What Can Tell Us More? Multiple Measures Can

What Can Tell Us More? Multiple Measures Can

First in a Series

David Greenberg
VP, Authorizer Learning & Development

When we take a hard look at students in our schools, and want to know how they’re doing—really doing—it’s probably more than a simple checklist. Their attendance matters, sure, as do their standardized test scores. Of course, we want to know how many graduate on time. Those are all critically important indicators of a successful, quality education. 

But authorizers, school leaders, educators, parents, and community members likely care about much more. We care about other aspects of their intellectual and social-emotional skill development, aspects that can also be critical indicators of not just a great education but readiness for what’s next in life.  

That’s why, NACSA—alongside partners across the country—is digging into multiple measures. It’s the future of school accountability and school excellence and, really, an issue of both/and: we need BOTH long-used and normed indicators, AND we need new indicators. Authorizers can lead the way, and this blog series will share some shining examples. 

Why now? Communities are demanding excellent educational opportunities aligned to their needs and aspirations: that’s nothing new. But now, shaped by a global pandemic and enduring racial inequities, school is evolving. Community aspirations are evolving. Authorizing practices are also evolving.  

The way authorizers oversee and evaluate schools is one area that needs to evolve. A school oversight system must be rigorous, flexible, innovative, and diverse in the way it defines excellence. That kind of system—not one that is bureaucratic and burdensome—will support a range of educational opportunities to deliver on community aspirations and needs. 

To be sure, we must stay committed to excellence in literacy and numeracy as foundational building blocks for all students. After all, we know that post-secondary learning, careers, and community participation all require highly numerate and literate students. Typical measures of school quality and student success—such as statewide assessments, graduation rates, and performance on college-readiness assessments such as ACT and SAT—help us evaluate those building blocks. 

Statewide assessment data gives us important information on school performance. But this data does not tell us everything. Further, interruptions in statewide assessments are real and not only related to the pandemic, and these interruptions impact the consistent availability of that data. Multiple measures, while imperfect, can and do tell us more. These measures can be school-specific or mission-specific—such as measures of student second language learning, assessments of students’ skills in problem-solving, communication, and collaboration, or measures of students’ leadership or decision-making skills. 

It is time that authorizers lean into using multiple measures to evaluate school quality and student success. This is not simple work, and NACSA is here to help.  Over the coming weeks, we will share stories of authorizers and schools doing this work—from a large statewide authorizer to a small nonprofit one. We will provide resources to help the field think and act differently to implement multiple measures. Authorizers can lead the way.  

Read the next blogs in this series:

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