The pandemic caused a crisis of accountability in Education. What should be done?

School accountability and reliable progress measurement was a problem before the pandemic hit. But COVID-19 made it so much worse. State law suspended reporting of state and local data on the 2020 Dashboard. Chronic absenteeism and suspension figures were put on hold, along with the cancelation of Smarter Balance tests. Until February, we didn’t even have statewide data on school closures.

All of this has caused a crisis of accountability in education. And it is one that must be addressed, says Heather Hough, Executive Director of Policy Analysis for California (PACE). She spoke to EdSource Radio last week about how the pandemic has impacted our ability measure student outcomes and district performance.

“We’ve had no state-level mechanism for understanding how students were doing, and we didn’t replace that during the pandemic,” Hough said.

Going forward, Hough has some ideas about what the state can do to better monitor school performance.

“I think that there are two ways to think about what kinds of state intervention or support are needed,” she told EdSource. “And one is around how to provide the guardrails and the guidance and information that enables good local decision-making. The other is putting in accountability mechanisms and oversight monitoring mechanisms so that if those things aren’t happening locally, there is a clear trigger for what intervention looks like and who pushes in to make sure that does happen.”

While the state shouldn’t get in the way of local local control, Hough says we do need clear standards that determine — in every single district — what an investment is for, what a successful outcome looks like for that investment, and exactly how to determine success.

Listen to the interview here.