Educators Address Accountability
Special Report - April 6, 2010
At the March 31 North Carolina State Board of Education meeting, members discussed a new model for holding accountable schools and school districts, called local education authorities (LEAs). Both student growth (measured by the improvement in test scores over a period of time, which educators call “value-added”) and absolute student performance on end-of-grade (EOG) and end-of-course (EOC) exams figured into the proposed dual index design to give the board a picture of how schools are performing.
While EOGs will remain the dominant elementary and middle school performance and growth indicators, the Board proposed using four different indicators of a high school’s quality. These included the graduation rate of students, the rigor of the chosen academic course, how prepared graduating seniors were for college or careers, and how students scored in EOC exams. The state board discussed these indicators, and will continue receiving feedback on how to weight each of them in any new scheme.
Educators discussed how some post-secondary readiness indicators (like the SAT, ACT, or vocational exams like WorkKeys) might also be used to identify academically low-performing students before their senior year, so that educators can intervene to ensure their pupils graduate on time. This effort could dovetail with Governor Perdue’s proposed “Ready, Set, GO!” initiative which would, for example, require low-performers to attend an academic boot camp in their problem subjects over the summer between their junior and senior years of high school.
Educators also strove to pattern their accountability model after changes that are likely to occur at the federal level, as Congress will likely reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year. Additional emphasis on post-secondary readiness is a key feature of both North Carolina’s proposed new accountability model, and the proposed new features of ESEA.
While the official policy of North Carolina’s Department of Public Education has been to promote students to the next grade or course level only if they pass an end-of-grade or end-of-course exam, a statistically significant portion of those who fail their exams are promoted anyway. Thus, educators are also considering removing these exam-based “gateways” and making exam scores only a portion of the final grade in a class, rather than the determinate of whether the student passed the grade or course.
The School Board also commended its late member, Kathy Taft, for her commitment to education and observed a moment of silence in memory of her.
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