picture-5During our decadent snow day today, I began reading Richard Rothstein’s Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right . If anyone else has read or is reading this particular piece of writing, please let me know as I would like to process some of this as I go. The Economic Policy Institute has the introduction posted.

Some introductory ideas/assertions from Rothstein that caught my attention:

–In education, “accountability,” as described here, requires schools and other public institutions that prepare our youth to pursue the goals established by the people and their representatives through democratic processes, and to achieve these goals to the extent possible by using the most effective strategies available.

–Yet none of these proposals commanded sufficient support because none addressed NCLB’s most fundamental problem – although tests, properly interpreted, can contribute some important information about school quality, testing alone is a poor way to measure whether schools, or their students, perform adequately.

–State accountability systems should ensure that schools and supporting institutions promote all these traits in a balanced fashion, because accountability for only some outcomes will create incentives to ignore others.

–One reason, perhaps the most important, why No Child Left Behind and similar testing systems in the states got accountability so wrong is that we’ve wanted to do accountability on the cheap.

–The chapter describes how an accountability system organized around achieving a fixed proficiency point leads to excessive concentration on students whose performance is slightly below that point and ignores students who are either above or far below it.

These are just a few of the quotes from the introduction. I am perpetually intrigued by the idea that standardized testing, as it is currently employed through NCLB, is a false path for a successful educational model. In the attempt to wrap my brain around relevant research, I picked up a few books over the last month to dig into. This is the first one into which I am digging.

The last few sentences of the introduction really hit home after this past weekend’s conversations.

But first things first. Before detailing this accountability program, we have to ask, “accountable for what?” What are the goals of American public education? Certainly, good test scores are part of the answer, but should schools be accountable for more – say, good citizenship, or good judgment? If so, is it possible to measure these broader school outcomes to know whether educators are performing satisfactorily? It is to these questions that we now turn.

Now onto page 13.