improvement efforts and support low-performing subgroups as well as low-performing schools.
Read the full text of CHSE’s white paper, Maintaining a Focus on Subgroups in an Era of Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waivers.