Equity in Measuring School Quality 

A Comparison of State Accountability Systems

Publication
November 28, 2023

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Do state measurements on school performance accurately reflect school quality? A new report from KnowledgeWorks and WestEd, Equity in Measuring School Quality, investigates this question using the REMIQS framework.
  • States can actively and rigorously examine outcomes for specific student groups, thereby revealing insights that might remain hidden when only examining the performance of the entire student body.
  • School composite scores calculated using the REMIQS framework were less correlated with student demographics than the school ratings in states with more conventional accountability measures.

States measure school performance using a variety of metrics – but do these measures accurately reflect school quality? A new report from KnowledgeWorks and WestEd, Equity in Measuring School Quality, investigates this question by comparing state accountability systems to the equity-focused Robust and Equitable Measures to Inspire Quality Schools (REMIQS) framework.

WestEd, in partnership with KnowledgeWorks, developed the REMIQS framework to identify high schools that produced positive outcomes for resilient and historically marginalized students. WestEd then conducted the Equity in Measuring School Quality study using the REMIQS framework and accountability data for five states: Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia. Findings from our analysis highlight opportunities for policymakers to leverage the flexibility afforded by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to revise their accountability systems to more accurately identify high-quality schools that effectively serve all students.

How might states implement aspects of the REMIQS framework to measure how schools improve outcomes for historically resilient and marginalized students?

Measure outcomes by student groups

States can actively and rigorously examine outcomes for specific student groups, thereby revealing insights that might remain hidden when only examining the performance of the entire student body. From an equity perspective, this approach is particularly important for understanding how schools serve historically resilient and marginalized students. With this in mind, states can adjust their accountability systems to measure outcomes across groups, foregrounding the experiences and lived consequences of historically resilient and marginalized students.

Isolate schools’ impact rather than student demographics

When evaluating school quality under ESSA, state accountability systems place considerable weight on academic achievement, typically through standardized test scores. Because standardized test scores are highly correlated with student demographics and neighborhood characteristics, school-level scores may be more reflective of the student population than the school’s impact on the students they serve. Our report found that the school composite scores calculated using the REMIQS framework were less correlated with student demographics than the school ratings in states with more conventional accountability measures. Controlling for prior student performance and including and emphasizing alternative measures of academic performance contributed to this finding. State policymakers should consider incorporating such methods and indicators in accountability measures to more accurately account for the extent to which schools add value for all student groups.

Findings from the Equity in Measuring School Quality report suggest that elements of the REMIQS framework can inform policy discussions about how we might best create more comprehensive and equitable school accountability measures. After seeing what is revealed using the REMIQS methodology, policymakers can then consider which measures and weights under ESSA might yield more accurate reflections of school performance. Then state leaders can implement their refined methodologies to better support the success of all students, particularly those who are historically resilient and marginalized.

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