The state Board of Education on Thursday approved the school report card system as proposed in a unanimous vote following a 3.5 hour meeting.

Oklahoma’s new plan for school accountability will pioneer a way of setting academic goals based on subgroups such as race and economic disadvantage, the plan’s lead researcher says.

The method combines student achievement and achievement gap reduction into one measure, said Marianne Perie, a University of Kansas researcher who authored the final report on Oklahoma’s accountability system, made public last week. Oklahoma is one of, if not the first, state to publish their plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Others may adopt this method, which was recommended by Chiefs For Change, a spinoff off Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.

“Oklahoma’s going to be leading the field because Oklahoma’s plan is going to be public before most others are,” she said. “It’s unique now.”

Setting differing goals based on race, poverty, English language learner and disability status would be a new undertaking. Demographics don’t factor into Oklahoma’s current system.

Oklahoma is overhauling its current A-F school report card system, which has been criticized by teachers, university researchers and state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. Changes are being proposed to comply with the ESSA as well as state House Bill 3218. The state Board of Education is expected to vote Thursday on the plan.

In setting targeted student test scores, the state proposes dividing students into demographic groups but only counting a student’s score in one group, even if that student falls within multiple categories.

They’ve created this hierarchy of student groups:

  1. Economically disadvantaged (those eligible for free and reduced lunch)
  2. Students with disabilities
  3. English language learners
  4. Black/African American
  5. Hispanic
  6. Native American
  7. All other students

So, for instance, a black student with a disability who is not economically disadvantaged would fall into the students with disabilities category and be required to meet that goal.

But under this scenario, goals set for black students will actually just be for those black students who are not poor or in special education or learning English—because those categories take precedence.

“We’re trying to get schools to really focus on all kids,” said Perie. “Some of the problems with just doing percent proficient overall (are related to) …  kids who were too far away from the bar got ignored.”

Students will either meet the goal or not, and schools will receive credit for the percentage of students meeting the goal. Students in low scoring groups will have to show more improvement every year than those at the top, theoretically shrinking the achievement gap.

Baseline scores for all groups would be set using actual scores from the 2017 spring assessments. The state intends to set different goals for each demographic group.

These demographic categories will only factor into the “status” category goals, which are worth 35 points for elementary and middle schools and 45 for high schools, of a possible 90.

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