Design Elements for Assessment & Accountability
Accountability – The intent of accountability should be to positively affect the behavior of educators to accomplish a few key outcomes.
- Educators need to be able to decipher what we want them to accomplish. The old accountability system was pretty clear: Texas wanted the lowest performing subgroups to have more students be able to demonstrate minimum amounts of knowledge in each subject. The new accountability system has four “indices” and a complicated way to calculate each rating. Local real-estate developers, real estate agents and title companies have remarked that the current accountability system is “meaningless” because they cannot understand it, much less explain to clients how a school earns any particular rating.
- Expectations and consequences need to be fair. That doesn’t mean we should expect 100% of students to graduate college/career ready. In the early 1990s, when Texas first created a K12 accountability system, acceptable performance labels were awarded if only 25% of subpopulations could pass each subject area. The business community backed that low initial standard because it was actually a stretch goal at that point in time. As long as the accountability system increases its expectations each year, this is a reasonable approach. Unrealistic goals, however, do not motivate nor do they drive behavior. Educators will just see them as unfair and inappropriate.
- We must ensure the system accomplishes worthy outcomes. 94% of Texans view earning a post-secondary degree as important and essential for a good job, according to last August’s WGU-Texas poll of 800 voters. Students who graduate college/career ready are six times more likely to graduate college. High school graduates who are college ready, regardless of whether they attend college, earn more than those who are not college ready. Let’s not just put any performance element into the accountability system because it can be measured.
- Success expectations need to be spelled out far enough in advance so that education leaders have time to plan. In the current accountability system, the definitions for successful performance on tests are defined after students take them. Expectations for what is good enough to pass a test, or earn an acceptable rating, should be determined 16-24 months ahead of time so that school district Trustees can make budget, personnel, performance reviews, class ratios and other management decisions while there is still time to affect the outcome.
- Consequences need to be taken seriously. If you set out fair, transparent expectations for an employee and he consistently fails to meet them, what happens? If nothing, it appropriately calls into question the whole system, reinforces the employee’s unacceptable performance and undermines morale for the higher-performers. Continuous low-performance affects our children and significant consequences should be applied. Further, unless you believe that the only form of accountability is parents “voting with their feet” to leave a school, Texas needs appropriate consequences.
- Technology must be used to accelerate availability of data on critical outcomes. Currently, it’s nearly impossible to report on college readiness and college enrollment rates in a timely way, much less use such information in performance reviews for superintendents, principals, counselors and teachers. For the Class of 2015, the public still does not have final campus-level and disaggregated data on graduation, certification completion, college/career readiness and direct-to-college enrollment. Surely we can make graduation and direct college enrollment data available to the public no later than the October after May graduation?
This is Part III of a three part series.
Posted by Drew Scheberle, Senior Vice President of the Austin Chamber.