The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a key piece of federal education legislation, which restores flexibility in developing education plans to the states. Since the legislation’s enactment in 2015, the NC Chamber has remained engaged in North Carolina’s efforts to develop a state education plan in line with the law. One critical component of North Carolina’s education plan is school accountability, as school accountability measures give North Carolina’s business community a direct understanding of how the education system is performing.
To date, both chambers of the General Assembly have released individual plans for school accountability, building upon the existing A through F school grading model. In addition to these plans, an accountability plan has been put forth by North Carolina’s superintendents. Although similarities exist between the three plans, the House, Senate and superintendents’ plans all present different models for grading North Carolina’s schools.
Aligning these school accountability plans into one robust system remains one of the NC Chamber’s top priorities this legislative session. After review of each plan, taking best practices and cautioning against certain measures, the NC Chamber makes the following recommendations to policymakers:
- Policymakers should raise the bar on accountability, as current plans do not hold the weight of accountability. Grade promotion is not a strong differentiator of schools and would introduce a new factor in school grades that is less rigorous.
- One summative score should be given per school to support transparency and clarity.
- Reporting on subgroup accountability should go further to include more meaningful differentiation, possibilities include a rating for closing achievement gaps or tracking progress toward career and college readiness benchmarks within each subgroup.
- Prioritizing a robust, transparent and clear school report card is critical. A school accountability model is only as good as the means by which it is portrayed to the broader community of parents, teachers, students, policymakers and employers.
North Carolina’s employers increasingly question how they are going to find, train and retain talent. The state’s skills gap will only continue to widen if we fail to adequately measure school performance and equip policymakers, teachers, students, parents and the business community with the information needed to turnaround schools failing in proficiency. The NC Chamber encourages policymakers to work together to develop an aligned school accountability model that raises the bar for achievement and allows North Carolina to lead in student proficiency and school quality.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber