Most states use a rating system to differentiate schools and inform the public about school performance.
In many states, however, schools can receive a low rating without being identified for support. Critically, this means those schools are ineligible for federal school improvement funding and additional resources their students likely need.
All4Ed analyzed accountability systems across 10 states and found the likelihood a school was identified for support varied widely. Some states identified half, or more, of the public schools they serve, while others identified fewer than 5%. While some states ensured that the lowest-rated schools were consistently identified for support, other states made choices that resulted in low-rated schools being overlooked. As a result, 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. For example, in one state, 43% of the schools that received an “F” were not identified for support and, therefore, were not eligible for school improvement funding. In that state, Black students were 17 times more likely to attend an “F” school than White students.
States can improve their accountability systems by reviewing their data to determine whether schools receiving low ratings are being overlooked for support and analyzing their performance as well as the resources made available to them (e.g., per-pupil expenditure, presence of school counselors, access to advanced coursework, etc.). Based on this information, lawmakers can determine if new or additional policies are needed to ensure students in schools with the lowest rating receive appropriate support and interventions to improve.
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states received flexibility to chart their own path to educational success, but they had to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education explaining how they will reach these goals for all students. To summarize the strengths—and shortcomings—of each state’s plan, All4Ed created a series of one-page, quick-reference guides for anyone looking to determine how well a state’s ESSA plan will address the needs of its students.
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