Key Components of Large Urban District Accountability Systems

A review of Large Urban District Accountability Systems in Cincinnati, Boston, St. Paul, San Diego, and Houston shows that these systems typically include these key components:

1. Learning Standards

Standards adopted by their respective states serve these districts as learning outcomes for student performance. In some instances, districts have adopted their own standards.

2. Whole School Improvement Plans

Some districts require schools to develop and submit annual plans that demonstrate how the school will meet annual benchmarks for student performance.

3. Continuous Improvement

Most districts overlook this key formative component of effective accountability systems, and rely only on summative components through rewards and consequences. A notable exception is the Chugach (Alaska) School District, first-ever winners of the education category of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Chugach utilizes indicators of school quality as well as indicators of student achievement.

4. Indicators of Student Achievement

All districts utilize state tests as indicators. In addition, some use multiple indicators including district-given off-grade tests, attendance, dropout rates, and climate surveys of parents and students.

5. Standards/Targets/Benchmarks for Performance

Several districts establish systemwide targets for student performance and set annual gain benchmarks for schools.

6. School Indicator Reports

Districts issue school-by-school reports on indicators of student achievement (results). These indicators are often weighted and then combined to create a composite score.

7. School Quality Review (Inspection)

Besides a quantitative review, some districts send teams of lead teachers, principals, central administrators, and community representatives to schools to perform qualitative reviews or inspections. School quality reviews can be done as formative or summative. These reviews amplify a districtís understanding of school performance.

8. Composite Rating & Categories

Indicators are weighted and combined to establish composite ratings that tell whether a school exceeds, meets, or fails to meet standards or annual benchmarks.

9. Rewards & Consequences

Composite ratings determine whether a school earns recognition and/or incentive awards, or is targeted for improvement, intervention, or redesign/reconstitution.

10. Reporting to Constituents

Some districts report indicators and composite ratings only internally to schools. Some report recognition and awards to citywide and neighborhood press. Others report indicators and composite ratings publicly via their district web site.