We must make sure our schools are doing an excellent job with all students, and disaggregated data helps us know where to focus improvement efforts.
But it is not necessary to test all students in order to hold schools accountable for producing good results. 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. Sample testing would make it unnecessary to test all students to ensure schools produce good results and can prevent misuse of testing data in holding students back or preventing them from graduating.
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 they should be promoted or held back, or whether those who are otherwise eligible to graduate from high school will actually receive a diploma.
Reliance on a single measure fails to consider factors that impact student achievement, including the fact that students have no control over inequitable school resources or the quality of teaching they receive.
More importantly, the use of a single test score ignores other academic achievements, including grades, projects, college readiness measures and teacher recommendations. IGCs remain a viable option. No single measure should be used to make high-stakes decisions for promotion or graduation.
Accountability systems should be supportive, moving away from rigid, punitive structures. States should collect some valid testing data and other performance measures to enable it to hold schools accountable for student achievement with data disaggregated by sub-groups. School accountability should be achieved by sample testing, saving millions of state tax dollars and simultaneously reducing the misuse of tests.
State accountability systems must contain “opportunity-to-learn metrics,” including resource allocation, college preparation and teacher quality.
Texas should continue to graduate students who prove their well-rounded academic qualifications to independent graduation committees (IGCs).
A more comprehensive and accurate picture of how a school is doing would consider governance efficacy, appropriate resources, parent and family engagement, student engagement, teaching quality and access to quality curriculum. IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework guides communities and schools in identifying weak areas and strengthening public schools’ capacities to graduate and prepare all students for success. IDRA’s book, Courage to Connect – A Quality Schools Action Framework™ shows how communities and schools can work together to be successful with all of their students. The book’s web page provides a table of contents, excerpt, related podcasts and other resources.
Factsheet on Accountability that Doesn’t Hurt Students
eBook: Failing In-Grade Retention
Individual Graduation Committees
Policy Brief 2019: Don’t Block Graduation Because of a Test
News Release 2017: Texas’ temporary policy relieved high-stakes for 6,000 students