Rigorous standards and aligned assessments are vital tools for boosting education outcomes but they have little traction without strong accountability systems that attach consequences to performance. In this pilot study, Eileen Reed, Janie Scull, Gerilyn Slicker, and Amber Winkler lay out the essential features of such accountability systems, intended to add oomph to new common standards and aligned assessments. “Defining Strong State Accountability Systems” identifies six essential elements of effective systems:

  • Adoption of demanding, clear, and specific standards in all core content areas, and rigorous assessment of those standards;

  • Reporting of accessible and actionable data to all stakeholders, including summative outcome data and other formative data to drive continuous improvement;

  • Annual determinations and designations for each school and district that meaningfully differentiate their performance;

  • A system of rewards and consequences to drive improvement at the school and district levels;

  • A system of rewards and consequences to drive improvement at the individual student level; and

  • A system of rewards and consequences to drive improvement at the individual teacher and administrator level.

What distinguishes the report from previous work on this subject is that it insists that individuals—both students and adults—must be held accountable along with institutions. These elements were developed from in-depth analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of seven states’ accountability systems and provide a framework for Fordham’s future analyses of state accountability systems during the early years of Common Core's implementation. Download the study to learn more.

Janie Scull was the research analyst and production manager at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she managed a diverse portfolio of projects and contributed to Fordham’s rich research pipeline. Her publications include Shifting Trends in Special Education (2011) and America’s Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform (2010). In addition to her research and policy work, Janie directed production of…

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Gerilyn Slicker is a research asssistant at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelors of Arts in both Sociology and History in June 2010. During her time in college, she wrote an undergraduate thesis in sociology as well as served as a leader in several student organizations. Currently, Gerilyn is enrolled in a Masters of Arts program in Sociology at…

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Amber Northern is senior vice president for research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she supervises the Institute’s studies and research staff.  She has published in the areas of educational accountability, principal leadership, teacher quality, and academic standards, among others. Prior to joining Fordham, she served as senior study director at Westat. In that role, she provided evaluation services…

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