Accountability-Driven Education

There is a Common Core micro-blogathon happening over at A Blog About School. Chris is aiming for twenty-four posts in twenty-four hours. I’m hoping to join him by publishing a few centrally-imposed standards themed posts today.

I just finished watching the Common Core edition of Ethical Perspectives on the News on KCRG, featuring Chris Liebig as one of three panelists.

Despite all of the various reasons given for the need for a single set of standards to rule us all (some of which might be addressed in other posts today), the reality is that the need for a single set of standards seems to boil down to top-down accountability. We need a single set of centrally-imposed standards so that all schools and all teachers can be held accountable by the state and federal government–or ranked relative to one another–on the basis of a common system of standardized assessments.

That’s it.

And that seems like an insufficient reason to give up local control of our schools, and thereby give up local conversations of just what a “good education” or “good teaching” looks like. Or whether there can be more than one definition of what “good education” or “good teaching” is.

 

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4 thoughts on “Accountability-Driven Education

  1. Matt Townsley

    Karen, you said: “We need a single set of centrally-imposed standards so that all schools and all teachers can be held accountable by the state and federal government–or ranked relative to one another–on the basis of a common system of standardized assessments”

    I agree this is one of the primary reasons states were driven to create common standards. Prior to state standards in Iowa, students were still required to take standardized tests as a part of federal (and state?) accountability measures (a la No Child Left Behind). From my perspective, prior to the Iowa Core Essential Concepts and Skills, there were a set of “hidden state standards” in Iowa, for lack of better terminology. These are the concepts and skills Iowa Testing Programs selected to assess students on the Iowa Tests of Educational Development and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Because schools are held accountable via these tests, district leaders were likely keeping a close eye on what was and wasn’t tested via these assessments.

    Let’s assume that somehow state standards in Iowa disappear. In other words, the legislature acts in a way that eliminates the requirement local school districts must teach the Iowa Core Essential Concepts and Skills. Districts would still be held accountable to centralized tests. Going back to a “required test without required state standards” context could yield a few scenarios:

    1) The tests continue to be aligned to the Iowa Core Essential Concepts and Skills, even though districts are no longer required to teach them. (The construct validity of the Iowa Assessments our state standards is a separate discussion) It seems like district leaders might continue to teach the Iowa Core Essential Concepts and Skills.

    2) The tests are revised and are aligned to something other than the Iowa Core Essential Concepts and Skills (similar to the “local control” era). Districts leaders say to themselves, “Well, we’re held accountable to these tests, so we should probably figure out what they’re assessing.” And a new version of “hidden state standards” is created.

    Reply
    1. Karen W Post author

      Matt, you raise some important points here–standards can be explicitly or implicitly adopted.

      I think some of the concerns you listed could be resolved by adopting driver’s license style basic competency exams (see the Wu article linked to at the end of this post ), or by ending high-stakes accountability testing, or by allowing school districts a choice of standardized assessments so they can choose one that is aligned to their curricula rather than coercing them into aligning their curricula to an assessment imposed upon them.

      In other words, maybe instead of imposing common standards and trying to write “better” assessments to make the current high-stakes, standardized assessment accountability regime more fair (in some sense), we might try to move the conversation towards questioning whether the current accountability regime is one we want to keep.

      Reply
      1. Matt Townsley

        Karen, you said, “In other words, maybe instead of imposing common standards and trying to write “better” assessments to make the current high-stakes, standardized assessment accountability regime more fair (in some sense), we might try to move the conversation towards questioning whether the current accountability regime is one we want to keep.”

        Well said.

        From my perspective, the current call to end state or national standards may not improve our educational system as a whole unless a change in accountability at the state and federal level accompany it (as you’ve eloquently described). I think if a person was somehow able to poll educators from across Iowa and the country, this idea of questioning the current accountability regime is one that might draw large scale support.

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