January 17, 2017
North Carolina is now in the throes of developing a new school accountability system to align with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), our new federal education law. And the way it designs this accountability system matters a lot.
If the system creates the wrong priorities (shifting the focus away from improving student outcomes, for example), creates too many priorities (so schools have to chase 40 priorities instead of just focusing on a few important ones), or sets expectations so low as to be meaningless (or so high as to be unachievable), it loses the power to drive change.
To build an accountability system that improves upon the past system and reflects the state’s needs—but does not allow poor performance to be swept under the rug—North Carolina’s system should:
A well-designed state accountability system like this sets expectations for what it means to be a good school. It recognizes schools doing exceptional work for all groups of students and prompts action to improve schools that need to raise student achievement, particularly for groups of students who have historically been underserved.
In the past 15 years of disaggregated data, meaningful public reporting, and state accountability for the performance of all groups of students, our country has seen improved achievement and graduation rates for all students, including historically underserved students. ESSA now puts more onus on states to decide how to proceed. Will North Carolina seize this moment to advance equity and student success? Or will it take the easy way out by just hoping for the best?
North Carolina’s students have one shot at receiving a quality education. They deserve a public school system with a sense of urgency around their success, and a well-designed accountability system helps build that sense of urgency. North Carolina can’t afford to have anything less.