Massachusetts’ plan includes a relatively simple list of high-quality indicators.
Massachusetts plans to revisit its indicators when it has its new assessment results in summer 2017, but for now the state’s plan includes: academic achievement, academic progress, English language proficiency, graduation rates, and chronic absenteeism.
Within those categories, its school quality indicators appear to be well constructed. The state’s proposed use of “Success in grade 9 courses” is notable, as it will serve as an early warning indicator to help schools and districts identify which students are most likely to drop out, and position them to better respond. To produce this measure, the state proposes to use prior-year student performance data to determine if a student failed one or more courses in high school.
Massachusetts also deserves credit for including its science assessment in its accountability system.
That decision will help lessen concerns about curriculum narrowing and will force schools to pay attention to student performance beyond reading and math.
The plan also includes a measure for the successful completion of “challenging coursework,” but it does not describe how that would be defined. The state may want to consider combining this indicator with access to the courses as an incentive for schools to pay attention to both access and success.
The state should place greater weight on its four-year graduation rate.
At the high school level, it’s not clear if the state’s proposed inclusion of two separate measures of graduation rates (in addition to an annual dropout rate) are sufficiently discrete to add extra information to the system. The state would have a stronger plan, and more closely align its accountability system with its long-term goals, if it placed greater weight on the four-year graduation rate.