Standards are key aspects of systems used to hold schools, educators, and students responsible for achieving desired educational outcomes. Academic content standards define what students need to know and be able to do. Achievement standards define how well students must perform to be proficient.
Organizations and states define the content standards that are the focus of assessments used for accountability. Increasingly, the focus of these standards is on ensuring that students make significant progress through school and leave school ready for positive college and career post-school outcomes.
Accountability for student learning occurs through several approaches. System accountability holds schools responsible for the performance of students. Educator accountability holds teachers, principals, and other educators accountable for the performance of students. Student accountability holds students responsible for their own learning.
Students with disabilities, English learners (ELs), and ELs with disabilities should be included in all aspects of standards and accountability. Past history showed that when excluded, these students suffered many unintended consequences such as watered-down curricula and less instructional attention. This often resulted in depressed progress through school and failure to achieve positive post-school outcomes.
If students with disabilities, ELs, and ELs with disabilities are to benefit from standards and accountability, they must be included in all aspects of the system. Students need access to rigorous standards through high quality curricula and instruction. They also need valid, reliable, and fair assessment of their progress toward the standards. Careful alignment of student learning to the standards set for all students will ensure that progress, not just access, occurs.