Massachusetts is clearly wrestling with the question of how to incentivize schools to address the needs of every child with a focus on traditionally disadvantaged students.
But with few specifics and little backup data to support its outlined approach, it is difficult to predict its impact.
Massachusetts plans to identify any school with a subgroup in the lowest performing 10 percent “of all eligible subgroups” for targeted support.
However, it’s not entirely clear from the state’s plan if that applies to each subgroup or if the state is envisioning one composite group based on all subgroups. The former would be a stronger plan and would allow for more tailored interventions than one composite group of “achievement gap” schools, but the state could provide greater clarity about how this identification process will work and how many schools might be identified.
Massachusetts plans to include “gap-closing for high-needs students” as part of its accountability system.
However, more detail is needed about how it would be weighted in its overall school rating system. The state provides data showing that its “high-needs” subgroup would capture virtually all underserved students in schools where the number of English language learner, economically disadvantaged, and special education students is not high enough to be disaggregated alone. This high-needs subgroup could be a useful addition to subgroup analysis and performance, with the stated impact of adding an additional 150 schools to be held accountable for subgroup performance.
The state has not committed to how it will address students with disabilities or English learners.
Massachusetts has also not committed either way to including or excluding former students with disabilities within the students with disabilities subgroup. Similarly, the state does not commit to how it will approach the inclusion of English learners for either recently arrived English learners or for recently exited English learners for a time frame of two to four years. Nor does it say when it will make a decision.