Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Should a School Get an ‘A’ Even if Poor and Minority Students Underperform?

By Alyson Klein — October 09, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

UPDATED

Do the new “A through F” and similar accountability systems states designed under the Obama administration’s No Child Left Behind Act waivers do a good job of recognizing how schools are doing when it comes to educating poor and minority students?

Not so much, according to a new report released Thursday by the Education Trust, an organization in Washington that advocates for such students.

Ed Trust took a look at the A-F-type systems in three states that are sometimes viewed as leaders in education redesign—Florida, Kentucky, and Minnesota—and found that in all three cases, school ratings are “not a powerfull signal of the performance of every individual group of kids.”

For instance:

• In Florida, which rates schools on an A-F scale, the average proficiency rate for African-American students in “A” schools is lower than for white students who attend “C” schools.

• Similarly, Kentucky puts schools in one of three baskets: “distinguished,” “proficient,” and “needs improvement.” And in the Bluegrass State, African-American students in schools earning “distinguished” ratings have a lower math proficiency rate than white students in schools that are designated as “needs improvement.”

• And in Minnesota, schools deemed “celebration eligible” or “reward” schools did about as well when it comes to math results for African-Americans students as schools singled out for improvement did on results for white students.

What’s more, Ed Trust found that many of the schools that were given a gold star from their states aren’t necessarily closing the achievement gap. In Florida, for instance, 39 percent of ‘A’ schools that have data for African-American students had lower proficiency rates for that group in 2014 than in 2013. And 45 percent of schools that earned a ‘B’ with data for Latinos saw their performance slip in reading during the same period. Results in Kentucky for black students at high-ranking schools were pretty similar.

(It’s important to note that Ed Trust selected those states in part because they had good, useable data available.)

Importantly, the study doesn’t answer a key question regarding the waivers: Are traditionally overlooked groups of students, such as English-language learners, students in special education, and racial minorities, showing greater improvement under the new systems than they were under NCLB Classic?

It’s just too early to say, Ed Trust concludes.

But the organization is worried that if schools where students in particular subgroups are underperforming are given good ratings by their states, they won’t have much incentive to fix the problem. Plus, there won’t be much transparency for parents, who often select schools based in part on their ratings.

So what should the U.S. Department of Education do? Ed Trust thinks the agency needs to put the focus back on equity when it issues waiver-renewal guidance, which will likely happen later this fall.

This isn’t the first time that Ed Trust has sounded the alarm on subgroup performance and the waivers. The organization was one of the first to question the use of “supersubgroups,” which allow schools to combine different groups, such as English-learners and students in special education, for accountability purposes.

In responding to the report, Raymonde Charles, an Education Department spokeswoman, said, “We appreciate Ed Trust’s commitment to supporting historically disadvantaged students. The Department of Education will continue to work with states to support their efforts to improve their accountability systems for schools and achievement for all students.”

And Carissa Miller, the deputy executive director of the Council of Chief School Officers, said that states are “committed to supporting all students and ensuring every child meets the goals of college and career readiness. We know the simplistic pass/fail determinations under AYP did not work. Today, states are taking more thoughtful approaches to figuring out how to put systems in place that help them better identify areas of need and target support. Still, regardless of what accountability system a state uses, states are and continue to be committed to focusing on closing the achievement gap and looking for ways to improve.”

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP