Greater scrutiny under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is creating a new form of school accountability at the local and state level.

Discussions surrounding student achievement aren’t complete without examining the details of school accountability. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) brings school accountability to the forefront of the education conversation, as the federal government gives greater freedom to state and local governments. Through working with school districts on local levels, states are able to uncover the needs of students in different areas, rather than establishing rigid standards for all.

school accountabilityWith greater freedom, though, comes greater school accountability. Although states can be creative regarding the standards they establish to help students succeed, the bottom line is that they must rely on schools to translate these guidelines into lessons that will elevate education. In this role, school administrators, district leaders, and teachers are going to be viewed as having greater responsibility for student performance.

Making All Local Voices Count

Not only do the current guidelines around school accountability require states to make decisions regarding curriculum, there are also requirements in place to ensure students from underserved groups are included in education plans. In its “Accountability, State Plans, and Data Reporting: Summary of Final Regulations,” the United States Department of Education discusses the ways in which schools will be required to provide greater support to under-performing schools and undeserved student populations under ESSA.

school accountability“…the final regulations clarify ESSA’s statutory language by ensuring accountability systems use multiple measures of school success…reinforcing that all students deserve a high-quality and well-rounded education that will prepare them for success…[the regulations also] uphold the strong civil rights legacy of the law by including all students and historically underserved subgroups in accountability decisions…”

As schools work toward fulfilling the requirements established by their state education boards, administrators will have the power to determine how to best serve their disadvantaged students, who are identified through subgroups. At the local level, schools will work with the state to determine benchmarks of progress for these students that are comparable to the standards to which their peers are held.

For children who fall within the general student population, school accountability will be determined by “…academic achievement, graduation rates for high schools and academic progress for elementary and middle schools, progress in attaining English language proficiency, and at least one state-selected indicator of school quality or student success…,” says the U.S. Department of Education. The agency also notes that these standards must also be consistent for all public schools across the state, yet the guidelines will remain flexible enough to recognize the growth of children who have not yet reached proficiency and the excellence of students who are performing at levels beyond their peers.

No Teacher Left Behind

school accountabilityThough student success is the sole goal, to cultivate a population of children who are conscientious learners, schools need teachers who are prepared for this challenge. As part of its outline for school accountability, ESSA requires educational institutions to detail how they will retain teachers who are not only capable, but also continually sharpening their skills by continuing to learn innovative teaching methods and adopt creative ways to educate students. By supporting ongoing training for teachers throughout their careers, schools will show that they are not only investing directly in the education of students, but also providing kids with the most qualified educators.

The topic of school accountability shouldn’t be feared by educators. On the contrary, teachers should embrace the opportunity to take a greater role in shaping the ways in which their students learn. Through remaining involved in the process of how curriculum and standards are established, teachers can serve as education leaders at the local level, while ensuring school accountability standards remain fair.

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