Accountability and Support for Struggling Schools

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To meet the goals of raising achievement, closing gaps, and preparing all students for the demands of college, the workplace, and a democratic society, everyone in the system — districts, schools, and educators — must be accountable for making meaningful progress. Without accountability, college- and career-ready graduation for all will remain a lofty aspiration rather than the common goal that unites all members of the school community around systems of instruction, support for students and educators, and resource allocation.

     Accountability systems need to provide:

  • Clear signals of what’s expected of everyone whose efforts are necessary to foster high achievement for all students;
  • Regular reports that let everyone know whether they’re meeting expectations; and
  • Meaningful incentives and consequences, both positive and negative, for meeting expectations—or failing to meet them.

Whether through reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or using the Department of Education’s waiver authority, federal policymakers must fix what No Child Left Behind got wrong, while salvaging what it got right: a focus on improving achievement and closing gaps for all groups of students. In "Getting It Right: Crafting Federal Accountability for Higher Student Performance and a Stronger America," The Education Trust details its recommendations for federal accountability policy.

Effective accountability policies anticipate that schools cannot be considered successful unless they successfully educate all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or background. It’s crucial to maintain this expectation, but it’s also essential to provide meaningful support for those schools, educators, and students who are struggling to meet expectations. Accountability policy must be clear that we no longer will allow students to be stranded in schools that either cannot or will not improve.

Read more about accountability in this fact sheet, these FAQs, and in our report, "Stuck Schools," which urges educators and policymakers to track proficiency rates and improvement over time so they can focus scarce resources on the neediest schools. For more information on some states' recently approved NCLB waiver accountability plans, see here.

Click on a state's name to see its accountability waiver summary: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New MexicoOklahoma, and Tennessee. Also, see our recent report on trends — both positive and negative — across all states that have been approved to date.