Why Numbers Matter Under ESSA

ESSA

Were you just the tiniest bit skeptical after President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law last December? I know I was.

The idea of reducing the federal role in education and giving greater power to the states was, to me, highly suspect.

Had the states in any way proved that they could be trusted to implement ESSA in a way that ensures that historically underserved students would be appropriately served?

No.

Reports are continually released that reveal that in all states, African American students, English language learners, and students living in poverty are underserved. They attend schools that have the least qualified, most inexperienced teachers; the worst physical facilities; and the fewest resources.

Although education has been termed the great equalizer, there is nothing equal about education in the United States.

And now a new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education reveals a way that states can easily subvert the purposes of the ESSA: by keeping their n-sizes too high.

What Is N-Size?

N-size refers to the number of students in a certain category that would require a school to report on those students’ academic progress and high school graduation rates. It may also require that the school examine any disparities in discipline.

But if the n-size is too high, the students in that group aren’t counted.

For example, if there are 29 African American students in a high school senior class but the state sets an n-size of 30, that group of students essentially doesn’t exist for reporting and accountability purposes, though they would count in the high school’s overall graduation rate.

However, the school wouldn’t need to report any gaps between the graduation rate of the African American students and that of their peers.

Comparability of Data

There is no one single required n-size for all 50 states, so it’s difficult to compare data across states. Thirteen states have an n-size of 10 or less; others, between 11 and 20; others have even higher n-sizes, up to 50.

According to the report by the Alliance, when states set an n-size that’s too high, it increases the likelihood that schools with gaps in the performance of student groups will be underreported.

The report also states that the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services recommends that all states set an n-size of 10. With a consistent n-size across all 50 states, it’s possible to determine within each racial group if students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined.

According to the Alliance, high n-sizes undermine ESSA’s reporting and accountability requirements.

To read the full report and check your state’s n-size, go to this website.

Why Numbers Matter Under ESSA

ESSA

Were you just the tiniest bit skeptical after President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law last December? I know I was.

The idea of reducing the federal role in education and giving greater power to the states was, to me, highly suspect.

Had the states in any way proved that they could be trusted to implement ESSA in a way that ensures that historically underserved students would be appropriately served?

No.

Reports are continually released that reveal that in all states, African American students, English language learners, and students living in poverty are underserved. They attend schools that have the least qualified, most inexperienced teachers; the worst physical facilities; and the fewest resources.

Although education has been termed the great equalizer, there is nothing equal about education in the United States.

And now a new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education reveals a way that states can easily subvert the purposes of the ESSA: by keeping their n-sizes too high.

What Is N-Size?

N-size refers to the number of students in a certain category that would require a school to report on those students’ academic progress and high school graduation rates. It may also require that the school examine any disparities in discipline.

But if the n-size is too high, the students in that group aren’t counted.

For example, if there are 29 African American students in a high school senior class but the state sets an n-size of 30, that group of students essentially doesn’t exist for reporting and accountability purposes, though they would count in the high school’s overall graduation rate.

However, the school wouldn’t need to report any gaps between the graduation rate of the African American students and that of their peers.

Comparability of Data

There is no one single required n-size for all 50 states, so it’s difficult to compare data across states. Thirteen states have an n-size of 10 or less; others, between 11 and 20; others have even higher n-sizes, up to 50.

According to the report by the Alliance, when states set an n-size that’s too high, it increases the likelihood that schools with gaps in the performance of student groups will be underreported.

The report also states that the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services recommends that all states set an n-size of 10. With a consistent n-size across all 50 states, it’s possible to determine within each racial group if students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined.

According to the Alliance, high n-sizes undermine ESSA’s reporting and accountability requirements.

To read the full report and check your state’s n-size, go to this website.

The One “Fight” Muhammad Ali Did Not Win

Muhammad Ali

In the news this weekend about the death of former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, many probably noticed a heartbreaking sentence in one of the many retrospectives on Ali’s dynamic life. The New York Times reports that in the segregated schools he’d attended, the champ had never been taught to read properly. Ali confided later in life that he had never read a book, not even the Quran.

But that was in the past, right? Today’s students of color are literate and learning. If only that were true.

According to Building a GradNation, a report written by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University released in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the country’s public schools face deep inequities and continued racial and economic segregation, not unlike the schools of Ali’s youth.

Here are some reasons to remember that the fight for educational equity is far from over:

  • There were 2,397 low-graduation-rate high schools in the U.S. in 2014, enrolling a total of 1.23 million students. (A low-graduation high school has a graduation rate of 67% or less.)
  • Nationwide, 33% of all non-graduates in 2014 were enrolled in low-graduation-rate high schools.
  • The number of low-graduation-rate high schools varies widely by state, from one each in Maine and West Virginia, to 203 in Florida and 276 in New York.
  • In 12 states (AK, NM, FL, AZ, GA, NV, CO, OR, NY, DE, WA, ID), low-graduation-rate high schools make up 20% or more of all high schools in the state. In Alaska and New Mexico, low-graduation-rate high schools make up 40% or more of all high schools in the state.
  • Students of color are overrepresented in large, low-graduation-rate high schools. Of the roughly 924,000 students in such schools (with 300 or more students), 65% came from low-income families, and 63% were African American or Hispanic/Latino.
  • In 15 states, African American students made up more than 40% of all students attending large, low-graduation-rate schools. Four of these states – MD, MI, TN, and VA – had African American student populations of 75% or more in these high schools.
  • Literacy rates remain low for black school children. Only 17% of black children completing the 2013 NAEP fourth grade reading assessment performed at or above proficiency.
  • Nationwide, 83% of black fourth graders read below grade level.

