North Carolina is Ready for Next-Generation Accountability
July 5, 2011

Education leaders in states across the country have been anxiously waiting for the overhaul and reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now a decade into the current authorization, and also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has predicted that 83 percent of U.S. schools could be classified as failing under NCLB rules next year and others agree that most states will fall short of the law's requirement to have 100 percent of students proficient in reading and math by 2014.

In North Carolina, we share these concerns about the unrealistic nature of a 100 percent goal, but we have begun to move forward on our own to create a new state accountability model that takes advantage of what we have learned from 15 years of school-level accountability and our experiences with NCLB. As a part of our Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort (ACRE) the NCDPI and the State Board of Education are prepared to begin a new accountability model in the fall of 2012-13 that will focus squarely on how well students are prepared for college, work and adulthood.

While this new model will still, by necessity, include test scores, state tests are being redesigned to better measure what students know and are able to do at each grade level and after core high school courses.  Our new accountability system also will incorporate college- and career-readiness, student academic growth, graduation rates and academic course rigor to give us a clear, comparable and comprehensive understanding of student performance in North Carolina’s public schools. 

On the national level, I have been working with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to develop the Principles for Next-Generation Accountability Systems.  These Principles, which align with the great work we have already been doing in North Carolina, will help all states build accountability systems centered on preparing all students for success in college and a career. At least 36 states have already agreed to create and implement accountability systems guided by these Principles. North Carolina is proud to be a leader in this important effort.

Over the past month, I have joined other CCSSO members in encouraging Congress to use the strong framework provided in these Principles to reauthorize ESEA/NCLB.  If they chose to delay reauthorization, we will work under a waiver provision to present to Secretary Duncan our new accountability models that are consistent with these Principles. After all, it is ultimately the states’ responsibility to increase student achievement, and it makes sense for states to make key decisions about the best ways to hold schools accountable for achieving these goals.

There is no question that some requirements under No Child Left Behind are stifling efforts to move public education forward in our state and in our country. The 100 percent target, for example, is a disincentive for increasing rigor and expecting more from students. That is why the CCSSO developed the Principles for Next-Generation Accountability Systems and why we have already started to create a new accountability model for North Carolina that builds on and moves beyond current NCLB requirements.

We have learned many valuable lessons over the years. We have seen what works and what does not so I am confident that, no matter what Congress decides, North Carolina stands ready to finalize and implement an improved accountability system that will increase student performance, improve graduation rates, and close achievement gaps in our state.




June St. Clair Atkinson
State Superintendent