The 2017-2018 school year is the first time that Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect for accountability purposes. At this point, all states have submitted their proposals. However, only a handful have been accepted, and the rest are either waiting to hear back or have been asked to make revisions.
This uncertainty as we hit the midpoint of the school year has state and district leadership wondering if they will be prepared to provide the correct metrics under their new accountability reporting requirements. There are several challenges ahead, even for the states that have an approved proposal.
Some potential pitfalls include multiple sources of data that do not connect in a singular location making reports difficult to pull quickly. Additionally, new processes need to be developed as well as teams to support them. This resource re-allocation and re-training takes time, and for states who do not yet have approved plans, it can mean a last-minute dash to get things in order. Furthermore, many metrics need to be more defined to understand the calculations behind them (such as what does chronic absenteeism mean?).
While this all feels very daunting, it is important to remember that these changes, if done correctly, can have a positive impact on school improvement. Many state and district leaders are attempting to do just that. According to District Administration in their December issue article, ESSA: An opportunity to improve assessment:
“… many [states] are eliminating the bulk of No Child Left Behind-style punitive sanctions. This provides an opening for districts to stop teaching to standardized tests and adopt assessments that support more high-quality, in-depth and engaging learning. In contrast to NCLB, ESSA requires assistance instead of punishment for low-scoring schools. When states remove sanctions, educators need not fear putting their students, schools or careers at risk if they do not focus narrowly on raising test scores.”
Further, a recent EdWeek article, ESSA Pushes State Schools Chiefs to Scrap Business as Usual, wrote:
“At the gathering, state chiefs and their deputies, along with consultants, discussed ways to better support students with disabilities and English-language learners, how to better collect and report new data required under ESSA, and how best to comply with ESSA’s financial-transparency requirement.”
And finally, an iNACOL issue brief, Rethinking State Accountability to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning in K-12 Education, stated:
“Next generation accountability models require a reframing of the concept of accountability as a tool for transparency that supports and empowers rapid and constant improvement in student learning to support a more comprehensive definition of success.”
By keeping an eye towards more lofty goals, educators and administrators have the opportunity to use this time of change and these new accountability reports to use funding more effectively, assess achievement more universally, and ultimately enable teachers to help more students.
So how can district leaders begin to prepare for this very important change that feels relatively unknown? Download our ESSA Preparation Checklist for the 5 things all district can start doing now to be prepared for accountability reporting under ESSA.