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Every Student Succeeds Act

States Aren’t Waiting for ESSA Regulations to Revamp Accountability

By Alyson Klein — March 18, 2016 1 min read
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Inside the Beltway, the buzz is all about who has been picked to negotiate regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, and in-the-weeds issues like how the feds will handle opt-outs, and what exactly the new law means when it says that academic factors like test scores should carry a “much greater” weight in school ratings than indicators that get at school quality, such as student engagement, safety, and access to advanced coursework.

But states are moving full-speed ahead on new accountability systems, reports my very smart colleague Daarel Burnette II of State EdWatch fame. And those systems may not be very ESSA-friendly.

For instance, California’s State Board of Education doesn’t envision ranking its schools, even though ESSA calls for states to identify the bottom 5 percent of performers for district-designed, evidence-based interventions, monitored by the state.

And Arizona recently passed a law that would give schools a menu of assessments to use for accountability—which is not kosher under ESSA. The new law—like the one that proceeded it, No Child Left Behind—requires all schools in the state to take the same test in grades 3-8, although it opens the door to some local testing in high school and to try out new forms of assessment.

Back in December, the Education Department put a portion of Massachusetts’ Title I funding on high risk because the state planned on offering districts a choice of tests. So we’ll see if this new law in the Grand Canyon State flies.

Other states, like Connecticut, are crafting systems that might be more ESSA-compliant. ESSA calls for states to consider a mix of academic and school quality indicators in rating schools and the Nutmeg State has broadened its system to include twelve factors, including three different kinds of graduation rates, chronic absenteeism, access to arts classes, and even physical education.