ESSA October report card draft

An excerpt from the ESSA October report card draft released by OPI that shows test score performance. The report will show how a school's students stack up against the rest of the state — mostly on standardized tests. 

Montana won't be releasing its new report cards that evaluate school performance in December as previously planned. 

The Office of Public Instruction announced the move Wednesday, citing guidance from the Department of Education about the Every Student Succeeds Act — the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind and requires the report cards. The Department had previously set a Dec. 31 deadline. 

Instead, information from the 2016-2017 school year that would have been on the report cards will be reported in OPI's current online data reporting system, GEMS. 

Report cards are now planned to be released in the "early spring of 2019," according to an OPI press release.

OPI has released draft information about the report cards, which aggregate information about factors like attendance, test scores and demographics. 

Spokesman Dylan Klapmeier said that the agency considered releasing report cards in December as a "practice run," but decided not to. 

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The design of the report cards is yet to be finalized, but they won't include A-F grades for schools

Instead, a series of graphs will show how a school's students stack up against the rest of the state — mostly on standardized tests. The report cards will include whether the school had been labeled for assistance based on a low ranking in the state's evaluation system.

A key feature of the new report cards is that they require information on the performance of subgroups of students in categories like race and special education status. Montana has long-held achievement gaps on standardized tests between white and Native American students, which often mirror economic disparities. 

Under Montana's ESSA plan, students who usually struggle most on standardized tests would be expected to improve at the steepest rate

A draft released in September included a series of graphs showing how that would be displayed. Another draft released in October did not, though neither draft has been comprehensive. 

Across the nation, the report cards have been a point of contention between federal, state and school district officials, and advocates for parents and students. School leaders have often argued that the report cards need to capture nuance in school performance that can be conveyed through a simplistic formula, while parent advocates have focus on making report cards accessible and easy to understand. 

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.