How Good Is Your State’s High School Accountability Plan?

By Catherine Gewertz — June 23, 2017 2 min read
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Want to know what your state has planned for high school in its new accountability system? There’s a new dashboard you can check.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, which monitors high school issues, has created a new way to gauge the equity and rigor of states’ plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. As you no doubt recall, ESSA requires states to submit plans that outline their goals and how they’re going to meet them. Seventeen have done so already. The rest will submit plans in the fall.

The plans can be long, full of jargon, and hard to wade through. So the Alliance has set up summaries that take a “dashboard” approach, featuring red, yellow, and green lights to indicate what it considers the strengths or weaknesses in how states handle 13 aspects of their accountability plans. (EdWeek’s Politics K-12 team has a nifty grid summarizing state plans, too.)

Some of the Alliance’s 13 indicators are specific to high school. The dashboards, for instance, rate how states factor their graduation rates into school ratings. Other indicators, like how states plan to close achievement gaps among subgroups of students, cover all grade levels.

The Alliance’s project includes dashboards for only five states so far: Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Twelve more are scheduled to be added in July.

From the first batch of five states, an example of a “green light” in high school accountability came from Louisiana. That state got high marks for its “strength of diploma” index.

Under that index, schools get a standard 100 points for students who earn diplomas in four years. They get 60 additional points for graduating students with associate degrees, and 50 for those who finish with postsecondary credits, according to Louisiana’s ESSA plan.(See page 53.) They get some extra points—though not as many—if students complete at least some college-prep courses.

Schools earn 75 points for students who take five years to graduate, and 50 points for those who take six years. They’d get 25 points for students who earn diplomas by way of a high school proficiency test.

That approach, in the Alliance’s view, does a good job of balancing the need for rigor and college readiness with the need to recognize schools’ commitment to students who need more time or support.

“In Louisiana, they’re balancing the need to prioritize kids graduating in four years, while also pushing for a diploma to matter and giving credit for students who make progress toward it, but taking more than four years,” Phillip Lovell, the Alliance’s vice president for government relations, said in an interview.

Is your state’s dashboard posted yet? How does it rate?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.