Regenstein Design Challenge Submission
October 16, 2023
State education accountability systems are the method by which states define what constitutes success in the education system — but for too long, they have focused too heavily on the years after third grade. Right now, if a cohort of students is a year behind at the end of second grade, only 15% of school districts can get that cohort caught up by the end of high school. Unfortunately, many children are a year or more behind very early in their academic careers, and those children are disproportionately likely to come from families with lower incomes. Accountability systems need to not only drive improvement from third grade on, but they also need to keep a focus on the all-important early years.
To do that, accountability systems should do two major things. First, they should use student growth scores to more clearly distinguish among schools with low student proficiency. In schools with low proficiency but strong growth scores, the ceiling on how much more the school can accomplish from third grade up may be low; the improvement approach in these schools may need to focus on early learning. Second, an external review of school processes and practices – similar to the reviews used in some early childhood accountability -— could yield actionable information for school improvement, including in the years before third grade.