Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States

Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States
May 14, 2016 Stuart Foundation

There is growing agreement among educators, policy makers, and researchers that the focus on test-based accountability that has proliferated since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) is insufficient for ensuring that all students have access to the meaningful learning experiences that can prepare them for success in college, career, and life.1 No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the last reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), brought much needed attention to the performance of traditionally underserved subgroups of students, including students of color, students living in poverty, students with special needs, and students for whom English is a second language. However, the legislation also focused narrowly on using state assessments in mathematics and English language arts to measure the success of students and schools, which has had negative effects on students’ access to high-quality learning opportunities in some cases.

Supported by greater flexibility under ESEA waivers, state policy makers have taken steps to design more balanced systems of support and accountability that monitor and respond to not only student performance on end-of-year assessments but also the quality of students’ opportunities to learn, the school environment that supports these learning experiences, and access to equitable and adequate resources. Across the country, states are adopting ambitious college and career ready standards and are working to develop aligned systems of accountability that support the growth and capacity of educators, schools, and districts for supporting all students in working toward these standards. The recent reauthorization of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (2015), has the potential to further advance these efforts.

In light of this policy landscape, a group of states launched a working group in February 2015 with the purpose of sharing challenges and successes encountered during the redesign of their accountability systems. This cohort of 10 states—California, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia—represents diverse geographic, political, and community interests, and is committed to engaging in collective learning and action to transform their systems of accountability and support. Known as the 51st State Working Group, these states have taken a comprehensive approach to redesigning key components of schooling, including establishing comprehensive standards for college and career readiness, encouraging innovative approaches to meeting these goals, developing more authentic assessments and indicators to measure progress against comprehensive goals for students and schools, growing the capacity of educators, and creating systems to support continuous improvement.

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