Next Generation Education Accountability in Boston
Recapping Our Fifth Community Conversation
Last Saturday, MassINC joined with a number of partners to bring students, parents, teachers, and civic leaders together to think about the possibilities the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) presents to improve teaching and learning in our inclusive urban school districts. The format for the meeting was slightly different than our previous forums. With more time, we were able to have more in depth conversations and explore a wider range of topics.
Ben Forman opened the program, followed by three academic leaders who helped put ESSA in context for the group. Boston University professor Scott Solberg discussed how we use accountability to support college and career readiness. Northeastern University professor John Portz looked at three examples of local accountability systems (New York, Chicago, and LA) to give a feel for how large urban districts have gone about developing more expansive accountability systems that cover performance, as well as practices and perceptions of success. To finish out the morning session, Jack Schneider, an associate professor at Holy Cross, shared his experience working with a number of cities in Massachusetts to create multiple-measure school accountability systems that offer a better sense of whether schools are meeting locally-defined learning priorities.
Following the presentations, we broke up into three focus groups.
The first group was tasked with responding directly to the measures proposed by DESE in the department’s recently released draft state plan. There was a rich discussion about what the new measures would mean for inclusive urban schools.
The second group considered how Massachusetts should report on school success. Findings from our recent poll show most parents want more data on their schools than just a rank from the state. The group discussed both what data beyond the formal accountability measures should be made accessible to parents-such as access to extracurricular activities, arts, and other programs-as well as an analysis of what can be done to inspire parents and community leaders to act on these data.
The third group looked at the potential of next-generation assessments and local accountability systems to round out the accountability system in the future. They came away hopeful that we can set a culture of high expectations around a broader set of learning outcomes by complementing the state accountability system with local measures.
We ended the day by bringing everyone back together in one room to share the focus group conversations and poll the room on priorities to share with education policymakers. One of the more interesting takeaways was how people thought we should weight the measures DESE has proposed for our formal accountability system.