In our When Equity Is Optional series, we analyzed data from the first year of ESSA implementation in 10 states (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, and Washington) and found that states have used ESSA’s flexibility to take wildly varied approaches to school ratings and school improvement.
School ratings can reveal disparities in the quality of education different groups of students receive. Based on the enrollment of students by race in schools with the highest and lowest ratings under ESSA, students of color do not have equitable access to an excellent education. Black and Latino students were more likely to attend low-rated schools than White students.
When Equity Is Optional Series
Our data on ESSA implementation show how states have used ESSA’s flexibility to take wildly varied approaches to school accountability and support—and the consequences of these choices for students of color.
Students in low-performing schools—who are much more likely to be students of color or from low-income families—in different states have very different odds of receiving the support they need to improve.
ESSA requires states to identify high schools where fewer than 67% of students graduate for comprehensive support and improvement (CSI). This might seem like a bright-line rule that would affect states similarly, but the likelihood that high schools were identified varied widely.
Across 10 states, many schools with low ratings were overlooked to receive additional help and supports from their state and school district.