Fordham rates Oklahoma ESSA accountability plan among highest in the nation

OKLAHOMA CITY (November 14, 2017) – The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank that provides research and analysis on education policy in the U.S., has rated Oklahoma’s school accountability system, included in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, as ‘strong’ in a report released earlier today. 
Under ESSA, the nation’s federal education law, state education agencies were required to submit a consolidated plan for public education to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).
“ESSA provided us with a golden opportunity to return to the drawing board to craft a new, more reliable, valid and meaningful vision for school accountability in Oklahoma,” said Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of public instruction. “I am thrilled that the Fordham Institute has recognized our state plan as one that will lead to higher academic outcomes for all Oklahoma schools and students.”
The Fordham Institute’s Rating the Ratings: An Analysis of the 51 ESSA Accountability Plans evaluates ESSA plans submitted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia across a three-metric rubric. The metrics include annual school ratings that are clear and intuitive for parents, educators and the public; a focus on all students, not only those who are low performing; and the ability to fairly measure and evaluate all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.
Of the 51 state plans, only seven, including Oklahoma, scored ‘strong’ across all three metrics. Other states receiving the same rating include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Washington.
The report praised Oklahoma’s ESSA plan for its straightforward rating system that will immediately convey to parents and the community how their local schools are performing. The report also highlighted Oklahoma’s emphasis on the performance of all students along the entire spectrum of academic achievement. 
Prior to ESSA, federal policy under No Child Left Behind included strong incentives for schools to focus on pushing low-performing students across a proficiency threshold while ignoring so-called “bubble kids” who score much higher or lower on the proficiency scale. Oklahoma’s new state plan received high marks for restoring focus to all students by using a performance index instead of proficiency rates and placing an emphasis on individual student growth. 
The Fordham Institute’s report also commended Oklahoma’s ESSA plan for creating a rating system that places all schools, including those in high-poverty areas, on equal footing. Instead of relying on outdated school performance measures such as proficiency and graduation rates that can disproportionally punish high-poverty schools regardless of student growth, Oklahoma’s plan reverses the narrative by quantifying changes in student achievement over time.
“Oklahoma proves that when states are empowered to lead on education, the needs of students and their families are put first,” said Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute. “Oklahoma’s accountability system is clear, fair and signals that all kids count. Here’s hoping that other states follow its lead.”
The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) submitted Oklahoma’s ESSA plan to the USDE for review and approval in September. The plan outlines OSDE’s 8-Year Strategic Plan, Oklahoma Edge, that includes measurable goals and initiatives to ensure all Oklahoma students have the tools to reach high levels of academic achievement that persist beyond high school.
“The institute’s rating is a testament to the more than 5,000 points of contact across numerous and diverse sectors who contributed to the state’s ESSA plan,” said Hofmeister. “As a result of their input and collaboration, Oklahoma’s kids and schools are on a richer, more purpose-driven path to success.”
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Last updated on November 14, 2017