Learning from the Past: School Accountability before ESSA

by Thomas S. Dee
Monday, June 15, 2020


This paper discusses the design and evolution of school accountability in the United States and the body of research on its effects. Accountability systems that articulated meaningful consequences for underperforming schools (e.g., No Child Left Behind) led to meaningful, though not transformational, improvements in student outcomes, particularly among historically marginalized students. However, under the flexibility provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), several states have created school accountability systems that are unlikely to sustain these gains in school performance.

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About the Author

Thomas S. Dee, PhD, is the Barnett Family Professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and the faculty director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities.

About the Author