The state does an outstanding job of describing its rationale for the indicators it has selected and the weights it has assigned to each indicator.
The state has chosen a mix of high-quality indicators that will give schools incentives to pay attention to a number of important academic and non-academic student outcomes.
Iowa’s elementary and middle schools will be accountable for participation rates; achievement, as measured by average scale scores and proficiency rates; student growth, as measured by student growth percentiles; progress in achieving English language proficiency; and a “Conditions for Learning” survey to measure student safety, engagement, and environment.
Iowa has also provided evidence that its survey instrument is valid and reliable, will be comparable statewide, and can be disaggregated by subgroup. The survey is also given to all parents and staff, but it is the student’s voice that counts in the accountability context. This innovative approach to empowering student voice is worth watching.
It is worth noting that Iowa has included assessment participation rate as one of the school’s accountability indicators, making it clear that the state wants to see data on every student included in the accountability system.
The metric is simple: “Did more than 95 percent of all students, and of students in each subgroup, take the assessment – yes or no?” “Yes” earns 10 percentage points; “No” earns 0.
This focus will give schools an incentive to include all students in assessments. However, Iowa’s plan would be even stronger if it included consequences for schools that miss this participation threshold overall, or for particular subgroups.
Iowa’s high schools will be accountable for a similar list of indicators, and Iowa deserves particular credit for including growth and the same survey instrument for high school students, creating additional alignment within the system.
The only differences are the addition of graduation rates and, in the future, a postsecondary readiness indicator. Iowa plans to include both four- and five-year graduation rates, which encourages schools to help all students graduate, but it does not specify how it would balance these two different rates. It could strengthen its plan and better align its accountability system with its long-term goals by giving greater weight to the four-year rate.
Iowa also deserves credit for responsibly adding a postsecondary readiness metric to its high school accountability system over time.
Although the data and calculations are not yet ready for inclusion, Iowa recognizes stakeholder interest in an indicator of this type, and it has laid out a process to begin collecting the data, build out the indicator over time, and give it increasing weight in the accountability system.