The standards era in education has produced a plethora of “accountability measures” enacted by the federal government and state legislatures that have relied heavily, if not exclusively, on standardized test scores. Educators across the country have long yearned for the day when the measure of a school’s success would go beyond the simplicity of standardized tests and include a broader and deeper consideration of the qualty of the school experience for every child. New federal legislation has opened the door to make that happen and broaden accountability.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to implement a number of accounatbility measures “at least one of which must be a non-academic measure of quality disaggregated by subgroup”. Possible examples include college readiness, student engagement, school climate, access to advanced coursework, attendance rates and graduation rates to name a few. This measure must appear on the state report card and will be one component of the accounatbility system. States must include one of these measure but have the flexibility to include more than one if they wish. Stakeholders in states across the country will be debating this issue in the coming months as states move to comply with the tenants of ESSA. Which non-acadmeic measure a state chooses to employ and whether they will selct more than one will reverbearte in every classroom.

Many states will likely select a non-academic measure they are currently employing. For axample, the graduation rate or a “college and career redainess measure” would meet the federal requirement, but policy makers would best service children in their state by being thorough and thoughtful as they select from the menu of possible measures or choose to create their own. The appropriate approach would be a reflective process that looks at the current state report card, the new requirements of ESSA and most importantly an honest, heartfelt conversation about what we want for children as a bsais for selecting the new non-academic measure(s). Several large California school distircts known as the CORE Distircts have experience in this process after receiving a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2013. Drawing upon the experience of these districts would be an excellent guide moving forward with non-academic measures.

Educators have long echoed the belief that “school is about more than test scores” Now is our chance as legislators, policy makers, eduators, parents and others to thoughfully take advantage of this opportunity to broaden the measure of school success in a way that will benefit every child.

We would appreciate hearing about the conversations in your school district about the new non-academic accountability measure!