Decisions about how the test results are incorporated into the AEIS would undoubtedly influence district implementation of any assessment system.
For example, using Spanish TAAS results for determining district and campus ratings would make these test results much higher stakes than RPTE results used as report-only indicators. Spanish-speaking students in bilingual programs typically receive instruction in a combination of English and Spanish. Therefore, requiring districts to administer the Spanish TAAS to students receiving instruction in Spanish, as proposed, would leave considerable discretion to the LPAC in determining whether students should be administered the Spanish TAAS or take only the RPTE until they are required to take the English TAAS. As with the Spanish TAAS, decisions about how test results for students with disabilities are incorporated into the AEIS would undoubtedly influence district implementation of changes to the assessment system.
Appropriate Use of Spanish TAAS Results
In developing any new performance indicator for the AEIS, the desired behavior at the district and campus levels should be identified. A critical concern is that use of the indicator promote this desired behavior. Including Spanish TAAS results in the AEIS would help ensure that the educational needs of all LEP students are addressed and high standards of learning for all students are upheld. It is argued that the academic progress of students is important, regardless of the primary language of instruction during the early grades, and that a student with a strong foundation in his or her native language is able to successfully transfer that knowledge to a second language. Consequently, many educators consider the Spanish TAAS to be as important as the English TAAS in interpreting campus and district performance. Some are concerned that if Spanish TAAS performance is not included as a base indicator of the accountability rating system, the test will lack credibility.
However, there are also concerns about the appropriateness of using Spanish TAAS results in the accountability rating system. It is argued that testing students in their native language does not help them reach greater proficiency in English, which is what they ultimately need to master the exit-level TAAS. Including Spanish TAAS results in the accountability rating system could change the emphasis of bilingual education programs by focusing on greater proficiency in the native language to improve Spanish TAAS scores.
In 1995-96, about 15 percent of all LEP students in Grades 3-6 took the Spanish TAAS as part of the benchmark administration of the Grades 3 and 4 mathematics and reading tests or the field test of the Grade 4 writing and Grades 5 and 6 mathematics and reading tests. If Spanish TAAS results are included in the accountability rating system, districts may choose to test fewer students.
Another concern is whether it is appropriate to compare Spanish TAAS results with English TAAS results. Although the Spanish and English TAAS tests are designed to measure comparable academic content, the tests have not been statistically equated. Therefore, performance on the English and Spanish tests are not directly comparable.
Impact on the Accountability System
Ratings. Including TAAS results for mobile students or students with disabilities, or Spanish TAAS results in the base TAAS indicator used to accredit districts and rate campuses would have an impact on the ratings produced through the accountability rating system. An analysis of 1995-96 special education results, Spanish mathematics and reading results for Grades 3 and 4, and results for mobile students not included in the accountability subset was conducted. Although ratings for some campuses and districts would have been raised, in general, accountability ratings would have been lowered by including those TAAS results in the existing TAAS base indicator. The 1996 ratings of 789 campuses would have been lowered if TAAS results of students with disabilities enrolled in the district as of the last Friday in October had been included in the base TAAS indicator. Ratings of 136 campuses would have been lowered by including Spanish TAAS reading and mathematics results for all non-special education students tested in Grades 3 and 4. Ratings of 262 campuses would have been lowered by including TAAS results for students who moved into the district after the last Friday in October. Ratings of 1,000 campuses--17 percent of all campuses--would have been lowered by including all TAAS results. Even with advance publicity about changes to the accountability rating system, changes of this magnitude might lead to the misperception that academic performance in Texas public schools is declining.
By 1999, when implementation of changes to the accountability rating system is proposed, the phase-in of standards for the accountability rating system will be in its sixth year. The TAAS passing standard for the Acceptable rating will be 45 percent passing each subject test for all students and each student group, compared to 30 percent in 1996. Districts and campuses will not have the time advantage provided in the early years of the accountability rating system to phase in standards for TAAS results added to the system.
Campuses with Exemplary and Recognized ratings would be most adversely affected by including TAAS results for mobile students and students with disabilities, and Spanish TAAS results. The small range of performance specified for these rating levels allows less room for declines before the rating is lowered than is the case for campuses with Acceptable ratings. As Table 6 shows, campuses receiving the Acceptable rating, which already represent 69 percent of all campuses, would increase in number. Such a change would reduce further the distinction in overall ratings produced by the accountability rating system, a feature of the system that is already criticized.
Including TAAS scores for students receiving special education services or students who move into the district after the last Friday in October in the accountability rating system could be expected to impact districts and campuses statewide in a fairly uniform manner. Including Spanish TAAS results would disproportionately impact elementary campuses, and campuses in the Edinburg (Region 1) and El Paso (Region 19) regions. At present, more base indicators are applicable to middle and high schools than to elementary schools, thus making it easier on average for an elementary school to achieve a higher rating. The impact of the Spanish TAAS results on ratings could be moderated to some extent by incorporating results for Grades 3-6 in one year, so that all the declines due to the change are experienced at one time. However, this would shorten the phase-in period for the Grade 4 writing test and the Grades 5 and 6 reading and mathematics tests from 3 years to 2 years, or delay making the change for one additional year.
Use of indicators. Creating separate indicators would provide more flexibility in incorporating additional TAAS results into the AEIS. For example, use of TAAS results for students receiving special education services and Spanish test results as additional indicators or retaining them as report-only indicators, rather than a base indicator, could be explored. However, there is opposition from some advocates for students with disabilities to even reporting TAAS results of students receiving special education services separately rather than combined with other campus and district TAAS results. This is coupled with a more general concern that fewer incentives exist to ensure that students excluded from the accountability rating system are assured resources devoted to improved instruction.
Two options have been discussed as possible answers to the growing number of indicators in the accountability rating system. One is to develop a weighted system that does not require each district or campus to meet standards on all indicators. The other option, which would require a change in statute, is to use different indicators to rate districts than are used to rate campuses. As indicators are added to the AEIS, it will be necessary to explore these proposals in greater detail.
Improvement. Statute now defines two improvement measures, Required Improvement and Comparable Improvement, as components of the accountability rating system for districts and campuses. It also specifies the ratings to which Required Improvement will be applied. If additional TAAS results are added to the base TAAS indicator, it will be necessary to redefine the methodology for computing Required Improvement and Comparable Improvement because measures of gain would be distorted by changes in the indicator definition across the two years used in the calculation.
Alternative assessment results. It has been proposed that either performance or gain on a proposed reading proficiency test in English be reported on the district and campus AEIS reports. Such an instrument would measure the emerging ability of LEP students to read and comprehend English. An aggregate measure of performance on a RPTE would represent the range of proficiency levels of LEP students. A measure of gain on a RPTE would reflect the progress of LEP students toward proficiency in English, which is the goal of both bilingual and ESL programs. Either acquiring or developing such a test would have a financial impact. Furthermore, it may not be possible to incorporate RPTE results into the AEIS by 1998-99. A suggestion mentioned earlier is that students performing at a certain level on a RPTE could be required to take the English TAAS. Another proposal is that a measure of required growth on a RPTE be established and incorporated into the accountability rating system as a base indicator used to accredit districts and rate campuses.
Reporting results on a proposed alternative assessment for students with disabilities who receive instruction on the essential elements but not on grade level has also been suggested. Options for this reporting would have to be explored as an assessment instrument is developed.
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