ESSA

The Every Student Succeeds Act significantly improves upon No Child Left Behind by, among other things, giving more power back to states and local schools. We’re working to help policymakers and educators take advantage of the law’s new flexibility, especially when it comes to creating smarter school accountability systems, prioritizing the needs of high-achieving low-income students, and encouraging the adoption of content-rich curricula.

Resources:

Our many ESSA-related blog posts are listed below.


Fordham's ESSA experts:


If you care about state education policy and/or the new federal education law, you ought to spend some time doing three things. First, consider how the performance of schools (and networks of schools) needs to be assessed. Second, read the short Fordham report At the Helm, Not the Oar. Third, encourage your favorite state’s department of education to undertake an organizational strategic planning process.

All three are part of a single, important exercise: figuring out what role the state department of education must play in public schooling.

By now, everyone knows that ESSA returns to states the authority to create K–12 accountability systems. So it’s worth giving some thought to what, exactly, schools and districts should be held accountable for. What do we want them to actually accomplish?

But even if we get clear on the “what,” the “who” and “how” remain. Which entity or entities should be tasked with this work, and how should they go about it?

In At the Helm, which I co-wrote in 2014 with Juliet Squire, we argue that there are lots and lots of things handed to state departments of education (also known as state education agencies, or “SEAs”) that could be better achieved elsewhere....

 
 
Joanne Weiss

On February 2, I had the privilege of being a judge for the Fordham Institute’s ESSA Accountability Design Competition. It’s widely known that I’m a fan of using competition to drive policy innovation, and this competition did not disappoint. Fordham received a stunning array of proposals from teachers, students, state leaders, and policy makers.

But before we turn to the insights buried in these pages, I want to praise the competition’s conception, which mirrored the process that states should replicate as they design their own accountability systems. Contestants explained how their proposed accountability systems would support a larger vision of educational success and spur desired actions. They laid out their design principles—attributes like simplicity, precision, fairness, and clarity. They defined the indicators that should therefore be tracked, and they explained how those indicators would roll up into ratings of school quality. Finally, they laid out how each rating would be used to inform or determine consequences for schools. All decisions were explained in the context of how they would forward the larger vision.

Together, these proposals represent a variety of both practical and philosophical approaches to accountability system design. Here are the five major themes I found most noteworthy.

1. The...

 
 
Michael Hansen

I walked away from Fordham’s School Accountability Design Competition last Tuesday pleasantly surprised—not only at the variety of fresh thinking on accountability, but also at how few submissions actually triggered the “I think that’s illegal” response. I left encouraged at the possibilities for the future.

The problem of one system for multiple users

Having done some prior work on school accountability and turnaround, I took great interest in the designs that came out of this competition and how they solved what I’m going to call the “one-system-multiple-user” problem. Though the old generation of systems had many drawbacks, I see this particular problem as their greatest flaw and the area where states will most likely repeat the mistakes of the past.

Basically, the one-system-multiple-user problem is this: The accountability design is built with a specific objective in mind (school accountability to monitor performance for targeted interventions) for a single user (the state education office); but the introduction of public accountability ratings induces other users (parents, teachers, district leaders, homebuyers, etc.) to use the same common rating system. Where the problem comes in is that not all user groups have the same objective; indeed we expect them to have different purposes in...

 
 

The Fordham Institute’s recent accountability design competition put a lot of great ideas on the table. As states grapple with how to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we know a lot of their focus will be on assessment systems and how to balance growth and proficiency; that’s important work, and it’s required by the law, but it’s only part of the opportunity ESSA presents. The required assessments are all applied in third grade or later, but we all know that a substantial portion of the achievement gap opens well before third grade. So let’s not design accountability systems that look exclusively at the third grade and after. Instead, let’s design state accountability systems that create real accountability in grades K–2– and maybe even earlier—to keep educators focused on the importance of those years.

Under No Child Left Behind, state accountability fixated on the years from grades 3–12. While many local district decision makers understood the research about the importance of the early years, they also knew that test scores were the primary metric of their success, and that preschoolers were at least four years from taking accountability tests. In that time period, a district’s superintendent might change, or...

 
 
Chris Hoffman

Editor's note: On Tuesday, February 2, Fordham hosted the ESSA Acountability Design Competition, a first-of-its-kind conference to generate ideas for state accountability frameworks under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives of ten teams, each from a variety of backgrounds, took the stage to present their outlines before a panel of experts and a live audience. We're publishing a blog post for each team, comprising a video of their presentation and the text of the proposal. Below is one of those ten. Click here to see the others.

A Design Proposal
For Accountability Under ESSA
By Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows

As a group of high-performing teachers who teach in high-poverty schools, we have learned from our experiences in classrooms across America that the learning gaps among subgroups of students are not the result of differences in the abilities or talents of students, but rather the result of a broken public education system—with differences in expectations, access to effective teachers, access to purposeful school cultures, and access to enriching learning opportunities.

