Policy & Accountability

Is Alarm over Subgroup Coverage in ESSA State Plan 'Overblown?'

Is concern about subgroups being ignored in ESSA accountability systems "overblown?" That's the take by the Thomas Fordham Institute, an education think tank. In a recent column, President Michael Petrilli took a recent analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education to task for ignoring "basic math."

The report by the Alliance stated that "too many states minimize student subgroup performance in their Every Student Succeeds Act accountability systems." They do this, the analysis explained, by subsuming performance of traditionally underserved students into overall results, thereby burying the bad news.

In his response, Petrilli countered that any subgroup large enough to be counted under a state's accountability system "would be large enough to drag down its school-wide grade too." Using the state of Ohio, where the Institute has operations, as an example, Petrilli asked, "Are there many schools that do well on value added overall but where disadvantaged or black students fare poorly when it comes to making annual progress?"

His answer is no. In a state with 3,000 schools, just 20 are given high marks overall but low marks specifically for subgroups of economically disadvantaged or black students.

Petrilli's advice: that states should "stop fretting" about this part of the accountability systems they've set up.

The explanation is on the Thomas Fordham Institute website. The original analysis of subgroup coverage in state plans is on the Alliance for Excellent Education website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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