Accountability Opinion

Do Quality Reviews Lead to Increased Student Achievement?

By Eduwonkette — February 08, 2008 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

skoolboy wraps up his posts on Quality Reviews. His first two posts can be found here and here.

Do quality reviews lead to increased student achievement? There’s been surprisingly little research that addresses this question. Most research on quality reviews has examined the school inspection process in Great Britain managed by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), a national agency which reports to the Parliament. Since school inspections for primary and secondary schools were instituted in 1993, there have been several iterations in the school inspection process. But I haven’t found any persuasive evidence that inspections improve student achievement. Some teachers and administrators report that they intend to change their practices in response to the inspection report, but I’ve not seen studies which examine whether those intentions translate into improved practice.

You might get the impression from my postings this week that I think that quality reviews are a bad idea. Not necessarily! But there are some things that I think are essential for quality reviews to be a good idea. Here’s a brief list:

The purpose of the review must be clear. Sociologist Gary Natriello has written about four potential purposes for evaluations in schools: motivation, direction, certification and selection. The first two can contribute to school improvement, whereas the latter two are more concerned with regulation, accountability, and control; and it’s desirable to confront the tensions between improvement and control directly. If the purpose of a quality review is to improve how schools work, then all phases of the review process need to be oriented towards this purpose.

Definitions of quality must be clear and transparent. If there are clear criteria and standards for what constitutes school quality, then both educators and inspectors can orient their activities towards these criteria and standards. Unclear standards and definitions undermine the legitimacy of the quality review process. My impression is that the Ofsted criteria are a lot clearer than those that I’ve seen stateside. Quality teaching is a particularly challenging phenomenon to articulate; but if the goal is to improve teaching, we’ve got to be able to do it.

The quality review process must be designed to collect a sufficient amount of data on quality. If, for example, the purpose of the quality review is to improve teaching, then presumably there should be sustained collection of data on teaching quality, primarily through direct observation, but perhaps in other ways as well. Ms. Frizzle recently commented that in her New York City school, the quality reviewer was planning to observe 9 different classrooms in 30 minutes. Not much data on teaching quality will come from such a process. The intensity of data collection is a recurring challenge in evaluation research that involves site visits, because they are labor-intensive. “Drive-by” site-visits just aren’t very useful, even if conducted by well-trained observers, because they don’t gather enough data on the things that matter.

The frequency of quality reviews should be synchronized with a theory of how fast school quality is changing. This is Social Research 101: phenomena that change more quickly need to be measured more frequently to detect such changes, and phenomena that change more slowly don’t need to be measured as often. How frequently should we assess school quality? The school year is an arbitrary metric, and it may be wasteful and counterproductive to conduct school quality reviews on an annual basis. (In Great Britain, Ofsted inspects primary schools every three years.) Given a choice, I’d rather have less frequent, but more intensive, quality reviews.

The opinions expressed in eduwonkette are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Accountability Did Washington D.C.'s Education Overhaul Help Black Children? This Study Says Yes
Researchers said the district's "market-based" reforms accelerated achievement versus other districts and states.
5 min read
Accountability Opinion What Next-Gen Accountability Can Learn From No Child Left Behind
As we ponder what's next for accountability and assessment, we’d benefit from checking the rearview mirror more attentively and more often.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Accountability Opinion Let’s Make Transparency the Pandemic’s Educational Legacy
Transparency can strengthen school communities, allow parents to see what’s happening, and provide students more of the support they need.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Accountability The Feds Offered Waivers on ESSA Accountability. Here's Where States Stand on Getting Them
While they get less attention than testing waivers, flexibility related to low-performing schools is an important federal and state issue.
5 min read
Image of a student taking a test with a mask on.
Rich Vintage/E+