How Should States Design Their Accountability Systems?

Education Next talks with Jeb Bush, Heather Hough, and Michael Kirst

ednext_XVII_1_forum_img01With the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replacing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, states have gained substantial new freedom to reshape their school accountability systems, including criteria for how to measure and communicate school performance to the public. One dominant model is the streamlined letter-grade system first adopted by Florida, which focuses on student achievement on annual statewide tests. By contrast, California is developing a dashboard-style system, which encompasses multiple measures, such as student attendance and school climate.

Below are two views on the merits of each model. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who pioneered education reforms in that state, including the A‒F system, presents the case for summative ratings. From California, we hear from Heather J. Hough, executive director of the research partnership between the CORE Districts and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), and Michael W. Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and professor emeritus of education and business administration at Stanford University, on the importance of multiple measures.

Florida’s Intuitive Letter Grades Produce Results
By Jeb Bush
In Florida, where I served as governor from 1999 to 2007, a bold, new direction was required. And so in 1999, we overhauled our school system through accountability legislation that made student learning the focus of education.


California’s Dashboard Data Will Guide Improvement
By Heather J. Hough and Michael W. Kirst
In California, we’ve moved beyond assigning schools a single number score each year and are implementing a “dashboard” accountability system, to better capture and communicate multiple dimensions of school performance.


This article appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Education Next. Suggested citation format:

Bush, J., Hough, H.J., and Kirst, M.W. (2017). How Should States Design Their Accountability Systems? Education Next, 17(1), 54-62.

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