ESSA Purpose

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is intended to ensure all students have equitable access to high-quality educational resources and opportunities, and to close educational achievement gaps. One requirement of each state’s ESSA plan is an accountability system that identifies schools in need of support and provides the resources needed to assist those schools in meeting the needs of their students.

New Jersey’s ESSA accountability system was developed over the course of a year, during which the NJDOE sought feedback from stakeholders and technical experts to ensure the system would allow the NJDOE to identify the schools whose students are most in need of support. In particular, New Jersey parents, educators, students and community members determined that, within our school accountability system, we must place the greatest emphasis on student growth and the progress of all children, rather than overall averages.

The key element of New Jersey’s accountability system is a focus on student growth and a focus on equity for all children. The five indicators incorporated into the ESSA school accountability system include:

Academic Progress

New Jersey has reported schools’ performance using Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) since the 2011-2012 school year. This measure shows how much students have learned compared to other students across the state with similar prior academic achievement. SGPs are calculated by comparing scores from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments for grades 4-8 in English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA/L) and grades 4-7 in Math over multiple years. Looking at students’ progress from year to year, regardless of their starting point, provides a deeper picture of student needs when compared to the previous accountability system, which focused on proficiency, or whether or not students met a particular standard.

Graduation Rate

For high schools, graduation rate is the measure with the highest weight in the calculation of summative scores. Stakeholders consistently provided feedback that, as many students often require additional years of support and services, the accountability system should reflect more than a 4-year graduation rate. As a result, the NJDOE also, for the first time, is including the 5-year graduation rate in the accountability system.

Academic Achievement

As required under ESSA, New Jersey’s accountability system incorporates schools’ ELA/L and Math proficiency rates on the NJSLA and Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) assessments.

Chronic Absenteeism

ESSA provided states the opportunity to incorporate into their accountability system additional indicators related to school quality or student success. The additional indicator New Jersey included in its accountability system is the rate of chronic absenteeism—that is, the rate of students absent for more than 10% of the school year. Chronic absenteeism was chosen as the additional measure because high rates of absenteeism in schools have been linked to low achievement in reading, lower graduation rates and higher dropout rates. In collaboration with stakeholders, the NJDOE is continuing to investigate whether other measures should be incorporated into New Jersey’s accountability system in the future.

Definition of Comprehensive and Targeted Support Schools

New Jersey’s ESSA Plan includes definitions on new classifications of schools, replacing the previous designations of Priority, Focus, and Rewards Schools. Below is a short definition of each new category

Comprehensive Support and Improvement

Schools are identified for comprehensive support and improvement if any of the following three criteria apply to the school:
  1. A school’s overall performance is at or below the fifth percentile of all Title I schools (i.e., the cut score).
  2. A high school has a four-year graduation rate at or below 67 percent.
  3. A Title I school is identified as in need of targeted support and improvement for three or more consecutive years (i.e., the school has a chronically low performing subgroup).

Targeted Support and Improvement

Schools are identified for targeted support and improvement if the school has a student subgroup with an overall performance at or below the fifth percentile of Title I schools (i.e., if the subgroup were its own school, its cut score would qualify the subgroup for comprehensive support).
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