Rethinking Education ‘Accountability’
School Choice Weekly #148
The latest installment of Greg Forster’s series on rethinking what accountability should mean for schools, teachers, and students takes us back to the basics. Before we get to technical details about tests, testing systems, rating systems, penalties, and so forth, he says, we need to discuss why we do any of this in the first place. What’s the purpose of accountability? If we don’t know what we want schools to do, we can’t hold them accountable.
Before we ask, ‘How should we hold schools accountable?’ we need to ask, ‘What is a good education?’ Prior to that comes the question, ‘What does it mean for people to grow into their human potential?’ If we ask what comes before that, we get to the really fundamental questions: ‘What is good? What is true? What is beautiful?’
He says the lack of a coherent vision for schooling’s purpose has led to today’s “crisis of accountability.” Various government officials, laws, politicians, and pundits use the words “testing” and “accountability” interchangeably nowadays, but if the tests don’t (or can’t) measure the core things schools should be transmitting, it’s all an exercise in futility.
This is a key complaint parents and teachers have raised as governments increase testing and measurement mandates in the name of “accountability,” exacerbated by the suppressed opposition to Common Core. Parents who don’t consider Common Core – or any other item on offer from schools – a measure of excellence understandably oppose using it to rate their child, teachers, or schools. Other things besides curriculum matter to them, too – school safety, atmosphere, proximity to home or work, affordability. The more intangible these sorts of factors get, the more difficult it is to approximate them with a relatively simple measuring stick like tests.
Forster says to help work through these issues we need to take a step back and rethink the purpose of schools themselves:
School accountability should be grounded in an understanding of human potential aimed at building up free communities, open to pluralism under the rule of law and respect for human rights, where people achieve and appreciate the good, the true and the beautiful in the midst of their differences over those very things.
SOURCE: EdChoice blog
IN THIS ISSUE:
- COLORADO: A court has stopped a second version of the nation’s only district-run voucher program, saying even though it excluded religious schools from participating it was too like the first, which was also rejected in court.
- TENNESSEE: Tennessee’s first voucher program, for special-needs children, has just opened applications to the approximately 20,000 families who qualify.
- HOMESCHOOLING: While politicians continue to overpromise and underdeliver school choice opportunities, families are taking matters into their own hands and homeschooling in record numbers.
- SOUTH DAKOTA: Because of a tight timeline between program setup and school opening this fall, the state’s new tax-credit scholarship doesn’t have enough money to help the families who have applied this year.
- CHOICE: How a variety of private organizations help parents understand their kids’ needs and pick schools accordingly.
- VERMONT: If private schools can’t serve the particular needs of every student, the state board of education might forbid them from serving any students.
- NEW HAMPSHIRE: A judge has stopped two local school districts from contracting with private schools to educate some students.
- AFRICAN-AMERICANS: Larry Sand details how the NAACP’s union-directed stance against charter schools is devastating to the poor black kids these schools help learn at higher rates than their available alternatives.
- LOUISIANA: A five-judge panel will hear oral arguments this week in a case that seeks to close down charter schools that serve 13,000 students in the state.
- TENNESSEE: As part of its work in an eight-state coalition creating government standards for emotions and socializing, Tennessee is creating “safe spaces” in elementary schools and teaching children breathing techniques.
- ALASKA: Lawmakers have passed a new law that protects parents’ rights to excuse their children from tests and objectionable classes such as sex ed.
- KENTUCKY, NEW YORK: These two states have been inflating student scores on Common Core tests, new data show (New York story here).
- MISSOURI, NEW YORK: Thanks to Common Core, Missouri’s statewide test results for last school year won’t be available until this coming school year starts. Further, none of the tests the state has been using each year can be compared to each other, so parents and the public have no objective idea of how public school students have been performing. The same is happening in New York.
- PENNSYLVANIA: Children stressed out by Common Core are getting, not something better, but put into mental health programs in schools.
- NEW JERSEY: Gov. Chris Christie is pushing the state to require students to take a national Common Core test to be allowed to graduate, despite telling people for years he opposes Common Core.
- ACT: The testing company tells people their products measure Common Core when they really measure only parts of Common Core, a representative tells The Daily Caller.
- CROSS-SEX FACILITIES: The U.S. Supreme Court has lifted an Obama administration decree that local schools allow transgender students into the bathroom, locker room, and overnight facilities of their choice, signaling it will decide on this issue in its coming term.
- HIGHER EDUCATION: Next month The Wall Street Journal will issue a new college ranking system that focuses more on colleges’ tangible benefits to students rather than how much money students and donors have.
- CALIFORNIA, UTAH: California’s top education officials are complaining proposed federal regulations implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act mess with their own plans for measuring student achievement. The rules would also penalize Utah for the number of students who go on Mormon missions after high school.
- SAT: A security breach has exposed hundreds of questions on the new SAT that raise concerns the test itself may be invalid.
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