Highlights of Utah’s ESEA Flexibility Request

College- and Career-Ready Expectations for All Students

Utah adopted rigorous English language arts and math standards now in place in 45 other states and  the District of Columbia. Utah completed a study comparing its current standards to the new,  higher standards, is a member of a network that is developing high-quality instructional materials  that are aligned to these standards, and has developed detailed plans for providing professional  development to ensure that teachers are prepared to provide instruction on the new standards. To support English Learners and students with disabilities, Utah created sample lessons to show  educators how English Learners could meet the linguistic demands of the new standards based on  an alignment study of the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment standards and  assessments for ELs, and, worked with a network of representatives from teacher preparation  programs at institutions of higher education to discuss and address concerns about assessments,  materials, and teacher support for transitioning educators and students with disabilities to the higher standards.

Improved State and District Accountability for All Students

Ambitious Performance Targets: Utah established new targets for math and literacy that will reduce by half the percentage of students in the “all students” group and in each subgroup who are not proficient over the next 6 years.

Renewed Focus on Closing Achievement Gaps: Utah will identify the schools in the State with the greatest challenges for groups of students as “Focus schools” and demand interventions to  improve student performance. To identify schools with large achievement gaps, Utah compares individual subgroup achievement with all student performance. Utah will build on its existing Title I school improvement process in Focus schools, including the use of a School Support Team to identify needs, develop interventions, and monitor progress. The State also will require increasingly rigorous actions if the school does not improve. To protect individual subgroups, Utah will require any school that does not meet its performance targets for a single subgroup to address the needs of these students in its improvement plan.

To capture more schools in the accountability system, Utah will use a combined subgroup, the “below proficient group,” which will increase the number of schools held accountable for one or  more ESEA subgroups from 823 to 864, or 90 percent of Utah’s schools.

Aggressive Plan for Turning Around the Lowest-Performing Schools: Utah will identify the lowest-performing schools in the State as “Priority schools” and ensure that districts implement  meaningful interventions in these schools. Utah already is implementing rigorous interventions in  15 persistently lowest-achieving schools, or 5 percent of its Title I schools, through the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which requires such fundamental changes as replacing a school’s leadership and staff, adopting a new instructional program, and increasing both learning time for students and collaboration time for teachers.

Building Capacity for School Improvement: Utah provides assistance to districts with lowerperforming schools through its Statewide System of Support (SSOS), which utilizes a research-based school appraisal process conducted by trained School Support Teams (SST). The SST is made up of  external providers and at least one district representative, and may be reconstituted following the  appraisal process to include additional experts in the fields shown by the appraisal to be of greatest  need (with particular emphasis on underperforming subgroups, including English Learners and students with disabilities, and lower graduation rates). The SST then works with the school leadership team to revise the school improvement plan to address specific needs. Increased Accountability and Support for Districts: Districts with Priority and Focus schools will have much higher engagement of the SSOS and the Utah Office of Education and less  autonomy, including State approval of interventions and required external partners. Transparently Reporting on Students’ Progress: Utah will annually publish school report cards that include data on overall school achievement and growth as well as specific information related to achievement and growth of disaggregated groups for all schools. Utah also will utilize the webbased Utah Title I Plan Tracker System to submit school improvement plans and progress reports to  schools on a regular basis.

Supporting Effective Instruction and Leadership

Utah has adopted a statewide framework for teacher and principal evaluation and is developing guidelines for evaluation and support systems that consider multiple measures of professional practice as well as measures of student growth. Districts will also have flexibility to develop their own evaluation and support systems, as long as they are consistent with the State’s guidelines and approved by the State. These systems will help teachers and principals improve their practice through both summative evaluations and formative observations.

 

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