How Should States Design Their Accountability Systems?

Heather J. Hough
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University
Michael W. Kirst
Stanford University


With the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replacing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, states have gained substantial new freedom to reshape their school accountability systems, including criteria for how to measure and communicate school performance to the public. One dominant model is the streamlined letter-grade system first adopted by Florida, which focuses on student achievement on annual statewide tests. By contrast, California is developing a dashboard-style system, which encompasses multiple measures, such as student attendance and school climate.

Here are two views on the merits of each model. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who pioneered education reforms in that state, including the A–F system, presents the case for summative ratings. From California, we hear from Heather J. Hough, executive director of the research partnership between the CORE districts and PACE, and Michael W. Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and professor emeritus of education and business administration at Stanford University, on the importance of multiple measures.

This article was originally published in Education Next by the Hoover Institution.

Suggested citationBush, J., Hough, H. J., & Kirst, M. W. (2017, December). How should states design their accountability systems? [Article]. Policy Analysis for California Education.