By RYAN QUINN
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Education cut a proposed accountability provision regarding minority students’ graduation rates from its plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, before submitting that plan to the U.S. Education Department.
The state department cut the words “and any subgroup of students” from the end of a line saying that “we propose to identify for comprehensive support and improvement any high school for which the 4-year cohort graduation rate falls below 67 percent for all students and any subgroup of students.”
A subgroup means a minority group of students, including racial/ethnic minorities and other categories, like students with disabilities.
“Including that particular provision under comprehensive and also keeping as it should have been in the other categories … it was kind of like a double jeopardy,” Whisman said.
The plan, which the U.S. Education Department has yet to approve, has accountability provisions that kick in based on the performance of the general student body of a school and, in some cases, also based separately on the performance of subgroups within that student body.
Under the plan, schools wouldn’t be held separately accountable for the performance of every minority group of which they have just a few students. The state has chosen 20 as its “minimum n-size”: the number of students who must be in a specific minority, such as Hispanic students or special education students, in a school before the school is held separately accountable for that subgroup.
The state chose to no longer rate the performance of entire schools using “summative” labels, unlike the previous school accountability system that gave whole schools A-F grades. Regardless, the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires all states to assign certain federal labels, including “comprehensive support and improvement,” to low-performing schools.
States, however, get to define what “low-performing” means in important areas.
Whisman and state department communications director Kristin Anderson said that, even if the graduation provision had been in effect in recent school years, no schools in the state would’ve been labeled “comprehensive support and improvement” schools because of it.
“Additional targeted support” is another federal label.
The Every Student Succeeds Act says this label must be attached to schools in which any student subgroup would, if that subgroup made up the whole school, cause that school to be labeled a comprehensive support and improvement school, but references a piece of the act and a state-set methodology that are separate from the “below 67 percent” graduation rate trigger that also applies the comprehensive support and improvement label.
That separate state-set methodology for identifying a school as a comprehensive support and improvement school may require a subgroup to perform poorly in more than just the graduation rate area — other accountability areas include standardized test performance — in order for it to trigger the extra accountability and supports for that school.
The state’s requirements for schools to get rid of the “additional targeted support” label after three years are nearly identical to the requirements to get rid of the “comprehensive support and improvement” label.