Accountable or Not

Do state assessments accurately measure student achievement? Do “school report cards” correctly measure campus and district performance? Making public educators and educational systems accountable is a worthwhile intent. In the old “knuckle-rapping” days, teachers were the experts on dispensing knowledge as well as discipline. They were not held accountable. They threw educational tidbits in the general direction of their students. If a student did not catch a tidbit of wisdom, then the student was considered lazy or obtuse. Teachers were seldom observed or evaluated. There were no campus or district report cards.
Today, few educators would suggest that American schools return to the old era of public education. Educational funding necessitates accountability. However, the current system is lacking in accuracy and flexibility. For example, students with test anxiety do not test well though they may know the material. Terminology within test questions may favor children of certain racial, socio-economic, or religious backgrounds. Some test questions are more regional than general. Multiple outside forces affect student scores, i.e. whether a family pet died the night before, whether stormy weather disrupted test sessions, whether a student had an adequate breakfast. True assessments are both formative and cumulative, rather than a one-day occurrence. Think of the variance in a golfer’s scores.
Also, state assessments may not focus on the actual knowledge and skill set required for the 21st Century. In a 2008 article, “Five Socio-Technology Trends that …,” Wilmark mentioned “converging technologies and emerging social trends” that lay the groundwork for “entirely new landscapes, in society, in commerce, in the very meaning of the work we do and the lives we lead, and ultimately in what, where, why, and how we learn.” If educators cannot predict precisely what students need to know in an ever-changing world, how can the success of students beyond high school graduation be accurately predicted by state assessments? And why are campuses and districts judged by one-day snapshots of student progress?

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Accountable or Not

  1. One of my relatives, who is a very successful physical therapist now, was one of the students who did not do well on standardized tests. The test was not the best assessment of her progress and understanding, but as I contemplate this issue I have trouble coming up with alternatives. How else could districts assess how well the school is doing? There needs to be more drawn out assessments of the work than just a one day test.

    • I know many bright students who do not test well. The reverse is also true. Some of us look as if we know more than we do, because we have great test-taking skills. Writing and project-oriented assessments are more authentic but may not be practical for state testing. Perhaps if the one-day tests did not weigh so heavily for student, campus, and district evaluations, accountability would not be so frightening.

  2. I think students become more intelligent than the curriculum they have in their schools that why some or most of students couldn’t do tests in a good way. All my daughter’s teachers think she is the most intelligent& sociable person in her class but when she comes to the tests she sometimes becomes the worst. Although she has the ability to express her self & and answer orally in a very good way. She likes to get more information about a lot of things .she likes to read and listen carefully but she doesn’t have the desire to study her subjects. That’s why I believe that students become more intelligent than we think or than things we present for them .we need someone think more creatively than we do now

  3. Paul M Onder

    Because tax payers have been taken for there money, these people now want to see, what there money has acomplished. So now we need to prove the money was the fix to the problem. And the truth is, it has made the system more corrupt. We live in a world where you can get any answer to a problem or situation on the computer, so what are you going to teach? You can buy software to teach any language; with this in mind; Who needs more teachers? In closing, you can teach about what GOD has created, but you cannot teach about the creator. What is wrong about that? EVERYTHING!

    • As with any large organization, public schools do not always make the wisest decisions about expenditures. However, most teachers and administrators do try to conserve taxpayer dollars. After all, they are taxpayers as well. As technological advances change the face of education, teachers’ roles may have to change. Even then, I would think that teachers will still be needed. And yes, there is controversy about separation of church and state, not really the subject of “Accountable or not.”

      • Paul M Onder

        I have worked in a public school system as a state licensed master plumber. The health and the safety of the people who attended these school buildings were in fact at risk. Why, because of the lack of knowledge of the professional trades and their laws. To include the need for outside oversite is just what the system needs. I feel that the truth of, what is being done to educate the educators; on the need for accoutablity. A school system is more than just TEACHERS! And where
        and what the money is used for, is the start of being accoutable.
        the system of use all of the money,or you will loose it

      • Certainly, educators must be accountable for the health and safety of the students. Not the subject of my blog, but a valid issue.

      • Paul M Onder

        In the end; we are ALL accountable to God and the truth.
        If we do not put God first, we will not have a country to live Free in! For it is God and Country, no other way.

  4. Sherri

    I understand the point that is being made in that one day is not a reflection of an entire year of teaching and learning, but I don’t buy into the arguement of saying the test is slanted toward an area of the country or certain racial groups. Maybe we should be teaching more about the other areas of the country, or other racial groups…If we want our children to be worldly – let us not limit their knowledge to the area they live in or the race they are most commonly exposed to – expand their horizons. I agree that not all students know what a yacht is but that should not be the focus when the question is related to how long it takes to go a certain distance at a certain rate. Help them to learn to problem solve – not find fault with the problem.

  5. Sherri, I agree that educators who submit questions for state assessments try to be unbiased. Teachers do seek to expand the horizons of their students. But some students are so far behind, because of language issues or economic status, that they lack the foundation on which to attach new learning. Their confidence is eroded. These limitations do affect assessment scores.

  6. Jennifer Vander Meer MSN/MBA RN

    As educators we most certainly need to be held accountable for student learning. Although educators need to produce valid evidence regarding their effectiveness, standardized achievement tests are the wrong tools for the task. I am no expert so am not sure what the right tool is.

    How can we create an assessment that measures mastery of concept and content and not compliance and completion?

    • Texas is seeking to measure deeper levels of thought and problem solving through a new system of assessments. Still, these assessments will be a snapshot rather than a continuum of formative and summative assessments. Wish I could answer your very relevant question.

  7. RAJESH KR. SRIVASTAV

    I agree to that. Student assessments just an approximation of the student”s performance. A student undergoes many problems at a time during the assessment duration. Neither our assessment methods /tools are 100% error free.

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