Federal Opinion

Exceptional Ed Week Commentary on Testing and Accountability

By Eduwonkette — January 23, 2008 1 min read
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Helen Ladd, an economist at Duke, has turned in an exceptional commentary about rethinking the ways we hold schools accountable. Ladd has spent a decade studying the effects of North Carolina’s accountability system. Here’s an excerpt:

The bottom line is clear: Test-based accountability has not generated the significant gains in student achievement that proponents — however they perceived the problem to be solved—intended. Nor is the country on track to meet either the high proficiency standards required under the No Child Left Behind law or the equity goals suggested by its name.

As a reform strategy, test-based accountability falls short in at least three ways. First, it pays too little attention to the social factors that affect student achievement....Second, the approach pays too little attention to the broader system within which individual schools operate. Where is the accountability for state, county, or district officials who fail to provide the resources and support services needed to make the schools function better?....Third, test-based accountability tends to be punitive and pays too little attention to promoting effective process and practice within schools.

Ladd goes on to outline an alternative system - one that maintains realistic test score goals but incorporates inspection-based reviews of schools. This approach deserves serious consideration.

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