New school improvement system includes attendance

New school improvement system includes attendance

(Wash.) Education officials in Washington State released a new framework that will be used to identify schools in need of support–and one of the new indicators, attendance, will likely be an early stumbling block for schools in a region known for high rates of chronic absenteeism.

Through the new system, schools will be measured using nine indicators, including graduation rates, growth and proficiency on state tests in math and English language arts, and English learner progress.

Three indicators are new to the state’s accountability system, and according to state education officials are designed to give an understanding of a students’ opportunity to learn: the opportunities students have to take advanced placement or college-level courses in high school; 9th graders on track to graduation; and the percentage of students who aren’t chronically absent.

Chronic absenteeism is defined in many states as missing 10 percent of the school year for any reason. According to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights federal data collection, between 5 million and 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year.

Research has shown that starting as early as kindergarten, chronic absences can predict lower third grade reading scores, and by middle school, it can signal which students are more likely to drop out of high school or come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

Washington is currently ranked second worst in the nation in chronic absenteeism. The chronic absenteeism rate reached 16 percent in the 2015–16 school year, state data shows, which means one in every six children missed at least 18 days of school.

Last year, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released resources to support districts and communities in spreading awareness among families of the importance of regular school attendance. The materials were translated into multiple languages and shared with schools and social services agencies statewide.

The Legislature has also taken steps to address the issue by providing additional state funding for the 2017–19 biennium to increase school districts’ access to attendance data and support districts in identifying successful strategies to address chronic student absenteeism.

Using the new framework for school accountability, the lowest 5 percent of school scores establish the support threshold, and any school under the threshold will be identified for comprehensive support. Schools will also be identified as needing comprehensive support if their graduation rate dips below 67 percent.

Schools that have three or more student groups who fall below the 5 percent threshold set by all schools will be identified for targeted supports, and those with one or two student groups that fall below the 5 percent threshold will receive self-directed supports.

Regular attendance and the progress of English learners toward language proficiency are the only two indicators that will be used across all grade levels. Education leaders say that the blend of academic and nonacademic will give school leaders and families a better idea of where schools need help to improve.

“The Board is pleased with the new School Improvement Framework, as it incorporates both academic and nonacademic school quality and student success measures to create a more holistic view of a school’s environment for students,” Kevin Laverty, chair of the state board, said in a statement.

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