A ‘Simulator’ for Setting Academic Goals Under ESSA

Managing Editor

Just as they did under No Child Left Behind, school districts will face pressure to meet deadlines for raising student achievement, albeit under different conditions, under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Now, a nonprofit organization has created a simple tool that it says will help states, and by extension local districts, know if they’re on track for meeting those targets.

The “Student Growth Simulator” was created by the Chiefs for Change, an organization representing state-level and district officials, one that has argued for realistic-but-strong accountability systems under ESSA. The group says it designed the simulator in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University and TEMBO, a company focused on the collection of education data.

A core goal of the simulator is to set help state and local officials calibrate year-to-year targets for improving achievement of different subgroups of students, subjects, and other categories, and make mid-stream targets are easily understood by the public, said Michael Magee, the CEO of Chiefs for Change.

By focusing on achievable yearly goals, the tool will help drive a focus on closing achievement gaps and boosting overall school performance, his group says.

A screenshot of the Chiefs for Change simulator
Above: A screenshot of the Chiefs for Change simulator

Too often, states “didn’t have a set of interim goals they could clearly articulate to teachers and others about their strategy,” Magee said. The simulator reflects the organization’s belief, he said, that ESSA is a “new opportunity to have a new conversation with a wide range of stakeholders.”

Visitors to the site can enter the name of an indicator, such as English language arts or math, or other subjects. Then they set a target year for the goals they want to achieve; enter data on the size of each student subgroup; and set performance targets for different groups/subgroups. Results are then calculated for the growth rate necessary to achieve a target.

There are limitations with the model, as Chiefs for Change acknowledge. Among them: it doesn’t capture all scenarios, and users are restricted to pairing two groups, rather than multiple groups, at once.

But even within those boundaries, the tool will allow districts to make “really important mid-course corrections” when they aren’t seeing the results they’d hoped for, said Margie Yeager, director of policy for Chiefs for Change.

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