Washington’s plan for assessing schools under the federal K-12 education law is strong, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Bellwether Education Partners.
Washington’s plan for how its schools will meet the requirements of the federal government’s main K-12 education law — the Every Student Succeeds Act — received positive marks in two recent analyses.
The state’s system for how it plans to evaluate schools is one of the best in the nation, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education nonprofit. Washington was one of only seven states to receive a “strong” rating from Fordham in every category.
And Washington has set ambitious goals for its students that other states should emulate, says a panel convened by Bellwether Education Partners in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success. Both organizations are reform-focused nonprofits that have received grants from several large foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The Gates Foundation also provides funding for Education Lab.)
The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law in 2015 and will take effect this coming school year. It replaced a law known as No Child Left Behind, which was enacted in 2002. The new law provides states more flexibility in how they measure student progress and how state officials hold schools and districts accountable if they aren’t making enough progress.
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State Superintendent Chris Reykdal submitted Washington’s plan in September to the U.S. Department of Education; the state is awaiting review from the education department.
The Fordham Institute looked at every state’s proposals and rated each based on whether it has clear and intuitive ratings, a focus on all students and fairly measures each school.
The institute praised Washington’s plan for using a 1-10 scale to identify schools that need support, which, the institute’s analysts wrote, immediately conveys how well a school is doing. It also gave Washington’s plan a “strong” grade for focusing on all students and for rating schools fairly, citing the state’s proposal to measure how much students improved from year to year on state tests, rather than just measuring how many students were proficient.
The state superintendent’s office wanted to make sure Washington’s plan focused on students’ continuous improvement, not just on one number, said deputy superintendent Michaela Miller.
The analysis released by Bellwether also commended Washington for its focus on continuous improvement. The plan’s overall strengths, the panel wrote, are that it includes multiple measures — like how many ninth-grade students are on track to graduate — in how it defines a good school.
Some potential weaknesses, the panelists found, are in the plan’s 1-10 scale identification system. While the Fordham Institute liked Washington’s plan for using a 1-10 scale, the Bellwether panelists say parents and educators might not fully understand it.