Beyond Test-Based Accountability

Helen Ladd offers a proposal for moving beyond test-based accountability for schools and it is one that holds promise for providing a more comprehensive evaluation of schools.

Ladd notes of the recently replaced NCLB:

Finally, test-based accountability has had limited success even in raising student test scores. One careful study of NCLB finds small to modest effects on 4th, and possibly 8th, grade math scores and no effects on reading scores. In the period since the introduction of NCLB in 2002, scores on NAEP, the nation’s report card, show little change in the trajectory in math and virtually no progress in reading. Indeed, the most recent 2015 scores show downturns in both subjects.

Ladd proposes:

…use professional inspectors to make periodic visits to schools – and ideally also to districts. The inspectors review school documents, talk to school leaders and teachers, and may also survey parents. They use a standard protocol to evaluate the quality of the policies and practices at each school, and to report on student outcomes. Their written reports are publicly available.


And suggests:

Further, the inspections draw attention to school activities that have the potential to generate a broader range of educational outcomes than just performance on test scores. These include the skills needed for good citizenship, healthy interpersonal relationships, and personal fulfillment.


Ladd challenges us to move beyond test-based accountability, using the flexibility of ESSA to assess a broader range of measures of school climate and success. Yes, even with ESSA, there will be testing and those tests can inform practice. But a review and inspection approach can provide context and open the doors for new ways of looking at how to support schools.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TheAndySpears



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