Equitable Accountability Systems under ESSA

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) shifts much of the authority for developing accountability systems from the U.S. Department of Education to state education agencies. State agencies now assume much greater responsibility for developing equitable accountability systems, monitoring the system’s progress, identifying problems and unintentional consequences emerging from the new system, and making improvements to ensure the system improves equitable access to a high-quality education. As part of our continuing support of state education agencies, CSAI presented at the State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) Winter meeting under the Accountability, Systems and Reporting (ASR) collaborative on the principles for promoting equity in state accountability.

Equity Principles: Foundational Truths to Promote Equity in States’ ESSA Plans

Eight guiding principles are presented to support states’ equity plans as they shift from focusing on compliance to promoting more equitable opportunities for student learning through accountability, technical support, and a focus on continuous improvement. These principles are not intended to be an exhaustive list or a recipe for success. Rather, they are considerations that can facilitate deeper thought and reflection about how states might approach the decision-making process as they revisit and revise their accountability systems. 

As states revisit their ESSA accountability plans, adopting a set of principles can be a helpful strategy to guide strategic planning, focus decision-making, and build stakeholder consensus around the common goal of creating a more equitable educational system. The principles described below are a starting point for state teams that are preparing to engage in stakeholder feedback and evaluate their equity plans. We encourage states to apply, test, and adapt these principles to support their unique circumstances:

  • Principle #1: A Well-Designed Theory of Action Establishes a Common Purpose and Clear Direction for Achieving Equity
  • Principle #2: A Strong Collaborative Process Promotes Unification among Stakeholder Groups
  • Principle #3: Augmenting Goals with Action Plans, Timelines, and Regular Check-Ins Sustains Momentum
  • Principle #4: Measuring School Conditions for Learning Sharpens the Focus on Equity
  • Principle #5: Clear, Simple, and Accessible Reporting Practices Motivate Actionable Decision-Making
  • Principle #6: Data-Driven Improvement Cycles Are Essential for Scaling-Up Evidence-Based Practice
  • Principle #7: Assessment Innovation Holds Great Potential for Improving Equitable Practice
  • Principle #8: Balancing a State’s Capacity to Provide School Support with the School Identification Process Is Essential for Building Trust and Strengthening Partnership

Equity Principles: Foundational Truths to Promote Equity in States’ ESSA Plans: Brief | Presentation