Achievement Index Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: April 2016
1. Last year, I heard that a lot of students opted-out of testing. How will this impact school ratings?
When a student does not test for any reason and does not make-up the test when offered, he or she is considered a non-participant. When a student does not participate but should, the student is assigned a score of zero and the score factors into the applicable ratings for the school. If an appreciable number of students fail to participate on the required assessments, a school’s rating might be lower than in previous years. The student, school, and district expectations regarding the participation in testing is described in the Washington Accountability Workbook submitted to and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
2. What do the colors mean on my Achievement Index matrix page?
The color coding is meant to provide a visual indication of the relative performance levels for the school. Cool colors (blues and green) represent educational outcomes characterized as good or better, while warmer colors (orange and red) represent educational outcomes characterized as fair or worse.
3. Why is my proficiency rating lower in 2014-15 as compared to previous years?
The percentage of students meeting standard on the 2014-15 Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAs) was lower than the rates from the Measures of Student Progress (MSPs), High School Proficiency Exams (HSPEs) and the End-of-Course (EOC) assessments for many schools. The SBA is a new assessment system that is built around new learning standards. The SBA English language arts (ELA) takes the place of separate reading and writing assessments in the old MSP and HSPE system. The SBA is a computer adaptive test delivered in a new electronic format.
4. Are there other things that could have caused my school’s proficiency rating to be lower in the 2014-15 Index?
All assessment systems work from the assumption that all students are motived in the same manner to put forth their best effort, but this is not always the case. When a student is not motivated to perform well, he or she may not try to do their best work. When this happens, the student will be assigned a score that appears to be lower than that which they are capable. This apparent low performance factors into the school ratings just as any other score. If there is a widespread lack of motivation, a school’s rating might be lower than in previous years.
5. How were the cut points for the colors (levels) determined?
The point increments for the color coding were derived from the 2014-15 composite school index rating distribution. As examples, approximately five percent of all rated schools earned a 2015 school rating between 7.890 and 10 so all matrix cells with values in this range are colored dark blue to indicate the highest performance level. Also, approximately 30 percent of rated schools earned a school rating between 5.793 and 6.849, so all rating cells in this range are colored dark green to indicate a good performance level.
6. All of my 2014-15 matrix cells are green and blue and my index rating is green. So, how can it be that my school’s Index rating is green (Good) but my tier label is red (Priority)?
Schools placed in the Priority Tier can be designated as one of the lowest performing schools for any of several reasons.
7. What happens now that my school is in the Lowest 5% tier?
The OSPI has been identifying Priority schools for a number of years and district staff have been notified of the need to implement school improvement models. Schools placed into the Lowest 5% tier are designated as Priority Schools based on the low academic performance of the All Students group using multiple years of data. The district and school will work with the OSPI to identify areas in need of improvement and create a school improvement plan aligned with a School Turnaround Model. Priority Schools are required to implement a Turnaround Model for three years and meet predetermined performance criteria to exit Priority School status.
8. Now that my school is in the Lowest 5% tier, will my school receive more money?
The OSPI monitors and allocates funds set aside to support Priority Schools. The level of support is dependent on the level of need. The school district, school, and OSPI develop a plan to bring about the desired improvements and certain funds may be available to support the agreed upon changes.
9. All of my matrix cells are green and blue and my index rating is green. So, why is my index rating green (Good) but my tier label orange (Underperforming)?
Most of the schools placed in the Underperforming (orange) tier are designated as Focus Schools because of the low achievement of least one subgroup over the three most recent years.
10. What happens now that my school is in the Underperforming tier?
The schools designated as Focus Schools will work with the OSPI to identify areas in need of improvement and create a school improvement plan to support the performance of the low performing subgroup(s).
11. Now that my school is in the Underperforming tier, will my school receive more money?
The OSPI supports Focus Schools and district staff should already be in contact with the OSPI regarding support. The level of support is dependent on the level of need. The school district, school, and OSPI develop a plan to bring about the desired improvements and certain supports may be available to help bring about the agreed upon changes.
12. What groups are represented in the Targeted Subgroup?
For any given measure, the Targeted Subgroup represents an average of the performance of Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, English Language Learners, Former English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities, and students participating in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program. To be included in the computation, any given subgroup must consist of at least 20 continuously enrolled students.
13. How were the Priority and Focus Schools identified?
The federally approved methodology uses proficiency floors, graduation rate floors, low Achievement Index ratings, and other business rules to identify Priority and Focus Schools. The Priority and Focus School Identification Methodology document explains more.
14. Did the Priority and Focus Schools receive any special rating, like a special tier classification?
When a school is identified as a Priority School, it is placed in the Lowest 5% tier regardless of the Index rating. If a school is identified as a Focus School, it is placed in the Underperforming Tier regardless of the Index rating. Other low performing schools were placed in the Underperforming Tier.
