A New Paradigm for Accountability

Diane Ravitch recently published in the Huffington Post a really nice piece about what she views as a much better paradigm for accountability — one based on much better indicators than large scale standardized test scores. This does indeed offer a much better and much more positive and supportive accountability alternative to that with which we have been “dealing” for the last, really, 30 years.

The key components of this new paradigm, as taken from the full post titled, “A New Paradigm for Accountability: The Joy of Learning,” are pasted below. Although I would recommend giving this article a full read, instead or in addition, as the way Diane frames her reasoning around this list is also important to understand. Click here to see the full article on the Huffington Post website. Otherwise, here’s her paradigm:

The new accountability system would be called No Child Left Out. The measures would be these:

  • How many children had the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument?
  • How many children had the chance to play in the school band or orchestra?
  • How many children participated in singing, either individually or in the chorus or a glee club or other group?
  • How many public performances did the school offer?
  • How many children participated in dramatics?
  • How many children produced documentaries or videos?
  • How many children engaged in science experiments? How many started a project in science and completed it?
  • How many children learned robotics?
  • How many children wrote stories of more than five pages, whether fiction or nonfiction?
  • How often did children have the chance to draw, paint, make videos, or sculpt?
  • How many children wrote poetry? Short stories? Novels? History research papers?
  • How many children performed service in their community to help others?
  • How many children were encouraged to design an invention or to redesign a common item?
  • How many students wrote research papers on historical topics?

Can you imagine an accountability system whose purpose is to encourage and recognize creativity, imagination, originality, and innovation? Isn’t this what we need more of?

Well, you can make up your own metrics, but you get the idea. Setting expectations in the arts, in literature, in science, in history, and in civics can change the nature of schooling. It would require far more work and self-discipline than test prep for a test that is soon forgotten.

My paradigm would dramatically change schools from Gradgrind academies to halls of joy and inspiration, where creativity, self-discipline, and inspiration are nurtured, honored, and valued.

This is only a start. Add your own ideas. The sky is the limit. Surely we can do better than this era of soul-crushing standardized testing.

“Dear Teacher, You Are Not the Most Important Thing in the Universe”

Gene Glass (Regents’ Professor Emeritus from ASU) just posted this post below this morning, here, and I thought it important to share will all of you.
The Arizona Republic has a very conservative Editorial Board for a very conservative newspaper in a very conservative state. So when they address the subject of teacher preparation, it’s no surprise that they parrot folk wisdom about schools and teachers.In addressing Arne Duncan’s new guidelines on teachers colleges, the Editorial Board strikes its closing notes by perpetrating one of the more pernicious myths about teachers and schools.

Plenty of research has come to a common-sense conclusion: Nothing is more important to the success of a student than a highly qualified teacher. But we don’t have enough of them, nor will we as long as teacher colleges are not held accountable.

Now that’s a statement that packs a big load of deceit into just 43 words. First, it’s highly doubtful that the Arizona Republic Editorial Board has made itself familiar with “plenty of research” about education. Second, in their review of “plenty of research,” apparently their faith in the ability of test scores to hold teachers colleges “accountable” was never shaken?* But worst of all is the repeat of that tired wheeze that nothing is more important than a teacher.What makes the All-Important-Teacher myth so pernicious is that teachers themselves occasionally and the general public usually take it as a compliment when in fact it is an attack on teacher tenure and professional autonomy.The facts of the matter are that teachers are not the most important thing determining what a child gets out of school. What a child brings to school is much more important. Jim Coleman showed this in 1966 in Equality of Educational Opportunity, and though he softened his position slightly in 1972 when he accorded a bit more important to schooling that he had 6 years prior, out-of-school influences remained dominant in determining how much kids learned during their years in school. Parents, home and neighborhood conditions, physical health, language use and language complexity in the home, whether the student lives in a psychologically and physically healthy environment with access to competent medical care, access to books, games and activities that prepare the student for school, and even genetic endowment can greatly contribute to or restrict a child’s development. What walks in the door on Day #1 has more to do with what leaves on Day #2340 (180 X 13) than what transpires during the few hours of students’ lives that they are in the classroom, attentive, and capable of absorbing what that teacher is talking about.

Teachers are wonderful human beings. For many children, teachers are the most caring and competent individual whom they will encounter during their lifetime. But teachers cannot undo the damage inflicted on youngsters by a society in which nearly half of all births are to unwed mothers and in which more than 20% of children live below the poverty level (income below $23,000 for a family of 4).

So, my fellow teachers, beware. Don’t fall for the false compliment that you are so important — so important that you should be fired if your students’ test scores are lagging behind, so important that your school’s graduation rate is a moral and a civil rights issue, so important that you should be replaced by an inexperienced liberal arts major on a two-year resume building junket.

*Just take a look at Bruce Baker’s analysis of the absurdity of judging teachers by their students’ test scores.