An increased focus on fully engaging students in their learning is significantly influencing education practices. Educators are seeking to expand the ways to measure student learning and move beyond a reliance on assessing content knowledge.

As a result, many states and districts across the United States are designing new accountability systems composed of multiple measures. These systems are purposely structured to include measures that assess a variety of skills such as citizenship readiness, social and emotional well-being, character development and thinking strategies. In the near future, we expect more widespread development of multimetric accountability systems across the nation.

Innovation for success

States and districts undertaking the development of new accountability models have relied on a different mix of metrics to find what works best for the students they serve. A number of commonalities evident in the models we’ve studied will provide guidance for education leaders creating their own systems.

"There is no finish line when it comes to educating our children, and we must continuously rethink, reevaluate and innovate to make sure all students are future-ready."

For example, each system has focused first and foremost on the students and what’s needed to prepare them for success, rather than leading with the measures. Each community has also prioritized communication and public engagement during all stages of accountability and has paid close attention to local needs, ensuring its chosen measures align with local priorities, values and goals.

There are many examples of comprehensive and promising work. For example, the model in Tacoma, Wash., holds schools accountable for student performance on tests as well as their broader efforts to engage families and communities in the education process, and maintain safe and healthy learning environments. The New Hampshire Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) pilot integrates locally developed performance assessments in English language arts, math and science that also evaluate students’ work study practices, such as communication skills, creativity, ability to collaborate and self-direction.

Never-ending development

Numerous factors, such as cost considerations and availability of data, leave districts with tough choices to make when developing accountability systems. Those who have already done so successfully have demonstrated a focus on sustainability that may assist and encourage future system leaders. Building and implementing these systems is an ongoing process of analysis, refinement and continuous improvement.

There is no finish line when it comes to educating our children, and we must continuously rethink, reevaluate and innovate to make sure all students are future-ready.