...
 
 
Ronald F. Ferguson

Editor's note: On Tuesday, February 2, Fordham hosted the ESSA Acountability Design Competition, a first-of-its-kind conference to generate ideas for state accountability frameworks under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives of ten teams, each from a variety of backgrounds, took the stage to present their outlines before a panel of experts and a live audience. We're publishing a blog post for each team, comprising a video of their presentation and the text of the proposal. Below is one of those ten. Click here to see the others.

ACCOUNTABILITY DESIGN PROPOSAL FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS FOR THE THOMAS B. FORDHAM INSTITUTE ACCOUNTABILIY DESIGN COMPETITION

Ronald F. Ferguson, Ph.D.
Harvard University and Tripod Education Partners, Inc.
January 24, 2016

DESIGN OBJECTIVES

Schools prepare children for citizenship, economic productivity, parenthood, and self-realization. For each of these, foundations for success include basic academic skills in reading, math, and reasoning on the one hand, and factors associated with personal agency on the other hand (Figure 1). By personal agency, we mean the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative—the disposition to actually do the things that...

 
 
Richard J. Wenning

Editor's note: On Tuesday, February 2, Fordham hosted the ESSA Acountability Design Competition, a first-of-its-kind conference to generate ideas for state accountability frameworks under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives of ten teams, each from a variety of backgrounds, took the stage to present their outlines before a panel of experts and a live audience. We're publishing a blog post for each team, comprising a video of their presentation and the text of the proposal. Below is one of those ten. Click here to see the others.

Seizing a Rare Opportunity: Design Considerations for Accountability under ESSA
Richard J. Wenning
January 24, 2016

INTRODUCTION

ESSA provides a vital and timely opportunity to recast educational accountability, repair and build trust, and generate the public will necessary to embrace a hopeful, modernized vision of public education and its purpose. This opportunity is particularly auspicious for school leaders, superintendents, and commissioners of education now beginning their tenure.

The overarching goal of the accountability system proposed in this paper is dramatic improvement in student outcomes and in closing performance and opportunity gaps....

 
 
Jennifer Vranek

Editor's note: On Tuesday, February 2, Fordham hosted the ESSA Acountability Design Competition, a first-of-its-kind conference to generate ideas for state accountability frameworks under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives of ten teams, each from a variety of backgrounds, took the stage to present their outlines before a panel of experts and a live audience. We're publishing a blog post for each team, comprising a video of their presentation and the text of the proposal. Below is one of those ten. Click here to see the others.

Toward A Next-Generation School Accountability System

Design Priorities

Next-generation accountability systems must inspire schools and their communities to lift the achievement of all graduates to college- and career-ready levels. School rating systems must pinpoint challenges, spur more innovation, and inspire much broader local support if these ratings are to provoke lasting change.

We’ve learned from the current accountability system that we’ve got a long way to go. Our system is designed to protect the state’s role in monitoring school quality, to foster more...

 
 
Morgan S. Polikoff, Matthew Duque, and Stephani Wrabel

Editor's note: On Tuesday, February 2, Fordham hosted the ESSA Acountability Design Competition, a first-of-its-kind conference to generate ideas for state accountability frameworks under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives of ten teams, each from a variety of backgrounds, took the stage to present their outlines before a panel of experts and a live audience. We're publishing a blog post for each team, comprising a video of their presentation and the text of the proposal. Below is one of those ten. Click here to see the others.

A Proposal for School Accountability under ESSA

Morgan S. Polikoff, University of Southern California
Matthew Duque, Baltimore County Public Schools
Stephani Wrabel, University of Southern California

We are pleased to submit this proposal for redesigned school accountability under ESSA. In the past, when states have been given the opportunity to implement new and creative accountability systems better designed to target the schools most in need of intervention and improvement, they have largely failed to do so (Polikoff, McEeachin, Wrabel, and Duque, 2014). ESSA again offers states a great deal of flexibility in the design...

 
 
Lydia Burns

Editor's note: On Tuesday, February 2, Fordham hosted the ESSA Acountability Design Competition, a first-of-its-kind conference to generate ideas for state accountability frameworks under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives of ten teams, each from a variety of backgrounds, took the stage to present their outlines before a panel of experts and a live audience. We're publishing a blog post for each team, comprising a video of their presentation and the text of the proposal. Below is one of those ten. Click here to see the others.

ESSA Accountability Design

A Proposal by the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team

The objectives of our state accountability system are:

  • to create a holistic view of school quality through both academic and nonacademic indicators of success; and
  • to provide students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders with the information they need to be effective advocates, understand potential problems within their schools, and strive for all students to receive a beneficial educational experience.

School accountability measures are most effective when they identify what a school is contributing to students, not what...

 
 

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