DC Passes State Plan for Common Accountability Under ESSA

Last night, the DC State Board of Education voted 6-3 to approve the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s plan for a public school accountability framework as part of DC’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The board members voting in favor represented Wards 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and At-Large. Over two dozen parents, educators, and community advocates — many with kids in tow! — attended the 5:30pm meeting to support the “yes” vote and hold their elected officials accountable.

This is not the end of the ESSA implementation process in DC — it’s just the beginning. OSSE and the State Board will now create the design and features of the state report card — a more holistic look at school quality that is paired side-by-side with school quality ratings and may include many additional measures, such as instructional model, extracurricular offerings, school climate and satisfaction surveys, and discipline data. The Data Quality Campaign and the Education Trust have been two national leaders in looking at smart format and features of state report cards, particularly when paired with school quality ratings. We look forward to learning more from these groups as well as parent organizations like PAVE about effective state report card design.

Over the next few years, the proposed accountability framework for DC will need careful monitoring and implementation in partnership with LEAs, principals, educators, families, and communities. We at DFER, and our non-partisan research partner Education Reform Now, will also be diving much deeper into the data on student achievement and progress, both on academic and socio-emotional or school climate measures. We look forward to sharing this research with the public and elected officials.

The board members who voted in favor of the plan emphasized their commitment to providing meaningful information about school quality to families and the public. Although no snapshot view of school quality can ever be perfect, we must still be honest with ourselves as a city about how our public schools are serving all kids, particularly the most vulnerable, in order to better target resources and support to struggling schools. In addition, we as an education community can and must do better at ensuring the communities most affected by educational inequity have their voices and concerns at the center of the conversation, not at the margins.

DFER-DC looks forward to helping implement ESSA and the new common accountability framework in the District. In particular, we commit to dedicating policy & research resources to taking a close look at equity and access to public education. Because DFER works primarily with policymakers and elected officials, rather than at the grassroots, one of the best ways for us to be an effective partner to families and communities is to shine a light on inequities through strong data analysis and research.

We will use the new school quality ratings as a jumping off point for conversations with elected officials — so that we can hold everyone in power in the District accountable for serving all kids.