School leaders, policymakers can use ESSA to focus on boosting learning, achievement for students

Two new reports offer school leaders research-based evidence to help them leverage the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to improve learning outcomes for students.

The reports, Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States, and Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act offer guidance for schools, districts and states hoping to revamp their support, improvement, opportunity, and accountability. They were published jointly by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

“Accountability is not a side issue. In recent years, for good or for ill, it has become the framework shaping how we think about the improvement of schools,” notes LPI President Linda Darling-Hammond. “The challenge before us,” she adds, “is how we can develop more productive approaches to accountability that support student and system learning and continuous improvement.”

One of the reports, Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States, documents progress made by 10 states — California, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia — to transform accountability systems to support more meaningful learning opportunities for all students in the following areas:
• Developing seamless pathways to college and career that are supported by a common statewide definition and strategies for ensuring access to learning opportunities, measuring progress against these expectations, and intervening when progress falters.
• Supporting flexibility and strategies for innovation that create opportunities for schools and systems to experiment with new approaches to curriculum, assessment, instruction, accountability, or school organization and to document best practices to ensure they can be shared with other schools and educators.
• Designing systems of assessment that reflect state and local goals for meaningful learning, include opportunities for authentic application, and are more closely integrated with curriculum and instruction.
• Developing professional capacity to ensure all students have access to rigorous and authentic learning experiences and are served by well-prepared, competent, and compassionate teachers and leaders.
• Creating accountability systems that draw on multiple sources of information to monitor the quality and equity of educational opportunities, outcomes, and resources and are paired with processes for providing direct support to schools and systems to foster continuous improvement.

The other report, Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act, written and produced in partnership with SCOPE, offers insight about the requirements and opportunities under the new federal education law. Drawing on examples from several states, as well as from New York City and Alberta, Canada, the authors offer alternative approaches to developing, presenting, and using a multiple-measure accountability system, including:
• A discussion of the types of indicators states can use to assess academic outcomes, student engagement, and opportunities to learn.
• Examples of how data dashboards (data visualization tools to display key indicators) can be used to collect and present multiple measures of student and school progress.
• Strategies for identifying schools in need of assistance and developing diagnostic systems to support continuous improvement.
• Examples of how to evaluate evidence-based interventions for schools in need of additional support.

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Laura Ascione
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