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Update on Possible School Accountability Changes

Congress recently voted to repeal the previous administration’s education regulations outlined for the implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was enacted in December of 2015. Although Congress’ recent action could cause uncertainty in how the ESSA is carried out federally, the law still allows for greater state flexibility in measuring achievement in education. North Carolina must stay focused on developing a strong school accountability system in our state plan.

Under ESSA, each state must create a state plan for compliance with the law, addressing school performance, academic goals and assessments. School accountability remains one of the top priorities for the NC Chamber in the state’s planning process.

School accountability is a critical component of workforce development. North Carolina’s future competiveness hinges on developing high quality schools capable of cultivating a world-class workforce that closes the skills gap. Under North Carolina law passed by the General Assembly, each school in the state receives an annual grade of A through F. The state Department of Public Instruction must report additional metrics to the federal government to comply with federal law.

North Carolina has an opportunity to create one set of school grades that complies with both state and federal law. Key points to consider as we move forward in strengthening North Carolina’s accountability system include:

  1. Creating a single accountability system – Schools should not have to meet one set of compliance benchmarks for the federal law and another set of benchmarks for state law. State and federal law should be brought into alignment on this issue. One accountability system provides an accurate picture of North Carolina’s low performing schools so we can begin turning around the schools and students most in need.
  2. Identifying and closing achievement gaps – it is important to count all students in the state’s accountability plan and work to close achievement gaps. Ideally, poor performance among individual student subgroups should be reflected in the overall school grade. School accountability systems cannot mask underperformance of any subgroup of students.
  3. Reporting clear information – North Carolina should create a clearer report for each school, including the factors that go into the letter grade and the performance for all student groups. Teachers, students, parents and policy-makers need an accurate and accessible picture of school performance.

As the legislative session moves forward and the deadline for state plans approaches, policy-makers are going to have more debate and discussion on these issues. We will keep you up-to-date on proposals to build upon the state’s current school grading system and continue our work to make it better for parents, students, educators and the business community.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber