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ESSA: Which States Are Eschewing School Grades?

By Alyson Klein — May 04, 2018 2 min read

Happy Monday, and welcome to another edition of Answering Your ESSA Questions. This question on the Every Student Succeeds Act comes from one of the participants in Edweek’s recent ESSA online ESSA summit, “Keys to ESSA Implementation.” And it’s a wonky one.

Question: How many states are using accountability dashboards?

Answer: At least 10 states have plans to create some kind of accountability “dashboard.” Dashboards consider school performance on a host of factors—test scores, test participation, school climate, graduation rates—but don’t give an overall score to a school.

Most states are using more-traditional school ratings systems, where schools are labeled for performance. Some of these ratings systems are on an A through F scale, just like school grades. Others label schools based on a point or star system, and still others come up with an overall category for their schools. (For instance, in Nebraska, schools can be either.)

Some states want to use these dashboards as their only school rating system for federal accountability. Those states include: California, Idaho, Oregon, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. (Virginia’s separate state-based accreditation system does require schools to be rated.)

At least four are planning to use both a dashboard and a more-traditional rating system where schools get an overall grade. Those states include Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, and New York.

Here’s a handy chart from a blog post earlier this year, breaking down which states are using which method.

California’s color-coded dashboard has drawn the most attention. Some advocates and experts think it holds promise, but U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos dissed it in a speech to the Council of Chief State School Officers earlier this year.

Most states are using more-traditional school ratings systems, where schools are labeled for performance. Some of these ratings systems are on an A through F scale, just like school grades.

ESSA itself requires states to label schools for “comprehensive” support, which includes the bottom 5 percent of performers and schools where less than two-thirds of students graduate, as well as “targeted support” schools, where groups of vulnerable students struggle.

The knock on dashboards is that they aren’t very understandable to parents, who might not know how much consideration to give to, say, a high school climate score but low test scores. Fans of dashboards, though, say they offer a more nuanced picture of a school’s performance, instead of reducing everything to a single number, letter grade or label.

Got a question about ESSA? Email it to aklein@epe.org or aujifusa@epe.org.

Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here’s some useful information:


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