School Accountability and Segregation Issues
Significant shifts in school accountability have occurred as a result of Council supported grassroots advocacy. Fairness in how students with disabilities, particularly students with disabilities, are counted and valued in the school accountability system has been improved by two major shifts in policy. First, the use of student growth, instead of merely the student’s absolute performance levels on standardized tests, increases how much students with disabilities count in the school accountability system. Second, counting diplomas earned by students with disabilities, including students on alternate standards, also increases the value students with disabilities have in the school accountability system.
There are still concerns with the proposed shift in school accountabiltiy to require students to reach the highest levels of performance for a school to recieve a rating of “A”. The more accountability systems rely on absolute performance levels on standardized tests increases the , the more school performance scores are viewed without consideration of whether the school is serving a ‘fair share’ of students with disabilities – particularly students with significant disabilities. The goal of having every student reach a higher absolute metric is using performance levels not reached by most (88% of) students with disabilities. Historically data reveals this approach encourages selective admissions (i.e., magnet and private schools) and/or selective recruiting practices, ‘counseling out’ and/or disciplinary removals of students not expected to contribute positively to the academic grade.
The use of growth scores are an improvement, but keep in mind most students with disabilities will earn points for their school based on growth scores. And, growth scores will most likely be determined relative to performance of ‘similar’ students. So using growth scores will cause students with disabilities to still tend to earn less points for their school, on average, than students without disabilities. While using growth scores is an improvement from the previous approach of merely using absolute performance of students in determining school letter grades, there continues to be room for improvement.
Another concern related to the use of growth scores with students with disabilities is how students are grouped as being ‘similar’ to one another. The issue of grouping students into categories is particularly difficult when there are few students with certain labels. So in most “Value-Added Models” that compare each student’s growth on standardized test performance relative to other ‘similar’ students has used the category of ‘Special Education – Other” for all students with low-incidence disabilities (i.e., disability categories with low numbers of students). So students identified with all the following disability classifications are grouped together for growth comparisons: Autism, blindness, deafness, hearing impairment, moderate intellectual disability, severe/profound intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment.
Funding and Segregation Issues
There continue to be inequities in how schools are funded that creates incentives to not enroll students with disabilities. Advocates have been seeking for funding to traditional and charter schools to be with the same formula.
These are not new issues but using such a high stakes accountability system with funding formulas and school comparison measures that were not designed for school systems that did not have to take on the responsibility for teaching all students creates additional issues for advocates to address.
The Council advocates for all schools accepting public funds to accept and offer students with disabilities all necessary and appropriate services in inclusive education settings (i.e., the least restrictive environments).
On October 10, 2014 the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council and the Louisiana School Board Association hosted a webinar (below) to connect the dots in Louisiana’s education system. The webinar provided a case study of the impact of Louisiana’s Accountability and Funding systems on a school system’s financial health and the impact of and to students with significant disabilities. While the example uses one school system (Union Parish) it highlights issues that are pervasive throughout the Louisiana accountability and funding systems in education.
Click the image below to view the webinar:
Click here to view a copy of the presentation used in the webinar.
Student Performance and Accountability
End of Course Tests
High school students must take End-of-Course (EOC) tests following specific courses. Performance on EOC tests count as part of the student’s course grade and are part of the requirements for graduation.
LaTEACH successfully advocated for flexibility in the percentage of EOC test performance used toward course grades of students with disabilities.
Teacher evaluations are based on student performance and measures of professional practices. For teachers of non-tested grades and subjects, the student performance evaluation includes performance on Student Learning Goals developed by the teacher and school administrator. Since Student Learning Goals do not have to align with goals and objectives on a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), there is the possibility that teachers will be motivated by factors other than student outcomes agreed upon by the IEP team.