Education Policy

2015 IDRA Factsheet Accountability

2015 IDRA Factsheet
Accountability that Doesn’t Hurt Students

Student assessment is essential to informing good teaching and can help communities hold local schools accountable for effectively serving all students, but children must not be hurt in the process.

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IDRA Stands

  • The state should collect some assessment data to enable it to hold schools accountable for student achievement with data disaggregated by major sub-groups.
  • School accountability should be achieved by sample testing, saving millions of dollars and eliminating misuse of tests for such dysfunctional practices as in-grade retention and denial of diplomas.
  • No single measure should be used to make high-stakes decisions, including promotion or graduation, for any student.

The Purpose of Accountability Systems is to Assess Schools
State assessment is an important factor in determining schools’ effectiveness and for holding schools accountable for producing good results. Disaggregated data in particular helps us know where to focus improvement efforts. But Texas policy goes too far by basing promotion and graduation on performance on the state’s mandated tests. This is despite a large body of research and even test-makers’ insistence that one test not be used as a sole criterion in making high-stakes decisions about students. Reliance on a single measure fails to consider multiple factors that impact student achievement.

Students Should Not be Scapegoats for Schools’ Systemic Shortfalls
We have seen too many give in to the temptation to use students’ scores on a single state test to make high-stakes decisions about whether a student should be promoted or held back, or whether those who are otherwise eligible to graduate from high school will actually receive a diploma.

Sample testing can prevent misuse of testing data. For example, when the state tests lakes and rivers for water quality, it does not test all the water in them. Researchers get samples from each body of water to indicate the quality of the whole system. We could measure the performance of our schools by the same method – testing a sample of students in each school.

Texas also could require that any decision involving students consider numerous criteria, such as student grades, student progress toward meeting performance objectives, teacher and parent input – all factors that are currently trumped by a single test score in many accountability systems.

While students should be accountable for attending classes and exerting maximum effort in the classroom (factors that impact existing grading policies), the state controls how much funding is provided to their school, and the schools themselves control which teacher is assigned to their class and whether that teacher is fully credentialed, is experienced or is a recent entry into the profession. Schools control the instructional materials that are provided and the extent to which supplemental support systems, including targeted instructional support or the newest in educational technology, is provided.

Accountability systems can hold schools accountable to the local communities that they serve without using in punitive and dysfunctional consequences for individual students.

How our accountability system hurts children

Holding students back a year, even when they may have only needed help in one subject

Denying diplomas, even for those who passed all their classes

Increasing children’s stress and anxiety over testing – the pressure can begin as early as kindergarten

Diluting instruction for all or part of a school year to focus on test-taking skills

Punishing students for not knowing what they may not have been taught

Disregarding what students do know and have learned