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Some States Look Beyond Reading, Math in ESSA Accountability

By Alyson Klein — April 11, 2017 1 min read
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Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, students in Delaware will be held accountable for social studies and science. Massachusetts and Vermont are also incorporating science into their systems, and Illinois is hoping to add it down the line.

Both Connecticut and Vermont also want to add physical education into their accountability systems. Educators and advocates in Vermont “felt that including the physical fitness assessment would support schools in attending to the whole child and supporting school nutrition programs and instruction that will promote a life time of healthy living,” according to the state’s ESSA plan, which hasn’t yet been approved by the feds.

Schools in the Green Mountain State won’t immediately be held accountable for how many jumping jacks their students do—the state is piloting a physical assessment and will officially incorporate it into the system if it’s proved to be valid and reliable.

The incorporation of these other subjects addresses one of the key criticisms of ESSA’s predecessor—the No Child Left Behind Act—which some educators said put too much stock in reading and math test scores, to the exclusion and detriment of other subjects. States were allowed to add more to the mix when the department offered waivers from the NCLB law. But few states took the feds up on that flexibility.

That may not be the case under ESSA, at least if the batch of early plans is any indication. Of the nine state plans we’ve seen so far, at least five include—or plan to include—academic or extracurricular subjects beyond reading and math.

And these states are incorporating these subjects alongside other indicators of school quality and student success, which you can check out here.

David Griffith, the senior director of public policy of ASCD, an educational leadership organization, is heartened by the number of states that went beyond reading and math.

“I think it’s awesome. It’s great that states are thinking a little differently about this,” Griffith said. “What is measured is what matters, so it sends a really terrific message.” And he’s hoping that states that are planning to submit their plans in the fall will be inspired. “Hopefully this sets a new precedent,” Griffith said.

Need a refresher about ESSA? Click here for our explainer. And check out a video version of our ESSA explainer here: