What Are the Best Measures of School Quality? Educators Speak Out

high-performing nationsThe National Education Association (NEA) recently hosted an online poll that asked more than 1,200 educators to specify which of NEA’s “Opportunity Dashboard” indicators they cared about the most. The two highest ranking indicators fell under the umbrella of widening the school curriculum, which came in at 85 percent, and health and wellness programs at 73 percent.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be—not if you’re an educator who for more than a decade lived under the heavy rule of No Child Left Behind that stripped schools of rich curricula to focus on reading and math, and has seen the number of public school students living in poverty skyrocket to more than 50 percent.

new-piktochart_16175835_4dfcd7999058482c7288e1bbbe9d4556b91d216dLast December, President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which give states the opportunity to realign how testing will be used in measuring schools and educators. Since its passing, many implementation plans have been well underway. These plans will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education starting in the spring of next year, and will outline how states will meet the letter of the law.

Educators and Association leaders across the country have used the state-implementation process to inject their expertise into decisions that impact teaching and learning in the classroom, and along the way, they’ve pushed for their state’s accountability systems to include at least one indicator of school quality or student success, which can be found in NEA’s “Opportunity Dashboard.”

These indicators include student engagement; educator engagement; student access to and completion of advanced coursework; postsecondary readiness; school climate and safety; and any other state-chosen indicator that allows for meaningful differentiation of school performance, and is valid, reliable, comparable, and statewide.

Early this month, Stephanie M. Johnson, a second grade elementary certified educator in South Carolina, posted a guest blog for Lily’s Blackboard. She wrote how “ESSA…provides an ‘Opportunity Dashboard’ that can include a range of indicators—chosen by school districts and states—that help us to track the things that really matter when it comes to student success. For instance: Do students have access to qualified paraeducators? Are there high-quality early education programs? Do students have access to—and succeed in—advanced coursework? Are there full-time librarians and media specialists?”

She concluded, “Through ESSA we are getting closer to that day!”

And, with the right mix in the states’ accountability systems and the promise of ESSA, educators, parents, community leaders, and policymakers have a chance to get the new federal law right and help meet the needs of all students, no matter their ZIP code. However, in order for this to happen, educators need to get involved and ensure they add their voice to the conversation in every state. This is your opportunity to make a difference.

Take Action: For more information about ESSA and how you can be involved, visit GetESSARight.org.