Florida Earned the Lowest Possible Score in the All Students Category
Juana Brown, Director of Charter Schools for Redlands Christian Migrant Association
(Immokalee, FL, Thursday, January 25, 2018) – An independent peer review of Florida’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plan has been released.
Florida’s plan, along with 33 other state plans, was submitted in September 2017 to the U.S. Department of Education in order to comply with ESSA; the peer review shows Florida’s education plan falls short in key areas.
The goal of the independent peer review was to provide constructive information to state education agencies in an effort to strengthen state plans and to inform parents so that they could engage with their state policymakers.
Across the nine categories, Florida received average scores in most categories, scoring its highest – 4 out of a possible 5 – in Academic Progress and Continuous Improvement, but earning the lowest score – 1 out of 5 – in the All Students category.
Some of the biggest gaps in Florida’s plan relate to how it will support subgroups, particularly English Learners. For instance, Florida’s plan does not consider students’ English language proficiency as an indicator for how well a school is supporting its students. This means that a school might not receive the extra resources and help it needs to support their English learners. By not including English language proficiency as an indicator of school quality, Florida is in violation of the law.
Some highlights of Florida’s plan include, Academic Progress and Continuous Improvement. Florida deserves credit for pairing a clear indicator of student achievement against grade-level expectations with a growth indicator that measures student progress, with additional emphasis on struggling students. Florida places significant weight on measuring learning gains. Also, Florida has processes in place for continually improving its system, which speaks to its commitment to improvement. The plan could be strengthened by providing additional detail on how stakeholders will be involved in these decisions.
Florida’s plan needs to improve how it will ensure a high-quality education for all students. Florida does not incorporate individual subgroup performance into its A-F school and district grades. Instead, the state measures growth for the bottom quartile of students, which may help capture some of these students. Florida’s practices do not ensure schools with consistently underperforming subgroups are identified. And, when it comes to annual testing, Florida’s plan for holding schools accountable is problematic and goes against ESSA requirements. Schools that do not reach 95 percent participation initially receive an “Incomplete” grade, but districts may submit data that determines whether the grade would have changed if 95 percent of students participated.