School & District Management

National Academies: Measuring Equity Can Inform School Accountability

By Sarah D. Sparks — June 18, 2019 1 min read
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When education leaders look for “other indicators” of school quality, a national panel argues tracking equity could provide a clearer picture for school improvement.

Identifying test scores alone doesn’t tell education leaders enough about the causes of racial and socioeconomic gaps or the best ways to fix them, according to a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The group calls for federal, state, and local education leaders to monitor the disparities not just in students’ outcomes, but also in their access to educational opportunities and supports.

“We imagine public education to be America’s great engine of upward mobility and, ultimately, equality,” said Christopher Edley Jr., a professor at the University of California, Berkeley Law School, and chair of the National Academies’ Committee on Developing Indicators of Educational Equity, which wrote the report, in a statement. “A good system of indicators can help measure how much we repair—or reinforce—the great divides in opportunity.”

The book-length report lays out 16 different ways to measure educational equity, across seven areas:

  • Kindergarten readiness, including early math and reading skills, but also attention and self-regulation;
  • K-12 learning and engagement, including test performance and growth, school grades and credits earned, and school attendance and engagement;
  • Educational attainment, including on-time high school graduation and entry to postsecondary schools and the workforce;
  • Segregation, including the concentration of poverty in schools and racial separation both within and among schools;
  • Access to high-quality early learning programs, encompassing both the availability of programs and different groups’ participation;
  • School climate, including students’ perceptions of safety and an academic focus; and
  • Access to high-quality curricula and instruction, including teacher qualifications and diversity, participation in rigorous courses and gifted enrichment programs, and formal academic supports such as special education and tutoring.

“The system we envision would have the same level of priority as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, with annual reports that allow the country to monitor progress in making education more equitable from pre-K to grade 12 to the transition to postsecondary education,” the rreport noted.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.