Policy & Funding
Report: States Need to Improve High School Accountability Systems
The Every Student Succeeds Act
(ESSA) has created an opportunity for states to overhaul their high
school accountability systems, but most are not taking advantage of
that opportunity, according to a new report from Fordham Institute.
The report, High Stakes for High Schoolers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA,
examines current or planned state accountability systems for high
schools. In particular, the report evaluates whether those systems
consider the needs of high-achieving students and ways that states can
redesign their accountability systems to better serve all students.
states focus on student proficiency rates, which measure the proportion
of students who achieve the "proficient" level on state assessments,
according to the report, and this approach is flawed because it closely
correlates with student demographics and prior achievement and does not
indicate which schools are actually effective at promoting growth in
According to the report, "states can and should take four steps to
ensure that the needs of high achievers are prioritized under ESSA,"
and it evaluated each state on each of these four indicators:
the state rate high schools’ academic achievement using a model that
gives additional credit for students achieving at an advanced level?
the state rate high schools’ growth using a model that includes the
progress of all individual students, not just those below the
- When calculating summative high school
ratings, does the state assign at least as much weight to "growth for
all students" as it does to achievement?
- Does the state
rate high schools’ success in helping students earn college credit
before graduating via AP, IB, and/or dual-enrollment programs?
report rated state accountability systems based on the most recent
publicly available information. It identified only four states —
Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas — with current accountability
systems that met all four of the Fordham Institute's evaluation
criteria, and four others – Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana and New York —
that are "moving in the right direction."
Other key findings from the report:
- 32 states include high achieving students in their evaluation of academic growth;
- 21 states value "growth of all students" as much as student achievement;
- 21 states rate success at helping students earn college credit before graduation; and
- 16 states and the District of Columbia assign additional credit for high-achieving students.
A previous report from the Fordham Institute, High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA, evaluated state accountability systems for K-8 schools.
The latest report, "High Stakes for High Schoolers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA," can be found on the Fordham Institute's site.
Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].