The school choice revolution continues. Six states now allow each child’s education funding to be used for the school or educational expenses of his choice. More states are soon to follow. What seemed impossible only five years ago became permissible — necessary, even — in red states thanks to a perfect constellation of circumstances. Most notably, union intransigence over school re-openings and Zoom schooling revealed to families how disconnected schools were from their own values, igniting urgency in dismantling the teacher union monopoly over K-12 education.

Because victories were achieved with limited opportunity for broader strategic planning, states that have adopted universal education savings accounts (ESAs) have not overhauled their education systems in ways that fully embrace the cardinal wisdom of ESAs — that accountability ought to derive from parents rather than bureaucrats. Indeed, work remains to be done to bring policy into alignment with first principles.

Perhaps nowhere is the tension between the old accountability regime and the new more apparent than on the issue of state report cards. The Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), the successor to No Child Left Behind, requires every state to publish data on school performance metrics like educational achievement, student progress, and graduation rates. States have some latitude in determining which metrics are used and how they are weighted, and substantial discretion in determining how data are presented to parents. For example, California has a dashboard system that presents outcomes for each metric, whereas nine states distill the various metrics into a single A-F letter grade.

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