The groundswell of support for change that empowers local educators and communities is real. SEAs and state leaders can tap into that current by working closely with national experts and education leaders, as well as educators across the state, parents, and community leaders, to discuss and plan for a system that tilts the focus of accountability in this new direction.

Section 10 of 10.

SEAs should begin the conversation about what the new approach to accountability should entail. By framing continuous improvement accountability as a desired long-term strategy that can be built together over time, SEAs can use the ESSA as a framework to inject new ideas, encourage collaboration, and jointly develop new measures and indicators with the input from key stakeholders throughout the state.

The following suggestions provide ideas about how key audiences can be engaged in this effort:

SEAs and Legislators

  • Avoid settling for what did not work in the past. Rather than tweak the old system, view ESSA as an opportunity to develop a modern system of accountability that drives continuous improvement.
  • Seek help from expert advisors and organizations to think through your strategy and plan and develop new ways of working collaboratively with local districts, schools and stakeholders. 
  • Get the feedback of school leaders across the state about their interest in moving toward this type of system, and, if they are willing to work at it, give them room to innovate, experiment, and put the system to the test.
  • Study states such as California and its CORE districts, Kentucky and Michigan that have made changes to introduce CI accountability using NCLB waivers. Talk to state leaders who are doing this, ask why and what results they have had so far.
  • Take time to think through key elements of the CI approach that might work given your state’s unique context.
  •  Learn more about CI accountability implementation, including its benefits and costs. You will find that, if done properly, new measures to track needed information about performance will make a big difference in outcomes and can be implemented for a limited cost statewide, saving the state millions of dollars over a relatively short period of time.


  • Learn more about ESSA requirements and encourage your state not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
  • Advocate for an accountability system that encompasses all aspects of the learning environment, respects the professional judgment of educators, and seeks broad measures (and broad input) beyond standardized test scores for understanding quality.
  • Speak out to school leaders and your professional associations/unions know that you and your colleagues will commit to making a continuous improvement system work. Volunteer to study how such a system might work and how the measures and processes would affect your school or district.


  • Encourage your school, school district and parents to advocate for tests that have meaning to you, that help you learn better rather than serve as a tool to rate your school and tell the government what you do not know.
  • Stand with educators who speak out for more sensible solutions that place high stakes on learning about your needs and helping you grow, rather than on tests designed only to determine whether your school or teacher needs to be punished for failure.
  • Be part of your school’s improvement effort. Through surveys, conversations, or other methods of feedback, your teachers and principal can understand more about the quality of instruction and the learning environment and ensure that teachers are teaching you not only “what” to learn but “how” to learn, so that you can spend the rest of your life learning on your own.

Community Leaders and Parents

  • Share concerns about excessive test-taking by stressing the limited and often punitive impact their use has had on your students, your school, and your community.
  • Emphasize the non-academic factors that you value in your community’s schools, and work collaboratively with local educators to identify ways to better measure them.
  • Stand with educators, lawmakers, and state policymakers who are working toward more sensible solutions.
  • Inform lawmakers know that you will not stand for more of the same.


Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D.
Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D.,  serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Cognia. Dr. Elgart works closely with government agencies and other leading education-focused organizations to help establish the policies, strategic vision, and actions to propel and transform the learning experience so that every learner is prepared for the rapidly and ever-changing global world. Dr. Elgart provides vision and leadership for a global nonprofit in over 90 countries, 40,000 institutions serving and supporting nearly 18 million students and 5 million educators every day. Cognia is an undeniable force for enhancing schools, engaging students, and driving better outcomes for all learners. Dr. Elgart’s professional experience includes serving as a mathematics and physics teacher; a middle and high school administrator; and a middle school principal. He earned a bachelor’s in mathematics from Springfield College, a master’s in education from Westfield State College, and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts.