Accountability and the Federal Role: A Third Way on ESEA

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Accountability and the Federal Role: A Third Way on ESEA

by

Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education

Paul T. Hill, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington Bothell

In consultation with:

Anthony Bryk, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Richard Carranza, San Francisco Unified School District; Robin Lake, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington Bothell; Paul Leather, New Hampshire Department of Education; James Liebman, Columbia Law School; Jal Mehta, Harvard University; Charmaine Mercer, Alliance for Excellent Education; Rick Miller, Center for Organizational Reform of Education; Linda Pittenger, National Center for Innovation in Education, University of Kentucky; Morgan Polikoff, University of Southern California; David Steiner, Hunter College of Education; Richard Wenning, BeFoundation; and Gene Wilhoit, National Center for Innovation in Education, University of Kentucky

11 March 2015

Implications for ESEA

As this is written, Congress is considering proposals for improvement of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This paper has five implications for the accountability aspects of that legislation:

1. Congress should continue to expect states to ensure that districts make annual determinations of student learning and growth based on valid and reliable measures and to report assessment data by student groups. Congress should support reasonable experimentation with new approaches to measuring student learning and progress, evaluating schools, and remedying low performance. It should allow the Secretary of Education to approve statewide accountability systems based on systems of assessments that combine general and deeper measures of learning to assess a wider range of content and skills, and provide more detailed diagnostic information about individual children’s learning. These agreements should be possible where the proposed combination of assessments are validated by state test results and meet high standards of reliability, validity, comparability, and quality. The implementation and outcomes of these agreements should be rigorously studied and the Secretary should have the authority to revoke agreements that do not lead to effective action on behalf of children at risk.

2. ESEA should encourage state use of multiple measures dashboards that look at a number of indicators of student and school progress, and still require, as a condition for receiving federal funds, that states and localities take effective action on behalf of children not learning.

3. ESEA should not prescribe local practices with respect to educator evaluation or school improvement, nor require mechanical use of test scores to drive consequences for schools, but require states to establish systems for reviewing district and school progress and determining when effective interventions are needed.

4. ESEA should transform the role of the federal government in accountability. The federal government should make annual performance agreements with individual states. These agreements should create strong incentives for states to improve district and school performance on raising graduation rates and assuring college and career readiness for disadvantaged children, and specify consequences for failing to do so.

5. ESEA should also create incentives for states to recognize and remedy systematic differences in the financial and human resources available for the education of similar students, and for districts to remove internal barriers to funding equity and transparency. From our very different vantage points, we believe an ESEA developed on these principles would better accomplish the noble goals that NCLB set out to achieve. It would ultimately, we are convinced, produce greater equity and excellence in our education system with less federal overreach and more of the American problem solving our successes are built on.