Schools get their own report cards under federal law

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Hannah Geiger does her science homework at Kalispell Middle School in this file photo. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake file)

Students aren’t the only ones who receive report cards monitoring their performance.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction has released report cards summarizing the state of Montana schools online for the 2017-19 school year as part of a new requirement of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. There are 822 public schools in 409 school districts in Montana.

People are able to view academic, attendance, financial, school climate/safety and educator qualification data at the state, district and school levels.

The majority of information contained in the report cards has been accessible for several years on Office of Public Instruction website, but the report cards are designed to be more user-friendly — displaying state, district and student-level data “in a concise, understandable and accessible manner for families and communities,” as required by the federal education law.

“Our goal is to create a report card that’s only two pages, easy to digest, if you click on the drop down menu you’ll get into more data,” such as three-year achievement trends, said Dylan Klapmeier, director of communications and federal relations.

The report cards will be released on an annual basis, but the state is looking at updating the information as it becomes available, according to Klapmeier.

Achievement data contained in the report cards is based on state standardized test results in math, reading and science. These standardized tests include the Smarter Balanced assessment, the Criterion Reference Test (which is being phased out), and, at the high school level, the ACT. Data areas, such as achievement, are further refined into student subgroups. These subgroups may include — ethnicity, gender and students who have a disability, are low income, in foster care, “military connected,” or are migrants and is located in drop-down menus.

Academic progress differs between the elementary and high school levels because at the elementary level, students take standardized tests over time, while at the high school level, students take one test — the ACT.

At the high school level, progress is shown by the percentages of students graduating in four years and are college and career ready.

What factors into determining college and career readiness are ACT scores as well as student enrollment in the Montana University System within three months of graduation since that data was readily available.

The report cards also provide information on school quality climate and safety using data schools submit to the U.S. Department of Education such as suspensions and expulsions to students enrolled in accelerated coursework or preschool, to name some examples.

School climate and safety data also includes information on the number of reports or incidents of: rape or sexual assault, robbery, fights, threats of physical attack, among other safety issues.

Some information may be unavailable to the public if a subgroup contains 10 or fewer students, for example, in order to protect student privacy in accordance with state policy.

The state is requesting user feedback, which can be emailed to ESSAInput@mt.gov.

For more information visit https://opi.mt.gov.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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