Two States Making Moves to Delay Accountability in Common-Core Era

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 30, 2014 3 min read
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In my story about resistance to the Common Core State Standards, I noted that some of the anxiety focuses on how states plan to use new common-core-aligned tests in their accountability systems. Today, two more states, Florida and Louisiana, are making news along these lines. Let’s look at Florida first.

• Florida lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Rick Scott that would institute a one-year “pause” in the state’s signature A-F accountability system for schools. That pause would apply to schools’ grades for the 2014-15 academic year. The data on school performance used to generate the A-F grades will still be reported, but the consequences for schools based on those A-F grades would be suspended. In a statement about the changes included in Senate BIll 1642, the Florida department of education said that 2014-15 will serve as “an informational baseline year for the new school grading system to provide parents, schools, districts and the general public with a clear understanding of a school’s starting point on the new more rigorous standards and assessments.”

The A-F system for both overall school ratings and school improvement ratings would also be altered under the legislation. The revised system would focus more closely on student achievement, learning gains, graduation rates, and college credits as well as industry certifications. The number of points for the various components of the A-F grades would also be reduced.

Both Scott, a Republican, and state Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart praised the proposed changes. “The changes to school grades ensure we are focused on measuring and improving the factors that are most critical to preparing Florida’s students for success in college, career and life,” Stewart said in a statement.

You might remember that a few months ago, I wrote about a bill from Florida Sen. Bill Montford, a Democrat who leads the state superintendents’ association, that would have instituted a three-year transition plan to a new accountability system, during which A-F grading would have been suspended. Florida lawmakers ultimately elected not to go that far, but the appetite for some sort of relief for Florida schools was clearly present.

• Then there’s Louisiana. When he’s been fighting with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) over the fate of the common core and tests from the PARCC assessment consortium, state Superintendent John White has argued that the state’s plan (approved last year by the state board) to transition to new tests and standards would be jeopardized if Jindal got his way.

Now state lawmakers are having their say. A bill that would delay the impact of common-core-aligned tests on schools’ letter grades, teacher evaluations, and student promotions until the 2016-17 school year won a key vote in a House committee on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Last year, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a plan developed by White to use 2014-15 as a “baseline” year for schools’ ratings, with the scoring curve gradually rising over the next ten years. And teachers won’t be evaluated on “value-added” data from tests scores in 2014 or 2015 under that plan.

But the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Walt Leger, a Democrat, apparently thinks schools, students, and teachers need more time to transition to the full impact of the standards and tests. Unlike in Florida, however, where Scott likes what the legislature has sent to him, Jindal doesn’t like Leger’s bill, the AP says.

Media reports about both states don’t seem to mention the states’ waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But it will be interesting to see if the U.S. Department of Education has any concerns with the proposals from either state. Generally, they’ve shown a willingness to let states pause accountability for a year during this shift in standards and tests.

In Florida, for example, since the “pause” is only for a year, and since the accountability data will be publicly reported, if not used for any consequences, that might pass muster with the feds. But in Louisiana, the “pause” period is longer than one year.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.