Education Week - January 7, 2016 - Quality Counts - (Page 2)
EDUCATION WEEK | January 7, 2016
TOUGH BALANCING ACT ON ACCOUNTABILITY
Educators and policymakers seek the right formula to promote achievement and improvement
or the past decade and a
half, the fight to improve
America's schools has been
fought largely on two fronts:
academic standards as one
battleground, and accountability the other, with the
issue of mandatory testing
adding heat to a very public-and increasingly
The questions for policymakers and educators are as direct as they are complex: What
should students be expected to learn, how
should we measure what they've learned, and
what should be the consequences when they
don't achieve as expected?
Even as disputes rage over standards and
assessments in light of the Common Core
State Standards, accountability has become
entangled with a host of its own political, practical, and educational issues.
For some, the very term "accountability" is
synonymous with testing-especially mandated, federally driven assessments like those
enshrined in the now-defunct No Child Left
Behind Act and its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
But accountability is also bound up with
the question of consequences: for schools that
are subject to state accountability systems;
for teachers, whose pay and job security can
be linked to students' test scores; and for students themselves, whose promotion and even
graduation can hinge on how they fare in the
At the same time, pressure mounts for
schools and districts to include a variety of
non-academic factors, such as school climate,
in the accountability equation.
This year's 20th edition of Quality Counts
takes a deep look at a welter of issues surrounding educational accountability and
how the changes being ushered in by what's
widely seen as a scaling back of the federal
government's policy footprint are putting
newfound autonomy and opportunities for
innovation in the hands of states and school
Education Week reporters traveled to
schools and districts on both coasts to examine
the changing face of state and local accountability approaches. They explored how those
strategies can give a more fleshed-out portrait
of school effectiveness and their potential to
support and improve schools and struggling
Articles in this special report examine
the ways in which school districts and
states are collaborating on accountability
systems that take into account both traditional academics and a variety of other
indicators, such as dropout and suspension
rates, school climate, and important social
and emotional factors that researchers increasingly say can play a role in students'
success and struggles.
They also look at cutting-edge efforts to
turn around low-performing schools in ways
that aim to hold local educators to high standards while providing the support they need
to get the job done. And a carefully curated
selection of research summaries takes stock
of what high-profile studies have to say
about the impact of the landmark, but controversial, No Child Left Behind Act in the
At the same time, the Education Week Research Center-in a nod to Quality Counts'
genesis in 1997 as an accountability instrument at the advent of the standards-based education movement-mined some two decades
of the annual reports' coverage for a wealth
of insights into the performance of the nation
and the states on a host of education-related
Over the years, Quality Counts has examined issues as diverse as standards, testing,
teaching, English-language learners, international competitiveness, school climate, and
the impact of the Great Recession on schools
and districts. The snapshots from those reports highlighted in Quality Counts 2016 offer
historic perspective and have continuing relevance in the education policy debate.
The Research Center also looked deeply into
the trend lines on student achievement on the
National Assessment of Educational Progress
during a multiyear period in which the NCLB
law helped set the template for state-level accountability. The results make for interesting
and provocative reading.
Separate from this year's dedicated theme of
accountability, the Quality Counts 2016 report
once again provides comprehensive, summative grades for the nation and the states on a
range of custom indicators developed over the
years by the Research Center: the Chance-forSuccess Index, the K-12 Achievement Index,
and the school finance analysis.
(See story, Page 26 for details on these indicators, including more information about how
states and the nation fared on each.)
Taken together, the nation as a whole received a C on this year's report, with a score
of 74.4, the same letter grade as in the 2015
report. Massachusetts took first place among
the states, with a B-plus and a score of 86.8,
followed by three states that received Bs:
New Jersey (85.1), Vermont (83.8), and Maryland (82.7).
At the other end of the spectrum, Nevada
was at the bottom of the list, earning a D
with a score of 65.2, one of three states to receive Ds, along with Mississippi (65.6), and
New Mexico (65.8).
And in a major bright spot, the District of
Columbia jumped to 28th place in this year's
report from 38th last year, earning a grade of
C with a score of 72.9.
CHANCE FOR SUCCESS
Among the highlights from this year's results on this key indicator, which looks at conditions for a positive outcome over the course
of a person's life, the nation's overall grade remained stagnant for the ninth straight year,
earning a C-plus.
At the same time, however, 33 states boosted
their scores on this year's report, and the District of Columbia proved a standout in this category, buoyed by increases in family income
and parents with jobs.
One key takeaway from this year's results
on the Chance-for-Success Index, with its
cradle-to-career perspective: While the nation
as a whole saw some small gains at either end
of the arc-early childhood and outcomes for
adults-it posted a dip in results in the crucial
K-12 time of life.
The multifaceted K-12 achievement indicator, which is based heavily on the NAEP
scores as well as Advanced Placement tests
and high school graduation rates and is updated biannually in line with NAEP's reporting schedule, yielded a C-minus for the nation as a whole, the same grade as two years
ago, the last time the indicator was produced.
Eighth graders saw a drop in the percentage
scoring "advanced" on the NAEP in math in
the 2013-15 period, although the picture was
different for students taking AP tests, with a
notable increase in the proportion receiving
high scores on those assessments.
Among the states, Massachusetts again
topped the list-as it has in each report since
the index was launched-as the only state to
earn a grade of B, with a score of 85.2.
Lastly, this year's report once again offers detail on how K-12 funding is allocated
throughout the states and what that says for
the nation as a whole. This analysis takes
into account factors that include both overall spending and the equity with which that
funding is distributed among districts.
Overall, the U.S. earned a C in the area of
school finance, based on 2013 data, the most
recent available. New York is this year's topranked state, with a grade of B-plus, while
Idaho received an F, the sole state to do so. In
general, states did better in terms of how equitably they distributed their funds than they
did on overall funding, the analysis found.
When regional cost differences are taken
into consideration, overall per-pupil funding nationwide averaged $11,841. Vermont
was at the top in this category, spending
$19,134 per pupil, and Utah ranked lowest, spending $7,084 per pupil. n
QUALITY COUNTS 2016
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 7, 2016 - Quality Counts
Education Week - Quality Counts - January 7, 2016
Tough Balancing Act on Accountability
Path to Accountability Taking Bold New Turns
Highlighting NCLB-Era Research
Student Achievement in the Era of Accountability
Quality Counts at 20
Moving Beyond Just Academics as a Way to Assess Effectiveness
At a Los Angeles School, Carving Safe Spaces to Share and Learn
States Collaborate in Pursuit of Fresh Accountability Ideas
In School Turnaround Efforts, Massachusetts Enlists Districts
Measuring Up: Latest Scorecard Puts States, Nation to the Test
Chance for Success
Sources & Notes
Education Week - January 7, 2016 - Quality Counts