15. How many schools were identified as low performing and where can I see the list?
Using the Priority and Focus School Identification Methodology, the OSPI and the SBE identified 121 Priority Schools and 134 Focus Schools.
16. Why did my school receive a rating for 2015 but did not earn a Composite school rating?
The Composite Achievement Index rating is a simple three-year average of the previous three years annual Index ratings. In order to receive a Composite Index rating, the ratings for each of the previous three years must be greater than or equal to 1.000. If a Composite Index rating was not reported, the school did not receive a rating for at least one of the three most recent years.
17. My school did not receive an annual rating for 2013, 2014, or 2015 so did not earn a Composite AI rating but the school is identified as Underperforming. How can this be?
It is possible to be designated as a Priority or Focus School even though AI ratings are not reported for the previous years. Review the Priority and Focus School Identification Methodology document to learn more. A high school can be identified as a Priority or Focus School if it has a three-year average reportable graduation rate less than 60 percent.
18. My school earned a Composite Index rating but has no tier assignment, why is this the case?
Certain schools (virtual schools, institutional schools, and some alternative schools) were not eligible for Priority or Focus School designation. These schools were not assigned a Tier level.
19. My school has no annual Achievement Index rating, no Composite Index rating, and no tier assignment. Why is this?
When student counts in groups are less than 20, values are not reported and when too few group values are reported, the annual Achievement Index is not reported. Neither Index ratings nor tier levels are determined when too few indicators are reportable.
20. Will Priority and Focus Schools be removed from the Priority and Focus School lists if the school shows improvement next year?
Priority Schools must implement a federally- or state-approved turnaround plan for three years and meet predetermined exit criteria to be removed from the Priority School list. Focus Schools will be removed from the Focus School list if the school meets the predetermined exit criteria developed by the OSPI.
21. How does the 2014-15 Index differ from the 2013-14 Index?
The latest Index version is derived from the 2014-15 statewide assessment and other educational data. The winter 2016 Index version incorporates a number of changes that include:
22. Which assessments factor into the Achievement Index school ratings?
For the first time, the winter 2016 version of the Index uses the 2014-15 Smarter Balanced Assessment results for English/Language Arts and math. The current version of the Index also includes the Washington Measure of Student Progress in science) and the end-of-course assessment in biology to compute school ratings.
23. Does the Index use the same student count (n-count) threshold as the Washington Report Card or the AYP analyses?
No, the Index reports on an n-count requirement of at least 20 students, while the Washington Report Card reports on 10 students and the AYP analyses report require at least 30 students for reporting.
24. Does the Index report on all students who test at a school?
No, the Index reports only on those students who were continuously enrolled as reported in the Washington Student Information System (CEDARS) following established business rules.
25. Will an elementary (or middle) school with a reportable rate for reading proficiency but not for math proficiency earn an Index rating?
No, elementary and middle schools require reportable reading and math proficiency rates to earn a school rating. In some rare circumstances, a school may have reportable growth rates for reading and math but not proficiency rates. These schools will earn a school rating because both the reading and math growth rates are reportable.
26. Will a school serving students up to and including the 3rd grade (K-3 for example) earn an Index rating?
Yes the school will earn a rating if at least 20 students were continuously enrolled and have valid ELA and math results on the SBA because the proficiency rate is reportable for the All Students group.
27. Can a school serving students up to and including the 3rd grade (K-3 for example) earn an Index rating based on proficiency and growth rates?
No, the Student Growth Percentile (SGP) model requires two consecutive years of valid assessment results to generate an SGP for a student. 3rd grade students do not have prior year test scores, so SGPs are not calculable.
28. For some schools, a proficiency rate is reported but the growth rate is not reported. Why might this be?
This circumstance may occur for any of several reasons. Two examples follow.
29. Are ratings for elementary and middle schools based equally on proficiency and growth rates?
No, the Index uses a 60% growth and 40% proficiency weighting factor to compute an Index rating for elementary and middle schools.
30. An 8th grade student at my middle school met standard on the SBA in Math but did not meet standard on the Math Year 1 EOC. Which score will be used for this student in the Index?
Since all 8th graders are required to participate in the SBA, the SBA record will be reported in the index. This is also the record that will be used to compute a Student Growth Percentile.
31. Will a high school with a reportable rate for ELA and math proficiency but not for growth or graduation rate earn an Index rating?
No, high schools require reportable rates for at least two of the three measures (proficiency, growth, or graduation rate). A high school (serving grade 12) with a reportable proficiency rate alone will not be rated but if the graduation rate is also reportable, the school will be rated.
32. Does the Index use the 4-Year graduation rate or the 5-Year graduation rate?
The index uses the 5-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate.