Accountability Should Deemphasize Test Scores, Researcher Argues

January 23, 2008 1 min read

In most conversations about the future of NCLB, policy wonks and politicians point to growth models as the fix for what ails the law’s accountability system.

But researcher Helen F. Ladd suggests that growth models probably aren’t enough. In a commentary in the current issue of Education Week, Ladd writes: “Test-based accountability has not generated the significant gains in student achievement that proponents—however they perceived the problem to be solved—intended.”

Instead, she proposes that accountability systems should assess students in core subjects—not just reading and mathematics, as NCLB does. Schools would be judged against “realistically obtainable gains in student performance.” In addition to test scores, independent teams that would “evaluate school[s] on a far broader set of outcomes than student test scores alone.”

The approach is expensive, Ladd acknowledges, but probably would deliver results that would be worth the cost. “It is time for policymakers and researchers to engage in serious investigation of this alternative model of accountability,” she concludes.

With NCLB’s renewal starting again from scratch, perhaps these ideas will emerge in the debate. Ladd’s essay is based on a November lecture, which you can read here.

Also in current issue of Education Week, the Federal File mentions the first stop of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ pro-NCLB tour. She found some support from Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat. Spellings made other stops in Oregon and southern California. But this week she’s in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.