This article, written by Megan Pauly, originally appeared on Delaware Public Media.

A new requirement for states under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that will replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is including the priority for English learner proficiency in its mandated school accountability system.

Delaware Latin American Community Center president and CEO Maria Matos says states must set what’s called an n-size – a sample size for collecting data about students – high enough to protect personal student information, but low enough to yield statistically reliable data.

“If it’s set too high, it won’t capture the ELs (English learners) at all schools and all districts,” Matos said.

Delaware’s current n-size is 30, which means that if there are less than 30 English language learners at any given school, that data won’t be captured or measured.

But the National Center for Education Statistics suggests a school’s n-size can be as low as 10 or even five and still protect student privacy. Matos and others are advocating for Delaware to drop its n-size into that range.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Delaware is also calling for a stronger emphasis on student discipline data in school accountability efforts.

ACLU of Delaware Executive Director Kathleen MacRae says school student discipline data is a critical indicator of overall student achievement and should be incorporated into the state’s new ESSA accountability system.

“The amount of time a child is in the classroom – or conversely out of the classroom whether that be in in school suspension or out of school suspension or expulsion – has a direct impact on how that child is achieving and how that school overall is achieving,” MacRae said.

Schools currently report discipline data to the state’s Department of Education, but MacRae says it’s only public to some degree.

She adds more robust measures of career and college readiness should be included as evaluation measures across districts as part of ESSA’s rollout.

Matos would also like to see future state Department of Education community conversations about ESSA implementation plans be more inclusive.

“I attended a couple of the community groups and the diversity was lacking, especially for English Language Learners and Spanish speakers,” Matos said.

Matos adds there haven’t been any sessions held in Spanish. Another round of community meetings about ESSA will begin November 16, following the state Department of Education’s first draft of ESSA plans on Monday.


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