Problems and Prospects for Pennsylvania’s School Accountability System

School accountability systems have become a fixture of the US education landscape. While there is some evidence that school accountability efforts have had some positive effects on student achievement[i], evidence also suggests that accountability systems have created as many problems as solutions.[ii] Indeed, there is widespread agreement that accountability systems adopted under NCLB, as well as through programs such as Race to the Top and NCLB waivers, had significant flaws. In an effort to remedy these flaws, the new version of ESEA—entitled the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—provides much greater flexibility to states in developing their school accountability systems. Further, ESSA includes some mandates that push states to address some flaws of the former accountability systems. Most important of these mandates is that states must include some non-academic indicators in their systems.

Thus, state policymakers have the opportunity to create accountability systems that more accurately capture school effectiveness in terms of both student achievement and other important student outcomes not related to test scores. The opportunity to redesign accountability systems also provides state policymakers the opportunity to re-build some of the trust lost between educators and local, state, and federal policymakers over the past decades due to poorly constructed accountability systems and the use of accountability results in educator evaluation systems. Pennsylvania policymakers are already in the midst of developing a new SPP to be called Future Ready PA. This White Paper reviews the basis of state accountability systems, the purposes of such systems, the issues with each metric in the SPP, and the issues with proposed metrics in Future Ready PA. Finally, we propose a new accountability system to spur discussion about what metrics should be included in Future Ready PA and how those metrics should be measured.

The full White Paper is at:CEEPA White Paper-Problems and Prospects with the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile_FINAL

You may also email me for a copy at

[i] Braun, H. (2004). Reconsidering the impact of high-stakes testing. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12(1), 1-43; Carnoy, M., & Loeb, S. (2002). Does external accountability affect student outcomes? A cross-state analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis(24), 305-331.
  Chiang, H. (2009). How accountability pressure on failing schools affects student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 93(9-10), 1045-1057.
  Dee, T., & Jacob, B. (2011). The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Student Achievement. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 30(3), 418-446.
  Figlio, D., & Rouse, C. (2006). Do accountability and voucher threats improve low-performing schools? Journal of Public Economics, 90(1-2), 239-255.
  Hanushek, E., & Raymond, M. (2005). Does school accountability lead to imprvoed student performance? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management(24), 297-327.
  Reback, R., Rockoff, J., & Schwartz, H. (2014). Under pressure: Job security, resource allocation, and productivity in schools under NCLB. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 6(3).
  Winters, M., Trivitt, J., & Greene, J. (2010). The impact of high-stakes testing on student proficiency in low-stakes subjects: Evidence from Florida’s elementary science exam. Economics of Education Review, 29(1), 138-146.
[ii] Davidson, E., Reback, R., Rockoff, J. E., & Schwartz, H. L. (2015). Fifty ways to leave a child behind: Idiosyncrasies and discrepancies in states’ implementation of NCLB. Educational Researcher, 44(6), 347–358; Polikoff, McEachin, Wrabel, & Duque, 2013.

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