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When Equity Is Optional: Do School Ratings and Accountability Systems Send Consistent Signals?

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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify low-performing schools for comprehensive support and schools with low-performing subgroups of students for targeted support. Some states also give schools ratings to provide parents and the public with understandable information about school quality. As part of our When Equity Is Optional series, we analyzed school ratings and lists of identified comprehensive and targeted support schools from the first year of ESSA implementation in ten states. We found that school ratings do not always accurately reflect the performance of historically underserved students or whether the state has identified a school for support. In particular, many schools with low ratings were overlooked to receive additional help and supports from their state and school district.

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More From When Equity Is Optional

Two of ESSA’s most important requirements are that states (1) rate school quality and (2) identify low-performing schools to receive support. To evaluate the impact of these policies, All4Ed examined data from the first year of ESSA implementation in 10 states. Our analyses show the consequences for students When Equity Is Optional. States have used ESSA’s flexibility to take such varied approaches that students in low-performing schools—who are more likely to be students of color or from low-income families—have dramatically different odds of getting the supports and resources they need.

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