Friday, September 5, 2014

Comments on the Nebraska Accountability System for State Board of Education

September 5, 2014

I was honored to present at the State Board of Education meeting today as a panelist representing the NePAS Task Force to bring forth recommendations on the evolving state accountability system. This was an informal exchange with the State Board to update them, and was conversational and informative. I was privileged to be among several speakers, including lead presenter and psychometrician Dr. Chad Buckendahl, State of Nebraska Director of Assessment Valorie Foy, and Dr. Leslie Lukin, LPS Director of Assessment and Evaluation.

While I did not provide the comments below verbatim, I shared the gist of it and these are my thoughts on the evolution of the state's model:

"Good morning, I am here today as one of the delegates representing the NePAS Task Force and the collaborative effort the group has undertaken with assessment experts and under the guidance of Dr. Foy and NDE Assessment personnel to offer recommendations for the accountability model for the state.

One of the main things I want you to know about our Task Force efforts are that we have approached this throughout with earnest and sincere commitment proceeding from an awareness of the profound implications for schools and a desire to improve student learning. To that end, the Task Force anchored its work in guiding principles of accountability beginning with improving outcomes for all students, and doing so through reliance on valid and reliable measures, via a fair process while communicating in language that is easy to understand.

One of the more perplexing issues we have to grapple with is creating an equitable accountability system for the range of sizes and demographics in Nebraska schools. This is a particular challenge, given that we have large and densely populated metropolitan districts and small, sparsely populated rural districts. By relying on the expertise of the assessment gurus who have partnered with us and leveraging the experiential wisdom of the Task Force participants, I think that you are well on your way to creating and refining such a model.

Under the leadership of Valorie and Marilyn, the Task Force typically broke into smaller workgroups that deliberated on key facets for measuring growth and the best means of affirming strengths and identifying areas for improvement – for student populations as a whole as well as subgroups. Our dialogue was always informed by a common strata of baseline knowledge from the psychometrics experts who have assisted us throughout. I believe the process has been appropriately respectful of input from practitioners while working within parameters that are soundly established by policymakers. It has been some of the most meaningful and substantive exchange around student learning and its interpretation that I've had the opportunity to participate in as an educator. The tough decisions certainly are left with Commissioner Blomstedt to make recommendations and for you to collectively determine the best accountability model for our state. I can assure you that the members of the Task Force worked diligently and in a true spirit of collegiality, and we stand ready to continue to assist however you deem best."