The United States Department of Education (ED) offered all states flexibility to waive elements of the accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), along with approximately 40 other state educational agencies, took this opportunity to design a new statewide system of accountability and support.
Wisconsin has raised expectations for its students and expects schools to graduate students ready for college and career. For information on these higher expectations, see the Higher Expectations Flyer. As such, schools, districts, and the state must have a better understanding of how students and schools perform, as well as better information to support instructional decisions in order to improve student and school outcomes. NCLB, a pass-fail system based solely on statewide standardized test scores, did not provide this information. Additionally, the universal sanctions applied to all low-performing schools did not support school or student improvement. The ESEA flexibility request enabled Wisconsin to design a system based on multiple measures aligned to college and career readiness to provide a more comprehensive, detailed understanding of student performance within and across schools.
ED required that states requesting a waiver include in their new accountability system the identification of five percent of Title I schools demonstrating the lowest combined performance in reading and mathematics as Priority Schools. This identification can help schools strengthen current efforts to support specific needs with state assistance. For more information on the ED Focus and Priority School designation, see the Title I Priority and Focus School Flyer.
Priority Schools become part of a four-year cohort and must contract with a DPI-approved Turnaround Partner to implement state-directed reforms:
1. Participate in a school diagnostic review of the reading and mathematics core instructional program.
2. Implement a school reform plan based off of the diagnostic review. The school reform plan must include:
- Response to Intervention (RtI): Describe how Priority Schools will implement both academic and behavioral RtI to meet the needs of all student subgroups.
- Extended Learning Time: Articulate how Priority Schools will redistribute resources in order to add a minimum of 300 hours of instruction for all students. This extended learning time may be achieved through alternative schedules, extended day, Saturday school, or extended year/calendar.
- Highly Skilled Educators: Demonstrate how the district will implement an Educator Evaluation System aligned to the statewide framework by 2014-15, and address opportunities for continuous learning through job-embedded professional development.
- Highly Skilled Leaders: Create opportunities for continuous learning through job-embedded professional development to increase the principal’s capacity to implement reform and lead change.
- Positive and Safe Learning Environments: Prioritize the distribution of pupil services staff (e.g., school social workers, nurses, psychologists, and guidance counselors) to each Priority School; allow pupil services staff schedules to include adequate time to serve students. Implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) for all students to increase positive academic outcomes.
- Family Engagement: Align family engagement plans with the research of Dr. Joyce Epstein, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Priority Schools must implement training programs to help parents understand the school’s universal screening methods, universal screening data, criteria for entering and exiting interventions, and progress monitoring methods and data in reading and mathematics.
Additionally, Priority Schools will have flexibility in the use of ESEA funds beginning in the 2012-13 school year to support implementation of the required reforms. This flexibility includes:
- The option to transfer up to 100 percent of Title II funds into Title I;
- The option to reserve up to 20 percent of the district's Title I allocation to support Priority School(s); and
- The option to convert a Title I Priority School to a schoolwide program even if the school’s poverty rate is under 40 percent.