Steering Committee Meeting Summary - May 11, 2012

Present: Commissioner Bowen, Dale Douglass, Sandra MacArthur, Jill Adams, Rob Walker, Mark Kostin, Deb Friedman, Rachelle Tome, David Connerty-Marin, Jaci Holmes, Dan Hupp (by phone)

Role of the Steering Committee

Mark Kostin gave an overview of the role of the Steering Committee to coordinate the work of the working groups in developing an ESEA Waiver application and to think through the “big picture.”

The Steering Committee also will help DOE ensure that stakeholders are engaged in developing the Waiver US DOE has made it clear that stakeholder involvement is a key element and was a clear focus in reviewing waiver applications from the first 11 states to apply. Mark outlined 3 categories of stakeholders: teachers and other professionals whose work is directly impacted by the accountability system; students and their representatives, including student subgroups such as students with disabilities, English language learners, economically disadvantaged students, minority students; and the general public.

Committee Procedures; Membership

The Committee agreed to the proposed Communication Norms, with the understanding that concerns that might be expressed over the advisability of a waiver are not considered bad faith in participation.

The Committee agreed to allow members to send substitutes if they are not able to make the meeting or to participate by phone, provided the member brings the substitute up-to-speed before the meeting and gets a briefing from the substitute after the meeting. Members also felt that this should be allowed for the working groups as well.

The question of how voting will be done in the Committee will be discussed at a future meeting.

Members were comfortable with keeping the Steering Committee a relatively small group, to serve as an effective advisory group to the Department. A broader stakeholder group will be involved in the working groups, which are more technical in nature, and the general public and all stakeholders will be involved in providing feedback to a draft framework, perhaps through a listening tour. Associations may be able to collect input through surveys or questionnaires to their listservs; DOE can do a public survey on its website. The Committee agreed that a member of the English Language Learner subgroup should be included on the Steering Committee, so that both student subgroups that have different testing systems (students with disabilities and ELL students) were represented on the Steering Committee; input from other student subgroups will be sought through the accountability system development process.

Background on Current Accountability System

Rachelle Tome explained the current NCLB accountability system and some of its challenges.

  • The current system is a status system i.e., it shows achievement at a specific point in time; it does not show progress.
  • There are 37 “cells” data points that are reviewed for AYP status failure in any one cell can result in failing AYP status, regardless of progress, or of success in other cells.
  • AYP status is confusing for parents, who may not understand that a school has a problem in one area, but is otherwise a successful school.
  • Current system creates bad incentives, e.g.
    • Only schools that receive Title 1 funds are subject to sanctions this could give SAUs incentive not to send Title 1 funds to a particular school to avoid sanctions.
    • Schools may be reluctant to move high-achieving students out of special education their achievement helps the special education subgroup achieve AYP status, but that’s not fair to the student.
  • Supplemental Educational Services (SES) must be provided in certain CIPS schools schools have no say in what services are provided (parents select) and students receive the services based on economic disadvantage status, not academic need.
  • No help is provided for non-Title 1 schools.

Risks and Rationale for Creating a New System

While the current system is clearly flawed, members discussed the risks of creating a new system and the rationale for continuing the work despite the risks.

Developing a new system will take resources from DOE and local school systems, at a time when resources are stretched thin for all. There is a risk that US DOE will not approve a waiver application. It’s also not clear when and how ESEA may be reauthorized and whether a system that we develop now will have to be changed in a few years in response to a new ESEA. According to one member, the waiver is only good for 4 years and can be revoked if a state does not make progress in reaching goals.

Commissioner Bowen responded that he believes that Maine should create a new accountability system (and a waiver application to authorize it), despite the risks noted above. There is benefit to having an accountability system that accurately identifies struggling schools and allows us to provide appropriate assistance to improve student achievement -- the current accountability system doesn’t do that. A system that takes growth into account, as opposed to a status system, would provide a better measure of school needs. Regardless of the outcome of the Presidential Election, a new ESEA will probably be similar to the ESEA Waiver, or possibly more flexible than that, but not likely completely different. State accountability systems will also have an influence over reauthorization of ESEA.

Budgets; Growth Models

Members expressed concern over stretched school budgets. Rachelle mentioned that failing AYP status has financial implications for schools they are required to set aside certain amounts of funds for SES, which can be a burden and schools have no control over where that money goes. The parent decides what services to purchase, from a list of approved vendors provided by Maine DOE.

A question was asked about whether growth models are allowed in ESEA accountability systems. DOE staff responded yes. Members asked for more information about the DOE State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) and how that can be used for a growth model. There were also questions about how a growth model could be implemented when the state is changing tests from NECAP to SBAC.

Members discussed the timeline of the shift from NECAP to SBAC and asked for more information about the different testing options available under SBAC e.g. formative and summative uses and how this compares to NWEA in terms of cost. Members also expressed concern about the amount of class time devoted to testing.

Next Meeting; Information Requests

The next meeting of the Steering Committee was set for May 31st, after each of the workgroups has a first meeting. The Committee will be briefed on the workgroup meetings.

Members asked for additional information on the following:

  • A single chart showing the timeline of implementation of a new accountability system, SBAC introduction, Common Core and other initiatives
  • An overview of SBAC in particular, how it relates to a growth model, the different types of testing options, costs, comparison to NWEA, how you would do a growth model in the 1st year of SBAC
  • Information about DOE data system capabilities

Meeting Summary prepared by Deb Friedman, DOE