Rating the Ratings: An Analysis of the 51 ESSA Accountability Plans

See Kentucky’s Profile

 

Authors Brandon Wright and Michael Petrilli

Fordham’s new analysis examines the plans submitted by all fifty states and the District of Columbia, and whether they are strong or weak (or in-between) in achieving three objectives:

  1. Assigning annual ratings to schools that are clear and intuitive for parents, educators, and the public;
  2. Encouraging schools to focus on all students, not just their low performers; and
  3. Fairly measuring and judging all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.

Key findings include:

  • Thirty-four states—67 percent—received a “strong” grade for using clear and intuitive ratings such as A–F grades, five-star ratings, or user-friendly numerical system. These labels immediately convey to all observers how well a given school is performing, and is a major improvement over the often Orwellian school ratings of the NCLB era.
  • The country is also doing much better in signaling that every child is important, not just the “bubble kids” near the proficiency cut-off. Twenty-three states earned strong grades on this objective, and another fourteen earned medium marks.
  • There is somewhat less progress when it comes to making accountability systems fair to high-poverty schools. Only eighteen states are strong here. But twenty-four others earn a medium grade, which is still an improvement over NCLB.

Altogether, twenty of the fifty-one proposed school rating systems are either good or great—earning at least two strong grades and one medium. And those of seven states—Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Washington—are the best, having received perfect scores. Moreover, of all the ratings we assigned across the three objectives, 49 percent were strong and 29 percent were medium.

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