Growth Models and Accountability: A Recipe for Remaking ESEA?

As the reauthorization of ESEA draws nearer, Education Sector’s Policy Director Kevin Carey and Robert Manwaring, a fiscal and policy consultant, argue in a newly released report, Growth Models and Accountability: A Recipe for Remaking ESEA, that Congress should combine a measure of student growth with achievement into a single accountability measure in the design of an improved school accountability system.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools were held almost exclusively accountable for absolute levels of student performance. But that meant that even schools that were making great strides with students were still labeled as “failing,” just because the students had just not made it all the way to the proficient level of achievement.

Carey and Manwaring say, “Educational accountability isn’t just a matter of identifying which schools have the most failing students. It also requires some response to that information that will help fewer students fail.”  Since 2005, 15 states have been approved to implement a growth model pilot. The states adopted one of four distinct models-Trajectory, Transition Tables, Student Growth Percentiles, and Projection-each with some drawbacks. How much did these new calculations change NCLB? Not much.

Growth Models and Accountability explores efforts to combine growth and achievement into a single accountability measure. It points to Colorado’s state-specific accountability system that emphasizes communicating with the public and making meaningful distinctions between different kinds of schools. This report also offers policymakers a recipe for combining student growth with student achievement to create a more meaningful accountability system.

Go to to access the full report and a video that discusses findings.