ESSAEducation Week and others have been reporting concerns that the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will no longer accept super subgroups in place of individual subgroups of students for accountability purposes.

Under the 2001 NCLB law, the federal government created a system that held all states accountable on two measures—the number of students who tested “proficient” in math and reading each year. However, the Department of Education authorized waivers that allowed states to lump some of their subgroups—like their 25% lowest-income students, students with special needs, and ELLs, for example—together into more broadly labeled categories such as “disadvantaged students.”   These “super subgroups” enabled states to release more data about how their high-needs students were doing, since they now had larger sample sizes of students and could more easily avoid concerns about violating student privacy, but it also obscured performance of specific subsets within that larger group.

This change in reporting need not be a concern if schools and districts can only come to understand that under-performing students need to work on their individual skill gaps.  Each student is unique.  Although they can be assessed and the results reported in groups, they must receive individual instruction.

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