ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Board of Education discussed its role in implementing federal education legislation.
Members of the board discussed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a law passed by the U.S. Congress in December 2015 as a successor to the previous No Child Left Behind Act.
ESSA requires that states implement a recording and accountability system to assess the academic performance of counties and schools. Maryland and Montgomery County are currently in the process of deciding how to implement the law.
Presenting at the meeting were Josh Civin, general counsel for the school system; Donna Blaney, an administrator at the Office of Shared Accountability; and Janet Wilson, Associate Superintendent of Shared Accountability.
Implementation would include periodic surveys from teachers and students as well as a star-rating system for each school. Students would be asked to fill out confidential non-anonymous surveys about their school’s education climate.
Criteria for measuring each school include chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, and numerous test scores attained by the students. Chronic absenteeism would include excused absences.
Civin explained that, unlike the No Child Left Behind Act, the ESSA would allow states to measure student achievement standards differently based on racial and ethnic standards.
“The way the state has created goals amounts to different standards for racial and other subgroups and that was a real concern from an equity perspective,” Civin said.
Board members expressed concern over the implementation requirements.
“I have concerns about unintended consequences similar to No Child Left Behind,” said Rebecca Smondrowski (District 2).
Patricia O’Neill (District 3) expressed her concerns on the star-rating system.
“People are going to see it in Florida and Virginia. People view it negatively for many schools,” she said. “I don’t see that we have much input into this matter and it’s going to have negative characterization of some schools.”
Student member Matt Post expressed concern over non-anonymous surveys and the definition of absenteeism.
“With the chronic absenteeism it’s destined to have unintended consequences, whether you’re pregnant or you have an internship or a job like mine,” Post said.
“If I was filling out a climate survey and I knew it was confidential and not anonymous, I’m not sure I would be totally truthful as a student,” he added. “Especially when you know it goes to your school’s score for these stars, it doesn’t make much sense to me.”