Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Accountability

I’m all for accountability. I am a numbers person, and, more importantly, a results person. Numbers can give you a relatively objective view of how an organization is performing.

I actually think kids should be given standardized tests every month in every subject. Maybe every two weeks. As a teacher this would give you a “real time” look at how each student is progressing. As an administrator testing kids every month would give you an accurate view of how both the students and the teachers are doing.

Why do we only test kids once a year? That doesn’t make sense. Once you get the results the school year is finished. That’s like a CEO checking the stock price once a year or a businessman checking sales volume after he’s fired.

That being said I think the accountability system in American education is a joke. Why? For a variety of reasons, but let me give you two.

One, it is insane to place such immense pressure on administrators, teachers, and students through fear of district takeover, firings, and the repeating of grades respectively, and then allow those same administrators and teachers to administer the test that their job depends on. Cheating is bound to happen. In fact, cheating on a wide scale is simply inevitable. In my personal experience I have seen cheating on standardized tests; teachers giving students answers on state-tests. Second-hand from Mississippi Teacher Corps teachers and others I have heard many stories of cheating on state-tests. Having schools administer their own state-tests is like inviting the fox into the henhouse to take inventory.

Two, you can’t hold students accountable without giving them good teachers. As important as administrators, home life, parental involvement, and a host of other factors are, the problem of education in America today is that there simply aren’t enough good teachers. More to the point there are too many bad teachers. I estimate the good teacher/bad teacher ration to be about 1/10. For every one good teacher there are about 10 bad teachers (and also about 10 average teachers). And, of course, the good teachers are clustered at the good schools, the average teachers at the average schools, and the bad teachers at the bad schools. As long as the teaching profession remains a woefully underpaid one this ratio will remain the same.

What do I think of accountability and No Child Left Behind (NCLB)? I think it is a rigged test. Rigged to show the country that public schools are terrible and thus to pave the way for the privatization of education. I think NCLB is gift to Corporate America. Education is one of the last, gigantic revenue streams not yet available to them. Health care, communications, and energy have all been given away. Social security and public education are all that remain. Watch closely…

1 comment:

A. Monroe said...

I can't argue with this post. Assessment/evaluation is supposed to guide instruction. Instead, the powers that be have used high-stakes testing to hold teachers and administrators accountable. It is a joke to think the testing has anything to do with student achievement. It should, but it doesn't.

By the way, I am not one of the two readers of your blog that you mentioned in another post. Instead I am just a colleague checking to see how far behind she is on her own efforts at blogging. I probably should have saved my comments and used them in my own post. To my horror, you have at least 6 additional posts since the last time I checked.