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School performance categories are changing for South Dakota

PIERRE — South Dakota's public schools won't be judged on teacher effectiveness and school climate after all.

The state Board of Education learned Monday that South Dakota would be allowed to drop the two criteria from the school performance index.

The U.S. Department of Education approved those changes as part of South Dakota's flexibility waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements for the 2014-2015 academic year.

State Department of Education officials plan for the index to be based instead on three criteria.

For elementary and middle schools they are 20 percent for attendance; 40 percent on student achievement on standardized tests; and 40 percent on student improvement year to year on those assessments.

High schools will be scored on graduation, student achievement and college readiness.

The achievement tests are administered in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11.

Teacher and administrator evaluations will continue to be required and performed in each school district, according to Abby Javurek-Humig, director for the state Division of Assessment and Accountability.

But they won't be part of the school performance scoring, she said.

Further changes are planned for the 2015-2016 school year.

Student achievement for a school or district will be based on three years to smooth data.

Additional ways to show college readiness, beyond ACT scores, will be successful completion of remediation classes and achievement on grade 11 standardized assessments.

Career readiness based on a national certificate program will be an optional measure for schools.

Achievement growth will be measured in a new way for elementary and middle school students.

Javurek-Humig said the student growth category would consider two sets of change if the U.S. Department of Education approves for 2015-2016.

One would be a student's improvement on the standardized testing.

The second would be that student's performance improvement relative to other students who ranked at the same percentile one year earlier.

The growth rating would be in addition to whether the student performed at a level below basic, basic, proficient or advanced on the achievement testing.

The goal of No Child Left Behind was that all students perform at the proficient levels for their grades.

The approach planned by state education officials is to base the growth score on a combination of the school's overall improvement and the improvement shown by the lowest-performing 25 percent of the school's students.

The first results will be released after completion of 2015-16 assessments, Javurek-Humig said.

The old system didn't allow growth to be captured, she said.

The state board's president, Meade school district superintendent Don Kirkegaard of Sturgis, expressed some caution about the ease of acceptance of the growth model.

"It will be difficult for parents to digest," Kirkegaard said.

State Education Secretary Melody Schopp said the additional emphasis on the lower 25 percent is an important step toward improving students' performance.

"That's where we really need to be paying attention whether they're making growth," Schopp said.

Colorado, Utah and Arizona use student-growth models, according to Javurek-Humig. She said South Dakota can use other states' baseline software to build its percentile-growth system.