DENVER – A new analysis of how states are holding schools accountable for their performance ought to put a spring in the step of education reform advocates.

cheers2A new online database created by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) reveals that since 2002, there’s been a significant increase in the number of states that use specific, detailed measurements to determine if schools are effectively educating kids.

For example, back in 2002 only 32 states considered students’ academic achievement – as measured by test scores – when judging a school’s performance. Now, all 50 states and the District of Columbia consider those crucial data in their performance ratings.

Here’s another: In 2002, just 8 states considered student graduation rates when evaluating school performance. That number had jumped to 44 states and the District of Columbia by 2013.

Likewise, metrics used to determine the academic growth or improvement of individual students, as well as a school’s lowest-performing quartile, have gained popularity over the last 11 years.

ECS analysts also discovered that 14 states have started (or plan to start) issuing letter grades for individual schools, a reporting technique that provides parents and taxpayers with an easy-to-understand rating of how well their neighborhood schools are performing.

Florida was the only state to issue letter grades to schools back in 2002.

ECS Vice President Kathy Christie said in a press release that the database marks the first comprehensive look at how states are measuring and reporting school performance.

And judging by what ECS researchers found, it looks like reform advocates in many states are winning the school accountability debate.

There’s certainly more debates to be had and more work to be done. But, as with any goal, it’s healthy and helpful to stop every so often to check how much progress has been made.

So, education reform advocates, take a moment to appreciate all that you’ve helped accomplish.

Like the old saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”

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