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School Accountability
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Every Student Succeeds Act

Every Student Succeeds Act

About ESSA

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the most recent re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law in 2015. Like previous re-authorizations, the law sets requirements for what states must do to receive federal education funding. While ESSA maintains standards-based components, including annual standardized testing, it grants states more control around setting goals, establishing standards, and determining the consequences for schools and districts deemed low performing. 

North Star Excellence and Equity System 

ESSA requires states to develop a data-driven system for holding schools and districts accountable for providing a fair, equitable, and high-quality education to all students. The Minnesota state plan established the North Star Excellence and Equity System to ensure that all schools are working well for all students, with an emphasis on closing achievement gaps, increasing equity, improving the quality of instruction, and increasing positive outcomes for all students.

North Star replaces the previous Minnesota accountability system, the Multiple Measurements Rating system (MMR). While the MMR accountability system looked at schools as a whole to designate schools for improvement, the new North Star accountability system looks at individual students and student groups within a school to make that determination. 

The new system is a more complex but also a more equitable system that better focuses on specific students and student groups within a school rather than the school at large. North Star includes broader measures of academic achievement and progress, and also examines how English Learner students are progressing toward their proficiency in English, how a high school’s graduation rates look across student groups, and how consistently students are attending school. The accountability measures under North Star try to look more holistically at a child as more than a test.

Going Forward

Schools identified under North Star will need to notify families of the school’s designation and then engage families and school community stakeholders in:

  • Completing a comprehensive needs assessment looking at the reasons why the school was identified as needing support and improvement 

  • Developing an improvement plan addressing the root causes behind low student achievement or gaps, which must include at least one strategy backed by rigorous research showing its effectiveness 

  • Implementing and monitoring the improvement plan once it goes into effect

Once identification status is made, schools will communicate directly with families and community members about how they can be involved in the comprehensive needs assessment and improvement plan development process.