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All 50 States Now Using Testing or Student Performance for School Accountability

It's one thing to discuss in general terms how school accountability has changed since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (one of the prime legacies of U.S. Rep. George Miller, a Democrat and titan of education policy who just announced his retirement from Congress). But can the scope of those changes in state policies be measured in some way?

The Education Commission of the States, which I highlighted yesterday for its tracking of pre-K spending in fiscal 2014, has at least part of the answer. It compared the popularity of various factors used in states' school accontability policies in 2002, such as test scores, graduation rates, and climate and culture, to their popularity across all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2013. You can see the results below for yourselves in the easy-to-read chart below:


The metric that experienced the greatest growth, as you can see, was the use of graduation rates—using that factor is over five times more popular today than it was more than a decade ago. But another factor that's arguably closely related, "education or employment after high school," still sits low on the totem poll. In fact, it's gotten a little less popular, with the number of states using it in school accountability dropping from four to three. Given at least the nominal stress on college- and career-readiness of the Common Core State Standards, will states "buy low" on this policy and incorporate it more into accountability systems in the coming years? 

Meanwhile, one of the more controversial policies in education circles, the use of student test scores or other achievement for accountability, is universally popular in the literal sense. And the performance of the lowest-performing 25 percent of students in schools has also gotten more attention from states in recent years.

In a recent article previewing state legislatures in 2014, I highlighted how accountability systems could get a great deal of attention from lawmakers in the context of the transition of all but four states to the common core. That could mean the numbers in the right-hand column that ECS has so hopefully put together could change dramatically by the time new governors and lawmakers take their seats in 2015. 

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