Will High School Graduation Rates Reach 90% by 2020?

The majority of black and brown high school students you encounter every day—a startling 63%—attend low-graduation-rate high schools.

In the “greatest nation in the world,” nearly 1 million students attend low-graduation-rate high schools—that is, schools that have an Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate of 67% or below, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

These sobering statistics are included in a report released by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the four organizations that lead the GradNation campaign.

The 2016 Building a Grad Nation report is the seventh annual update on the challenges states and school districts encounter in their efforts to increase high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020. To stay on track to reach that goal, the national graduation rate needs to increase by 1.3 percentage points annually. The year 2014 is the first year that the rate fell short, increasing just .9%.

If the needs of students who have historically been underserved—particularly students of color and low income students—are not addressed, the graduation rate of 90% will not be met in 2020. The emphasis must be on all students.

“Regardless of the type of school,” said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises, in a statement, “we must insist upon results and ensure that every student receives a high quality education. We need to get beyond labels and get all students what they need to succeed.”

20160505_APA_#4_fb (1)

According to the report, in 41 states low income students made up more than 40% of the enrollment in low-graduation-rate high schools; in 12 of those states, low income students made up more than 75% enrollment.

In 15 states, black students made up more than 40% of enrollment in high schools that have a graduation rate of 67% or less.

The report exposes the racial and socio-economic isolation of these underserved students, not only in regular district high schools, but also in charters (30% of which have low graduation rates), alternative schools (which serve at-risk students, 60% of whom are students of color), and virtual schools.

The report includes policy recommendations, including requiring states to develop evidence-based plans to improve low-graduation-rate high schools. It is distressing to note that some states do much better with difficult student populations than others. Would that ineffective states were required to explain why they are not using methods that other states have found more successful.

For more information about the 2016 GradNation report, visit this website.

New Data Highlights Growing High School Graduation Gaps

(Image: File)

This post was originally published on the website of America’s Promise Alliance. It is reprinted here with permission.

The nation’s high school graduation rate recently reached a record high of 82.3%, driven largely by improvements among traditionally underserved students. But significant gaps remain, particularly for low-income students, according to a new data brief from the GradNation campaign.

[Related: Graduation Rates Rise, But Do Diplomas Have Value?]

The 2016 Building a Grad Nation Data Brief: Overview of 2013-14 High School Graduation Rates released by Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, shows that nationally 74.6% of low-income students graduated on time compared to 89% of non-low income students—a 14.4 percentage point gap.

The Data Brief was released as part of the GradNation campaign, led by America’s Promise, to raise high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020.

(Check your state’s progress in reaching 90% for all students.)

The Gap Facing Low income Students

Nearly half—47%—of the nation’s 2014 graduating class came from low-income families, and nearly two-thirds of the states have public school student populations that are at least 40% low income.

“In low-graduation-rate schools, low-income students are overwhelmingly the largest subgroup represented,” said Rachael Fortune, a director of alliance engagement at America’s Promise. “Clearly, this is a segment of students that must be better supported if the country is to graduate 90% of all students by 2020. We encourage state and local leaders to use data to set goals, then re-double efforts to reach them.”

Sixteen states graduate less than 70% of low-income students. In those states, researchers estimate that nearly 191,000 low-income students did not graduate on time with a traditional diploma.

The graduation gap between low-income and non-low income students ranges from a high of 25.6 percentage points in South Dakota to a low of 4 percentage points in Indiana.

States with Biggest Gaps for Low income Students

Size of Income Gap in HS Grad Rate vs. Non-Low income Student Grad Rates

Low income Grad Rate

SD

25.6

65.2

CO

23.7

64.2

MN

23.6

65.9

MI

22.8

65.6

WY

21.9

65.4

Minnesota Tackles Low income Gap

Despite an overall graduation rate of 81.2%, the research shows that Minnesota has one of the nation’s largest graduation gaps between low income and non-low income students—23.6 percentage points.

Four out of 10 students in the state of Minnesota are low income and they are graduating at a rate of nearly 70%. Minnesota still has almost 7,300 students enrolled in low-graduation-rate high schools, defined as schools that have a graduation rate of less than 67%.

But Minnesota is working to change those numbers.

The GradNation State Activation Initiative, a three-year grant collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson, helps support a statewide campaign to mobilize Minnesotans to increase graduation rates for all students.

One of the grantees, Minnesota Alliance with Youth, through its GradMinnesota initiative, is driving the work through the development of a statewide communications campaign, the creation of a comprehensive online resource library for educators and practitioners, and the endorsement of legislation that advances the group’s seven recommendations.

GradMinnesota is a statewide coalition in partnership with the governor’s office and the Minnesota Department of Education.

Based on research, effective practices, input from young people and other key stakeholders, GradMinnesota offers seven key recommendations to increase student engagement and raise high school graduation rates. These include

  • replacing exclusionary disciplinary policies with more effective alternatives;
  • heeding data-based early warning indicators and providing targeted support to students who are disengaging;
  • providing transportation to ensure equitable access to learning opportunities such as after school programs, alternative learning centers, or college courses.

Educators across the state are adopting strategies that will work for their students.

At West Education Center Alternative School in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Alexia Poppy-Finley, assistant supervisor, said, “We pride ourselves on strong relationships with students. It’s an approach that helps the teachers and staff address the whole student and respond to emotional and social as well as academic needs.”