As plans to resume K-12 accountability come to pass this year, it is important to look back at how this all unfolded. See timeline highlights below serves as a reflection of significant changes in law towards improved accountability systems in education:
- Improving America’s Schools Act is released, requiring every state to set academic content standards in reading and math, test students’ mastery of them in three grade levels, and makes them break out the data by subpopulations. States drag their feet in meeting the law’s requirements, and many states’ testing systems aren’t up and running until well into the 2000s.
- No Child Left Behind is released. The new law significantly toughens up accountability and introduces teacher-quality requirements. Now, schools must test every year in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
- First waiver under the law is granted to four Virginia districts, allowing them to flip the order of two required interventions. State requests for flexibility will be considered if student achievement is trending upward. Other flexibilities include allowing some states to introduce alternative measures of student progress and ways of measuring test performance for some students with disabilities.
- Waiver process is created. States that want additional flexibility from the NCLB law must agree to make some changes, including updating content standards and overhauling teacher-evaluation systems. By 2012, more than half of states have received waivers.
- Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA is passed. It returns many decisions to the states, including the indicators they use for identifying schools needing help. Annual testing goals no longer have to count toward school identification, and states and districts design the interventions for schools that fall behind.
- The COVID-19 pandemic completely interrupts federal accountability. Broad waivers from ESSA’s testing and accountability requirements for the 2019-20 year are announced.
- States are alloed to bid for one-year changes to their test systems, including timing and participation rates, for 2020-21. They must still give the tests and report some information on school report cards. Accountability requirements are suspended for a second year.
- New guidance allowing states to move their timelines for some goals and interventions, but all schools must return to giving assessments and identifying schools needing help in the fall.