As we mark 20 years since the passage of No Child Left Behind, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is undertaking a groundbreaking effort to improve the use of data, assessments, and accountability in education. The U.S. Chamber Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been leaders standing alongside the civil rights community in support of these principles as necessary to delivering a high-quality education for all kids. Guided by a working group of major players across all corners of the education ecosystem, this three-phase, multi-year initiative will allow us to learn from our past, study what’s worked, and lay out a vision and agenda for the future.
Looking Back to Look Forward: Quantitative and Qualitative Reviews of the Past 20 Years of K-12 Education Assessment and Accountability Policy
To effectively engage in the next era of education policy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the business community broadly need to know what recent history has taught us. Two years ago, we realized we could not answer this critical question: after the last 20 years of education reform, what has worked and what has not?
We've released new research that examines the impact of data-driven accountability education policy over the last 20 years and sets the stage for concrete recommendations for the federal role in education. The report is the result of a collective effort with the nation’s leading education experts to create the most comprehensive analysis of the landmark education policies of the past two decades, from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), as part of the Future of Data in K-12 Education initiative.
The report includes a quantitative research review authored by Dr. Dan Goldhaber and Michael DeArmond of CALDER at the American Institutes for Research and a qualitative analysis authored by Chris Stewart and the team at brightbeam.
Why is This Initiative Necessary?
Although the pandemic provided a natural inflection point to re-assess our education system, the problems students face are not new. Before the onset of COVID-19, for example, only 38% of third graders were reading at grade level. Achievement gaps were closing, but they are now at risk of expanding significantly due to pandemic school closures and the digital divide. Schools, teachers, and parents in particular have had a chance to see the shortcomings of our education system up close, as many children learned via Zoom over the past two years. To build a stronger future for American students and prepare them for the economy and society of tomorrow, we need reliable sources of education data to diagnose problems, determine what works, and drive an honest conversation around equity. Further, we believe this initiative is necessary because:
- COVID-19 provides an opportunity to reject the pre-pandemic status quo and reevaluate K-12 education data at a systems level to provide more meaningful, actionable data for educators, students, parents, and policymakers.
- Given growing opposition to assessment and accountability in some corners, we are at risk of losing policies that provide crucial information for parents, policymakers, educators, and the business community.
- The last 20 years of education reform made progress toward equity in education with a focus on outcome data and accountability for academic achievement, but changes to both policy and practice around data are needed to ensure the K-12 system creates a qualified, diverse workforce.
- There have been advances in technology and methodology over the past 20 years that could make assessment of student learning more efficient and effective.
Why is the U.S. Chamber Foundation Leading This Initiative?
- The U.S. Chamber Foundation can bring people to the table. We are convenors and can attract a diverse range of stakeholders across education, business, and government
- The U.S. Chamber Foundation has long been an expert voice on K-12 issues, convening diverse coalitions and publishing industry-leading research to mobilize the business community and advance policy. The U.S. Chamber Foundation represents the business voice not just in Washington, but across the country through its network of chambers that are powerful leaders for education reform in their states.
Our Working Group leverages the full force of education stakeholders, bringing together top leaders in education policy, education administrators, local and federal policymakers, business leaders, and nationally recognized advocates that will lead this project through three distinct phases. Working group members include former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, 2019 teacher of the year Rodney Robinson, and former Louisiana state Superintendent of Education John White. With the support of renowned experts, we aim to learn from recent history, understand the current state of play, and develop recommendations for the future of public education.
- Review The Past 20 Years (Q1 – Q3 2022): No Child Left Behind and the policies and reforms that followed were intended to increase transparency regarding student learning, provide more resources to schools that needed them, and ultimately result in improved educational attainment, especially for groups of students the system has not served well. This review investigates what we know – and what we don’t know – about whether those reforms delivered on those goals.
- Gather And Listen To Ideas From The Field (Q3 2022 – Q3 2023): Series of meetings with experts to understand innovations in the field of assessments, new thinking around the use of data for accountability purposes and to inform instruction as well as gather qualitative data on the experiences of educators, students, administrators, and families. Guided by the working group, we will launch a design challenge to unearth the best thinking from experts on the use of data as a tool for school improvement and accountability.
- Develop Recommendations for The American Education System (Q3 2023): Draft proposals that will inform federal and state policy for using data and accountability to improve public education. These recommendations will be pressure tested with state and local leaders ahead of formal publication.
The U.S. Chamber Foundation is dedicated to improving education systems in the United States and advocating for strong standards and accountability. Together, the future of data, assessments, and accountability can be one that rejects the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and embraces the economy and society of the future. The recommendations developed from this initiative will inform and shape policymakers' approach at both the state and federal level by bringing fresh thinking to the most important investment we can make — in our students.