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Rethinking Education ‘Accountability’

August 16, 2016

School Choice Weekly #148

Woman thinking

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:


School Choice Roundup

  • HOMESCHOOLING: While politicians continue to overpromise and underdeliver school choice opportunities, families are taking matters into their own hands and homeschooling in record numbers.

Common Core and Curriculum Watch

  • 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.

Education Today

  • 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.

Thank you for reading! If you need a quicker fix of news about school choice, you can find daily updates online at https://www.heartland.org/topics/education.

Article Tags
Education
Author
Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing editor of The Federalist, a web magazine on politics, policy, and culture.
jpullmann@heartland.org @JoyPullmann

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