AdvancED’s mission is to lead and empower the education community to ensure that all learners realize their full potential. It is with this student-centric mission in mind that we continuously challenge ourselves to ask tough questions and be bold about devising solutions to complex and enduring education challenges. This whitepaper is our contribution to the conversation about the opportunity under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to create an accountability system that takes seriously the work of improving student and institutional performance. This special issue of The Source features the whitepaper in 10 sections. Feel free to read the whitepaper here in its entirety or peruse the individual sections below at your leisure. 


Under the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability, too much focus was placed on a single measure—student assessment. Rather than sparking higher performance for all students, schools focused on low-performing students, and federally mandated sanctions were used to punish students and teachers alike. The performance gap widened as the country developed a list of winners and losers that was punitive and not in services to kids. While Americans generally support the idea that schools, students, teachers, and administrators should be assessed regularly and held accountable for their performance, they worry that existing accountability systems assess performance in ways that are often limited, inaccurate, and unfair.

In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ushered in a new era of accountability including an opportunity to fix some of what was not right about NCLB. ESSA opens the door for states to develop a new framework for accountability with continuous improvement at its core and the local context as its foundation. In order to ensure that this new legislation lives up to the promise of its ideals, we have to have the courage as a country to develop an accountability system that learns from the mistakes of the past and is emboldened to stretch toward the future.

If we are committed to every child’s success, we must create accountability systems that guide, support and ensure continuous improvement that lifts every learner, teacher, leader and community. The education community is at a critical crossroads in its journey to improve institutionally effectiveness and accelerate student learning.  The learning process for every school, like every child, is a personalized journey of continuous improvement.