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ERIC Number: ED570126
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Aug
Pages: 24
Abstractor: ERIC
High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA
Petrilli, Michael J.; Griffith, David; Wright, Brandon L.; Kim, Audrey
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
In this report, the authors examine the extent to which states' current (or planned) accountability systems for elementary and middle schools attend to the needs of high-achieving students, and how these systems might be redesigned under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to better serve all students. In their view, states can and should take four steps to ensure that the needs of high achievers are prioritized under ESSA: (1) For the first academic indicator required by ESSA ("academic achievement"), reward schools for getting more students to an "advanced" level; (2) For the second academic indicator expected by ESSA ("student growth"), rate schools using a "true growth model," i.e., one that looks at the progress of individual students at all achievement levels and not just those who are low-performing or below the "proficient" line; (3) Include "gifted students" (or "high-achieving students") as a subgroup, and report their results separately and (4) When determining summative school ratings, make "growth for all students" count for at least half of the rating. Based on these four design features, the authors rate states' current (or planned) accountability systems using a rubric and the most recent publicly available information. This rubric is the basis for two sets of ratings: one for the thirty-nine states (plus the District of Columbia) that calculate summative school ratings (or intend to) and one for the eleven states that don't take this step (or don't plan to). The ratings suggest that the overwhelming majority of current (and planned) state accountability systems provide schools with few incentives to focus on their high-achieving students. In fact, the analysis presented herein indicates that just four states--Arkansas, Ohio, Oregon, and South Carolina--have truly praiseworthy systems when it comes to focusing attention on these students. The results also highlight the specific areas where states need to improve. Only four states (Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon) base at least half of a school's rating on "growth for all students," and seven states and the District of Columbia assign no weight to this measure. (Eleven states don't calculate summative school ratings.) Given that student growth is the best way to evaluate schools' impact on student achievement--and the best way to signal that all kids matter--this finding is extremely alarming. Just five states (Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Wyoming) include high-achieving or gifted students as a subgroup and separately report their results. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia rate (or plan to rate) schools' achievement using a model that gives extra credit for students who achieve at an "advanced" level, such as a performance index. Unfortunately, draft regulations published by the Department of Education appear to disallow such indices, and those fourteen states may be required to resume measuring academic achievement via proficiency rates alone. For this reason, the authors have one major recommendation for the Department of Education: All states to rate academic achievement using a performance index. Such an allowance is both consistent with ESSA and in the best interests of students. The Department's final regulations should encourage performance metrics that account for the achievement of all students. [Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr.]
Thomas B. Fordham Institute. 1701 K Street NW Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-223-5452; Fax: 202-223-9226; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; Bloomberg Philanthropies; Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Identifiers - Location: United States