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Feds Explore Assessment Innovation, CSDE Combats Chronic Absenteeism

Feds Explore Assessment Innovation

Yesterday, Education Week reported on a move by U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to begin shifting toward "a new breed of rich assessments.”

In a letter to chief state school officers last week, Secretary Cardona explained that the Department of Education (USEd) is seeking to encourage innovation around high-quality assessments by updating the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA), which was created under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. Under ESSA, all states are required to use a statewide assessment in grades 3-8 and once in high school. But the IADA permits certain states to pilot new types of assessments—other than the multiple choice tests we've all become accustomed to—if they meet specific federal requirements. (Think, for example: performance tasks, learning portfolios, project-based measures, more timely data during the school year.)

Updated guidance from USEd newly lifts the prior cap on the number of states that can participate in IADA, and it also clarifies how states can demonstrate comparability with their existing statewide assessments. The latter issue is of particular importance because the value of state assessments lies in their ability to track longitudinal data and to compare outcomes across districts, schools, and groups of students.

Back in May, US Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent a letter to Secretary Cardona, identifying steps USEd could take to improve the IADA and invigorate state participation. According to Education Week, Senator Murphy is also currently working on related legislation.

CT Dept of Ed: School is Better With You

On Monday, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) launched a "School is Better with You" campaign to combat chronic absenteeism. According to the CSDE’s press release, rates of chronic absenteeism have been going down since the state's Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP)—a home-visiting initiative that builds relationships with students and families—began in 2021. Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker reported that chronic absenteeism statewide was at 17.8% for October of this year. That’s as compared to 20% in 2022-23 and 23.7% in 2021-22. We’ve pulled publicly available data on absenteeism over the past six years, as illustrated in the graph below.

The hope is that this latest campaign will help to continue the downward trend. According to coverage by WTNH, the campaign includes tips for when it is appropriate for students to miss school due to sickness, how and when families should schedule vacations, and how to reduce school anxiety.

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