School accountability systems can serve many purposes, including sharing information, measuring progress toward state and local goals and supporting greater educational equity. Given the important role accountability systems play in states’ education systems, many states are taking the opportunity provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act to improve upon their existing systems.

ESSA offers states more authority over their accountability systems than they had under previous federal law. As a result, many states are transitioning from a system focused on assessments and graduation rates to one that incorporates a wider variety of measures of school quality. While each state must weigh the pros and cons of codifying its accountability system, many states’ current policies do not currently align with their ESSA plans.

This resource captures an important transition period in state accountability systems by providing a national overview of these systems as described in current state statute and regulation, where available, and in states’ ESSA plans (as of October 2017). State statute and regulation often outline or provide a foundation for accountability systems. In some cases, states may operate multiple systems to ensure school quality, not all of which are described in statute and regulation. To help fill in the blanks that are not described in state policies, other resources (where publicly available) have been provided.

Each state’s accountability system is unique, so some nuances may not be represented in this 50-State Comparison. For questions, additional details or further analysis, please contact Julie Woods at jwoods@ecs.org.

Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach school accountability in current policy or in their ESSA plans. Or choose to view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

50-State Comparisons

Key Takeaways

  • Most states (45 plus the District of Columbia) plan to use some form of a summative rating system, such as A-F grades, to describe school performance. According to state ESSA plans:
    • Thirteen states plan to use an A-F rating system.
    • Eleven states plan to use a descriptive rating system (Needs Improvement, Average, Good, Great, Excellent).
    • Nine states plan to use an index rating system (1-100 or 1-10).
    • Eight states plan to use a tier-of-support system (Comprehensive Support and Improvement, Targeted Support and Improvement, None).
    • Four states plus the District of Columbia plan to use a 1-5 stars system.
  • ESSA requires states to select at least one indicator of school quality or student success for each grade span. According to state ESSA plans:
    • Thirty-five states plan to include a college and/or career readiness (may include military readiness) measure.
    • Thirty-six states plan to use a chronic absenteeism/attendance measure.
    • Twenty-two states plan to use a science proficiency/progress measure.
    • Nine states plan to use a school climate/culture measure.
    • Eight states plan to use a social studies proficiency/progress measure.
    • Six states plan to use an art access/participation or well-rounded education measure.
  • ESSA permits states to include student growth in their accountability systems. According to state ESSA plans:
    • Forty-seven states plus the District of Columbia will include growth as an accountability indicator in elementary and middle school. Of those, 20 states will weight growth more than achievement; in 13 states, growth and achievement will be weighted equally.
    • Twenty states will include growth as an accountability indicator in high school. Of those, seven states will weight growth more than achievement; in five states, growth and achievement will be weighted equally.
    • Note that in some states, student growth incorporates other indicators, such as English-language proficiency/progress.

Related Resources

Staff Contact
Julie Woods
jwoods@ecs.org
303-299-3672


 PUBLISHED: December 18, 2017

 AUTHOR(S):

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 EDUCATION LEVEL:

 STATE(S): Nationwide

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