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Changes to 2017 Accountability Reporting

To:Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Principals
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:April 21, 2017

I am pleased to update you on changes to accountability reporting for the 2017 school year and the amendment to 603 CMR 2.00: Accountability and Assistance for School Districts and Schools as it relates to district and school accountability reporting in 2017. Among other matters, the regulations describe the Commonwealth's framework for district accountability and assistance and the process for placing schools into Levels 1-5. At its April 18, 2017 meeting, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) amended the regulations in order to allow the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to refrain from placing certain schools into Levels 1-3 at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. The amended regulations also address participation rates and persistently low graduation rates, as noted in more detail below.


In November 2015, the Board voted to launch development of the next-generation student assessment program for Massachusetts, building upon the best elements of the legacy MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) and PARCC (Partnership for Advancement of Readiness for College and Careers) tests. This spring, Massachusetts schools are administering the next-generation MCAS assessment for the first time to all students in grades 3-8. Anticipating the shift to the next-generation MCAS, the Board voted in November 2015 that districts and schools administering the next-generation MCAS assessment in grades 3-8 in spring 2017 would not have their accountability results negatively impacted based on those test scores. That decision is now reflected in the amended regulation that the Board adopted at its April 18, 2017 meeting. The regulation allows ESE to limit the use of Levels 1-3 this fall for any school that enrolls students in grades 3-8, so long as the school has a participation rate of at least 90 percent in the administration of the spring 2017 MCAS tests and does not have a persistently low graduation rate.

2017 Assessment and Accountability Reporting

Schools that Enroll Students in Grades 3-8

This year, assessment and accountability reporting for schools that enroll students in grades 3-8 will be different from previous years. First, ESE will publish next-generation MCAS results for each district and school, including a normative measure of achievement to help districts and ESE identify schools that may require support. ESE will also report assessment participation rates separately for English language arts, mathematics, and science, for each district and school as a whole as well as for each subgroup. Second, schools that assess at least 90 percent of their students in all groups and subjects will not be assigned an accountability and assistance level of 1-3.1 Any school or district with participation rates below 90 percent for any group of students in any subject will be placed into Level 3. Any school with persistently low graduation rates will also be placed into Level 3.2

Schools that Enroll Students in Grades 9-12 only

At the high school level, legacy MCAS tests will be administered as usual, and assessment and accountability results will be reported as they have in the past. High schools will continue to receive an accountability and assistance level based on their Progress and Performance Index (PPI) and school percentile data, with adjustments for those schools with persistently low graduation rates, or low or very low assessment participation. New Level 4 school designations may still be made at the discretion of the Commissioner.

Current Level 4 and 5 Schools

Current Level 4 and Level 5 schools administering the new assessment this year that meet the required exit criteria in 2017 will be eligible to be exited. In those situations, the Level 4 or Level 5 designation would be removed and the school would not be assigned a new accountability and assistance level, provided the school met the participation and, if applicable, the graduation rate requirements detailed in footnote 2. Level 4 and 5 schools that do not meet exit criteria will maintain their accountability and assistance level. New Level 5 school designations may still be made at the discretion of the Commissioner.

Assessment and Accountability Reporting in 2018 and Beyond

The timing of the first administration of the new assessment aligns with the transition to a revised system of accountability and assistance as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The first district and school accountability determinations under the revised system will take place in the fall of 2018. While the details of that system are still being developed, the system will be consistent with the Board's November 2015 vote. As a result, the test scores from the spring 2017 MCAS administration in grades 3-8 will not negatively impact accountability results in 2018, and going forward. While subject to further deliberation by the Board, ESE plans to use the 2017 next-generation MCAS results as the baseline for setting targets for 2018 and beyond in order to measure improvement over time. In addition, the participation data used in the 2018 accountability determinations will reflect participation rates from both 2017 and 2018. As a reminder, statewide assessments are most useful when all students take them. The accountability system is set up to encourage high participation rates - if it weren't, results would not be reflective of school-wide achievement. Further, state law requires that all students attending Massachusetts public schools participate in a statewide student assessment program under the direction of the Board. This requirement was first enacted as part of the landmark 1993 Massachusetts education reform law. The statute does not contain an "opt-out" provision for parents to remove their children from participating. For these reasons, districts and schools need to maintain high levels of student participation in 2017. Additional guidance materials related to assessment and accountability reporting will be available in the coming months. In the meantime, ESE has scheduled two webinars to review this information in greater detail and answer questions. The webinars will be one hour in length and will take place on Wednesday, May 3 at 3:00 p.m. and Thursday, May 4 at 11:00 a.m. Registration is required, and can be found at Webinar: Changes to 2017 Accountability Reporting.


Last Updated: April 21, 2017

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