Oregon has laid out its process for identifying schools with low-performing subgroups of students.
It identifies 11 unique student groups for accountability and is to be commended for reducing the subgroup threshold from 40 to 20 students for the ESSA accountability system. Oregon should also be commended for including data analysis that shows the effect of using different n-sizes (30 vs. 20) on the inclusion of key subgroups in the accountability system.
Oregon is also committed to using three years of data for accountability purposes, which will help lower the number of students needed to meet the n-size of 20 (as only seven students in a given subgroup would be needed in each of the three data years). This is a helpful practice to increase year-to-year stability of each school’s results and build in extra subgroup accountability, and it’s one that other states could consider.
Oregon has a plan for when a school’s groups of students do not meet the state’s minimum threshold.
Oregon will continue to rely on a “combined underserved race/ethnicity” subgroup when any given school’s groups do not meet the state’s minimum threshold on its own. Even with an n-size of 20, some of the state’s smaller subgroups would be underreported individually and not emphasized in the accountability system.
By creating the combined subgroup, Oregon states that it has ensured that at least 98 percent of each of these groups will be captured in some way. Oregon should be commended for its attempts to include these students, but, given the different needs of each of these subgroups of students, the state should clearly articulate how it will target interventions accordingly. Additionally, the state may consider if this same result would have been accomplished by lowering the n-size to 15 or 10.
Oregon will include students exiting from students with disabilities and English learner groups as part of each subgroup.
The state has chosen to include students in the students-with-disabilities group who have been exited from special education in the previous two years and students previously identified as English learners as part of the English learner student group for an additional four years after being exited. These choices will inflate the scores for these groups and lessen the focus on students continuing to receive services, and the students with disabilities idea in particular may violate federal requirements. Oregon could instead create an additional subgroup made up of exited students, which would mitigate potential unintended consequences and further masking of these important subgroups.
Oregon’s plan for identifying schools lacks detail.
Oregon will use overall performance levels to identify schools in need of comprehensive and targeted support and improvement. Any school with at least one low-performing subgroup will be identified for targeted support, and any Title I school with a subgroup that has underperformed for three or more years will be identified for comprehensive support.
While these definitions may meet the letter of the law, Oregon has left in too many unknowns to determine how this will actually play out. It has not defined what level of performance would qualify a school for each category, nor has it provided data suggesting how many schools might fall into each category.