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Accountability to Drive Continuous Improvement under ESSA

Publication dateFebruary 2017


About the Innovation Lab Network (ILN)

The ILN is a network of states advancing system-level change by scaling locally led innovation to widespread implementation with a focus on improving college and career readiness outcomes consistent with deeper learning for all students. Over the past years, ILN states have examined strategies put forward in the publication Accountability for College and Career Readiness: Developing a New Paradigm and the ILN's Policy & Implementation Logic Model to design accountability and school improvement systems that support deeper learning outcomes and student-centered learning. ILN states, and many more, are working to thoughtfully design accountability systems that drive continuous improvement for all schools. With the passage of ESSA, these states are now actively working to integrate these strategies into their new federal accountability plans.


Working Group Goals

The primary goal of this working group is to facilitate peer-to-peer learning around accountability and school improvement systems that produce deeper learning outcomes, support student-centered learning, and drive continuous improvement. These discussions will build upon and expand on many themes from the Multiple Measures Webinar Series and other resources developed by CCSSO. Through these state-led conversations states will have the opportunity to:  

  1. Share with their peers decision points from their ESSA planning and updates on progress in the development of their ESSA plans.
  2. Engage in discussions around challenges and potential strategies to address these challenges.
  3. Raise issues and questions so that experts can provide guidance and share resources (during and between sessions) to help states design and implement systems that are:
    Anchored in a vision of continuous improvement for all schools, across all indicators, and for all students and
    Thoughtfully bridge and align accountability and reporting systems with school improvement.
  4. Discuss how they are preparing for the implementation of these plans, and share resources and ideas.


Each discussion will be facilitated by a set of guiding questions that encourage states to share their work, problem-solve, and develop ongoing partnerships. Issue experts will provide guidance and resources during and post-session as appropriate. Information from these conversations will not be shared among participating state teams and will not be shared externally. Any notes and follow up from conversations during this working group will only be shared with participating state teams and will not be shared externally.  


The second goal of this working group is to use the conversations of working group members to inform the development of a white paper that highlights emerging models for continuous improvement under ESSA. This paper will be shared with participants during development for feedback and will focus on models for continuous improvement and not serve as a summary of conversations.


Participation & Timeline 

Aligned Vision

This working group is intended for states that are interested in advancing key and innovative strategies for developing a multiple measures accountability system that drives continuous improvement and supports deeper learning and how to utilize that system for more transparent and effective reporting, identifying and supporting of schools, and thoughtfully connecting accountability and school improvement systems.


All interested states are invited to participate at no cost, but must commit to participating for the full duration of the working group (please see timeline below). The conversations will be state-driven; participating states will be expected to share with their peers their goals, any relevant updates, and prior to each session, identify key questions they may have regarding a topic.

 If my state wants to participate, who from my SEA should attend?

We encourage states to form teams for this working group and we strongly encourage states to include their ESSA lead, accountability director and ILN Point of Contact (if applicable) as part of their teams. Depending on the topic of each working group call, your state may also consider involving its chief information officer, school improvement, and/or educator quality lead.


State teams will participate in a series of monthly WebEx consultancies from March through July 2017. Please see below for the study group topics and schedule.

States should notify Adriana Martinez at and Ryan MacDonald at if they would like to participate by February 13, 2017.


Topic 1: Tiered Use of Indicators - Which Indicators are being used and for What Purpose?

March 6, 1:00-2:30 pm EST

While most states have identified which measures they'd like to include as part of their accountability systems, states have the opportunity to think broadly about using different indicators for different purposes, such as for accountability determinations, reporting, diagnostics, progress monitoring, or piloting. States will engage in a guided discussion which may address some of the following questions:

  • Which indicators will be used and for what purposes?
  • How will these indicators be measured and reported?
  • How will these indicators advance an equity agenda?
  • How can these indicators be leveraged to support and improve all schools in a K-12 system?
  • Are states considering piloting or collecting data on new indicators to their accountability and/or school improvement system?
  • What are next steps states are considering to prepare for implementation?


Topic 2: Designing a Comprehensive Needs Assessment System and the Role of Diagnostic Indicators

March 17, 1:00-2:30 pm EST

With ESSA implementation, many states want to create a coherent K-12 system that aligns accountability and school improvement. School quality reviews, needs assessments, and diagnostic indicators can be instrumental in bridging what has often been two separate systems. In this session, states will discuss the processes they're considering for designing and implementing a needs assessment and selecting diagnostic indicators. State conversations may address:

  • What are the different processes states have employed, or are planning to employ, for developing their needs assessment systems?
  • Which indicators are states planning on using to inform their needs assessment system?
  • How can data be used to inform how practices (e.g., focusing on social-emotional learning, personalized learning, and improving school climate) drive school improvement and advance student outcomes?


Topic 3: Driving Improvement for all Schools and Progress Monitoring

April 21, 1:00-2:30 pm EST

Building on previous conversations facilitated by CCSSO related to selection of evidence-based interventions, states will discuss and share their processes for school improvement planning, implementation, and progress monitoring. State conversations may address:

  • How will states collaborate with and guide local education agencies to develop school improvement plans that are aligned to progress monitoring systems?
  • How will states guide local education agencies to develop school improvement plans that identify evidence-base interventions that are aligned to schools' needs assessments and focused on the highest priority strategies for improvement?
  • What are the processes states will use for progress monitoring and data monitoring?
  • How will states work with local education agencies to track whether school improvement plans and strategies are promoting practices that result in deeper learning outcomes across all schools?
  • How are states building the capacity of teachers and leaders to drive continuous improvement?
  • What design elements and actions can states use to support schools that don't get identified for comprehensive or targeted support?


Topic 4: Building a P-16 System - Part 1: Starting Early

May 19, 1:00-2:30 pm EST

Leading experts argue for building P-16 systems that align systems of continuous improvement and student success across grade spans. States will explore opportunities to build coherent and innovative P-16 education systems that support early education, facilitate the successful transition from early education into elementary schools, and put in place early warning systems.


Topic 5: Building a P-16 System - Part 2: Building Pathways to College & Career

June 16, 1:00-2:30 pm EST

A P-16 system should provide students with multiple pathways for post-secondary success through strategies such as aligning and integrating data systems to track post-secondary outcomes. These systems should address transition points and put in place early warning systems in middle school. States will also explore how they can work with higher education and other government agencies to track post-secondary success and align expectations for/evidence of post-secondary readiness.