Some parents against state school board's ESSA plan

Some parents against state school board's ESSA plan

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's state school board will likely approve their version of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on Thursday, but some parents are against the plan they say excludes kids from the evaluation plan.

"I don't know if anyone is going to be 100 percent comfortable when we approve it in October on Oct 12, " Dr. Ed Richardson, interim state superintendent, said.

Parents of special education students, like Corrie Merchant, have gone to the last couple state school board meetings hoping to raise concerns with the plan, only to be denied a chance to speak. Because the ESSA plan was not on the agenda, speaking on the plan would have violated procedure.

Merchant and other parents' concerns focus on subgroups and the number needed in a subgroup in order for them to count in a school's evaluation.

Under the plan, a subgroup could be a group of students by race, poverty, special needs and more. If the students in a subgroup's "N count" or number of students, are not more than 20, they do not impact the evaluation process under the ESSA plan.

"In essence," Merchant said, "they would not meet the need to be evaluated."

The state, in its ESSA plan, said it decided on the number 20.

"After conducting analysis of various minimum N counts over all accountability reportable subgroups, stakeholders determined that for maximum district and school level support, using the minimum N of 20 was sufficient as opposed to the reporting minimum N of 10. In addition, Alabama utilized an N count of 20 in its July 2015 approved renewal request for accountability reporting. Reporting accountability data in this manner creates consistency as well as the opportunity for true data comparison among stakeholders. Lastly, using a minimum N count of 20 for accountability reporting provides both statistical reliability across accountability measures and protects the privacy of those subgroups that are too small to report without disclosing personally identifiable information."

Parents like Merchant, though, said by requiring at least 20 kids in a subgroup, it reduces the accountability schools face, and increases the likelihood of students falling through the cracks. Merchant is requesting the "N group" number be reduced to 15, to include more kids in the evaluation process.

Even if the plan passes on Thursday, Dr. Richardson said there will be time for some changes.

"We have that 120 days window and I'm going to encourage everyone to look at it, to refine it, to get it closer to what we can live with,"Richardson said.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.