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The Office of Public Instruction will ask schools to raise test scores significantly in a new education road map that will be submitted to the federal government later this year.

The plan aims to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind in December 2015. Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen pulled back a plan submitted by previous Superintendent Denise Juneau, saying the process had moved too fast. At a Wednesday press conference, Arntzen emphasized that changes are still being made to the plan and OPI is still accepting public input.

The test score improvements would call for at least four percent of non-proficient students to improve to proficient on state-required tests. ESSA requires the same goal to be applied to sub-groups, like students with disabilities. And because different sub-groups have different achievement levels, they’ll be asked to improve at dramatically different rates.

More students with disabilities get non-proficient scores than an average student. They will be expected to improve math proficiency levels by 18.5 percent, compared to 11.6 percent for white students. Native American students will be expected to raise proficiency levels by 17.9 percent.

The plan calls for far more improvement than Juneau’s plan. The federal Department of Education has issued sharp feedback to some states that already submitted plans, including criticism for goals that weren’t “ambitious” as the law requires.

“We’ve listened to the field and we believe that four percent is achievable,” said Susie Hedalen, OPI’s director of educational services.

ESSA requires states to blend several factors into an overall rating for schools: academic achievement, academic progress, graduation rates and English language learner proficiency progress, plus another category with factors picked by states.

The law also still requires that states administer standardized tests and requires them to identify and try to improve struggling schools.

Some rules for the law are still changing, as the Education Department transitions from the Obama Administration to Trump-appointee Betsy DeVos, who pushed back some initial deadlines for submitting plans.

Juneau’s administration released a plan with input from a series of stakeholder meetings that Gov. Steve Bullock also signed off on. Plans are reviewed by governors, although they don’t have the power to revise them.

Arntzen’s administration has held a series of meetings around the state and solicited online feedback for a new plan.

Another major change from the Juneau plan is the inclusion of college and career readiness as a state-picked indicator, along with attendance, school climate, behavior and student engagement.

High schools will be asked to have students meet one of the following criteria: passing an Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment class, meeting college-ready benchmark scores on the ACT test, or completing a designated series of Career and Technical Education courses.

Hedalen said OPI is considering adding other options, such as participation in programs like Future Farmers of America.



Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.