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Summary of Every Student Succeeds Act Accountability Determinations Procedures


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires each state to develop a plan to identify schools for support and improvement. The process of identifying schools for support—termed "Annual Meaningful Differentiation" by the federal statute—results in two, distinct federally-prescribed designations summarized in Table 1, below:

Table 1. Summary of federally-prescribed improvement cycles

Improvement cycle Based on Identification cycle
1.      Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI)

  • School-wide performance; ESSA requires that Comprehensive Support and Improvement include "not less than the lowest-performing 5 percent of all schools receiving (Title I) funds in the State;" and
  • Any high school – Title I or not – with a combined 4- and 5-year adjusted cohort graduation rate of 67 percent or less.
Every three years, beginning Fall 2018
2.      Additional Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (A-TSI)


Performance by one or more student groups at or below the level of the bottom 5 percent (CSI) schools.

Every three years, beginning Fall 2018

In designing Pennsylvania's system of annual meaningful differentiation, PDE consulted with a wide range of education stakeholders and policy experts in the fields of education reform and education measurement.  Based on these efforts, PDE established designation standards that draw on evidence from multiple data points over multiple years. The resulting system ensures that schools are designated only when both academic and non-academic data come together to indicate the need for support.

Consistent with the principles underlying the Future Ready PA Index, a more comprehensive approach to accountability determinations can increase the fairness and validity of inferences concerning school and student group performance, and ensure that school improvement activities are appropriately designed, implemented, and evaluated in relationship to specific, identified needs.1

Pennsylvania's Approach to Annual Meaningful Differentiation

Pennsylvania's three-step system for identifying CSI schools will apply to all schools receiving funds under Title I, Part A. (Consistent with federal requirements, the methodology for CSI is then applied to each subgroup of 20 or more students to make A-TSI determinations.)  For purposes of CSI determinations, the process gradually narrows the number of eligible schools until the state identifies five percent of Title I buildings statewide, consistent with ESSA requirements; for Pennsylvania, this is approximately 100 schools statewide. The steps are as follows:

Step 1. Preliminary designation based on academic achievement and academic growth

Pennsylvania will initially categorize schools as eligible for identification based on performance in two domains:

  1. The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on state assessments in English language arts and mathematics combined over two years (2016-17 and 2017-18 for the Fall 2018 round of identification); AND
  2. Academic growth as expressed by PVAAS-reported Average Growth Index, indicating if the school met the PA Standard for Academic Growth in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The state will initially identify schools that have exhibited the lowest performance in both domains.  For the Fall 2018 accountability determinations, schools reporting proficiency rates of 31.5 percent and below2 AND growth scores of -1.01 and below are eligible for designation.

Step 2. Final identification based on additional academic and non-academic indicators

Next, Pennsylvania will examine the performance of schools designated in Step 1 on remaining accountability indicators. Schools designated in Step 1will be identified for CSI if they:

  1. Fall below state-designated performance levels on high school graduation rate or English learner proficiency; OR
  2. Fall below state-designated performance levels on both regular attendance and career readiness indicators.

Performance levels were established by creating ranks for each indicator, from highest to lowest performance, and then identifying a common cut point across the indicators to identify the required number of buildings.  Figure 1 provides examples of the interplay among Step 2 indicators for purposes of CSI identification for various school types.

Figure 1. Step 2 of Annual Meaningful Differentiation

School performs above cut point
School performs below cut point
School Example

Substantially Weighted

School Quality and Success

Grades served; school characteristics ELP Progress Graduation Rate Chronic Absenteeism Career Readiness 
K-5; EL subgroup meets N-size N.A.; not a high school   Not CSI
1-6; EL subgroup does not meet N-sizeN.A.N.A.   CSI
6-8; EL subgroup meets N-size N.A.; not a high school   CSI
6-9; EL subgroup does not meet N-sizeN.A.N.A.   Not CSI
9-12; EL subgroup meets N-size      CSI
10-12; EL subgroup does not meet N-sizeN.A.     Not CSI

Step 3. Identification of additional high schools with low graduation rates

Additionally, ESSA requires that states identify "all public high schools in the state failing to graduate one third or more of their students." Pennsylvania will identify as CSI any high school, regardless of Title I status, not already identified through Steps 1 and 2 through evaluation of the four- and five-year adjusted cohort graduation rates.

Consistent with ESSA requirements, Pennsylvania will use the same, basic three-step approach to designate schools in which one or more student groups face both academic and student success challenges.  Like the system for CSI identification, these Additional Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (A-TSI) will be designated every three years, when one or more student groups performs below the CSI thresholds for academic proficiency, academic growth, and at least one additional indicator.  Also consistent with CSI determinations, any school in which the combined four- and five-year adjusted cohort graduation rate for one or more student groups is 67 percent or below will be identified for A-TSI.

1 Cook-Harvey, C. M. & Stosich E. L. (2016). Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States. Stanford, CA: Learning Policy Institute and Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

2  The proficiency cut was established by identifying the median proficiency rate among all Title I schools; the Department then identified the median proficiency level among the schools falling below the original statewide median.  The growth cut signifies that a school falling at or below this level missed progress targets at a confidence level of at least 68 percent.