Rethinking Accountability for Continuous Improvement of Next-Gen Learning Models

In this blog that first appeared on, Susan Gentz shares how accountability systems are changing, especially since the passing of ESSA. Susan describes that states will now have the opportunity to redesign accountability systems that are more flexible in the shift to next-gen models.

Susan Gentz

A forward-thinking accountability system should align state accountability to student-centered learning to provide success for each and every student.

Old accountability models from No Child Left Behind reflect an era of data poverty that measured student proficiency on a single end-of-year test. That “autopsy” approach to testing for accountability purposes does not support student-centered learning nor continuous improvement. We need data-rich learning environments. Next generation accountability models would use multiple measures throughout the year to support continuous improvement, to inform instruction and personalize learning, and to dramatically improve student outcomes.

The focus on equity would provide better data for student demographics to ensure systems are:

  • Addressing that all students are on track for graduation;
  • Closing achievement gaps by serving vulnerable students;
  • Analyzing the effectiveness based on the amount of learning per unit of time; and
  • Better determining cost effectiveness for amount of learning per unit of time (with time-bound targets).

Accountability should drive continuous improvement of student learning with the goal of:

  • Achieving equity and college and career readiness for all students;
  • Motivating educators to meet individual student learning needs in real time; and
  • Extending beyond single-point-in-time proficiency rates on a single test score.

Before the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), federal accountability requirements were out of alignment with personalized, competency-based models. The old ESEA had a narrow focus on single-point-in-time academic proficiency, rather than on student academic growth toward deeper learning outcomes. With last week’s passage of ESSA, states will now have flexibility to redesign assessments for student-centered learning.

Next generation accountability systems should provide greater transparency on multiple measures of student learning. They should celebrate growth, calculate how quickly the achievement gap is being closed, show in real time where students or subgroups of students need supports and interventions, and pinpoint the resources needed to ensure student success.

ESSA implications for state accountability systems

ESSA allows states to design systems of accountability that are focused on continuous, real-time improvement of student learning towards college and career readiness, rapid closure of sub-group achievement gaps, and provide the flexibility to align with and support next generation learning models.

Are you a policymaker ready to implement next generation accountability in your state? Contact the iNACOL Center for Policy Advocacy for tools and resources.

What recommendations would you provide federal policymakers? Please comment or tweet us here: @nacol.

Learn more

Susan Gentz is a State Policy Associate with iNACOL. Follow Susan on Twitter, @shoing.

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