Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Report Explores New Student Success Indicators Under Broader Accountability and Classification Systems Permitted by ESSA
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Report Explores New Student Success Indicators Under Broader Accountability and Classification Systems Permitted by ESSA

Washington, D.C. — The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, enacted one year ago this month, gives states the opportunity to create broader school accountability systems using new measures of school quality or student success. A new report released today from the Center for American Progress explores some newer, less commonly used measures that states should consider to support these more comprehensive systems.

“Accountability systems should do more than identify low-performing schools,” said Samantha Batel, Policy Analyst for the K-12 Education team at CAP. “They should provide information on school progress and inspire a culture of continuous improvement. ESSA gives states the opportunity to design their systems with this vision in mind.”

CAP’s report explores measures of school climate and culture; social and emotional learning; and resource equity, such as student access to highly effective teachers, access to early learning opportunities, and school funding. The report notes that states should consider some indicators to classify schools, others to inform local decisions about resources and supports, and all measures to ultimately support classroom teaching and learning.

To accomplish this goal, CAP’s report includes recommendations focused on the measures states should consider for their school classification systems to identify low-performing schools, in addition to which measures states should examine at the state and district level to shine a spotlight on additional indicators of student performance while maintaining a focus on academic outcomes. Those recommendations include:

  • States and districts should use a variety of indicators under a broader system of accountability. States must first set their vision or goal for accountability and choose indicators that guide the direction of supports, implementation of interventions, and allocation of resources to help all schools reach this goal. Measures that may be leading indicators for early warning systems, such as school climate and culture, and measures of social and emotional learning can provide important information to schools and educators to improve classroom teaching and learning.
  • When considering which indicators to use at the state level to classify schools, states should use valid and reliable indicators, such as rates of chronic absenteeism and measures of college and career readiness, but be cautious about using new indicators. Policymakers need more research to determine if indicators of social and emotional learning are valid, reliable, and not corruptible in a high-stakes environment. School climate and culture surveys, on the other hand, have been validated by research. However, states should exert some caution as they consider these data for high-stakes settings.
  • Districts should be key drivers within comprehensive accountability systems by supporting continuous improvement; tracking additional measures of school quality and student success; using these measures to inform local decisions about resources and supports; and serving as laboratories of innovation for the state. These efforts can inform improvement plans for low-performing schools and highlight needed areas of support in other schools that would benefit from additional resources. District innovation may also be particularly useful to develop measures of social and emotional learning.
  • States should measure and report on school quality and student success indicators that are actionable for districts—not just schools. In particular, measures of resource equity have a significant effect on student achievement, but decisions about resource allocation are often made at the district level. To inform interventions using these data, states have several options. For example, states can create or improve district accountability or classification systems. They can encourage or require districts and schools to report these measures, alongside school accountability data, in data dashboards systems that provide a wide array of information about individual indicators. They can also give school improvement funding priority to districts taking particular action based on key data.

Click here to read “Innovation in Accountability: Designing Systems to Support School Quality and Student Success” by Samantha Batel, Scott Sargrad, and Laura Jimenez.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at [email protected] or 202.478.6331.