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Aurora Institute

New iNACOL Policy Issue Brief on Rethinking State Accountability to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning in K-12 Education

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick, Maria Worthen, Natalie Truong

Issue(s): State Policy, Redefine Student Success, Redesign Accountability Systems for Continuous Improvement

What could accountability look like to better support transparency of outcomes and improvements in practice toward high-quality personalized learning and competency-based education systems?

iNACOL published a new policy issue brief, Rethinking State Accountability to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning in K-12 Education. The issue brief explores the opportunities state policymakers have when amending and redesigning accountability systems in the future to move from compliance to continuous improvement in K-12 education. The issue brief outlines how to:

  • Support students to reach new definitions of success with personalized, competency-based learning;
  • Drive continuous improvement at every level of the system;
  • Provide transparency on multiple measures aligned to comprehensive student success outcomes; and
  • Ensure students have the supports they need, when they need them, to master the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for success in college, career and civic life.

Next generation accountability designs will provide transparency and help build capacity for innovative practices through personalized, student-centered, competency-based learning.

Education systems should reflect families’ and communities’ hopes for student success in school, work, life and society. States can articulate a statewide vision for student success and align accountability systems to ensure every student has what they need to succeed. Next generation accountability systems can empower states, districts and schools with timely, relevant information and provide the capacity to analyze and continuously improve on their practice.

Accountability systems provide the underlying structure for school and district support and improvement. Accountability systems for K-12 education could empower stakeholders with the information they need to help students succeed, providing the right information to the right stakeholders at the right time.

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states gain considerably more authority and autonomy over the design of school accountability systems. ESSA provides an opportunity for states to transform accountability with models that advance equity and align to student-centered learning. This shift in responsibility creates the opportunity for states to reimagine new accountability models that align to goals of college and career readiness for all students, and to move from a culture of compliance to one of continuous improvement.

State leaders can begin to transform state accountability systems to better support student learning, provide greater transparency, and allow districts and schools the capacity to analyze and continuously improve on their practice. Policymakers may want to consider the following recommendations, and take advantage of the opportunities in ESSA, to move toward building student-centered learning systems in the state.

  • Action Step #1: Convene diverse stakeholders to redefine student success. The definition should reflect the knowledge and skills that all students will need to succeed in college, career and civic life;
  • Action Step #2: Determine the measures the state will use for accountability purposes. The multiple measures should be aligned to the state’s vision for student success, provide transparency with timely data, and empower stakeholders to drive continuous improvement, identify schools for improvement, and target supports and resources where they are needed most;
  • Action Step #3: Engage with education stakeholders to develop or support professional learning communities across schools and districts and create a culture of continuous improvement where educators and leaders from across the state can learn and grow;
  • Action Step #4: Empower communities and build trust by developing a framework for reciprocal accountability, to ensure that resources and supports are responsive to the needs of local communities, districts and schools; and
  • Action Step #5: Identify school improvement models to support student-centered learning with personalized, competency-based education, and to advance equity. States have the flexibility under ESSA to empower communities to determine school improvement models that work best for them.

As states begin to consider and design next generation accountability systems that are dynamic and responsive to stakeholders, they should remember they can submit a request to the U.S. Department of Education to amend their state accountability plans at any time.

For more information, download the iNACOL issue brief, Rethinking State Accountability to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning in K-12 Education, and access other issue briefs here:

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