The Vision: Community-Based Accountability

  • MISSION: School Transformation is inspired and guided by the visioning document Creating a New Vision for Texas Public Education, produced by the Public Education Visioning Institute.

    Article IV: Accountability for Learning

    Comprehensive accountability systems are essential to achieving minimal personal and organizational performance only. They are necessary for weeding out the incompetent and reconstituting unproductive schools, but such systems serve to create compliance and mediocrity at best. Excellence and sustained exceptional performance come from a commitment to shared values and a clear vision that encourages collaboration and teamwork. Creating organizations that foster commitment requires superior moral leadership and a responsible use of authority.

    Supporting Premises

    • Accountability systems should be carefully designed on a theoretical base that honors what teachers and students actually do, that empowers and builds integrity, trust, and commitment to the values that define the school.

    • Assessment results and other examples of work products and performances of students should be used as the primary information source for understanding where students are and what they need. These can also be used for reporting to parents and the public.

    • Accountability systems that draw on assessment information external to the class, school, or district are important for internal confidence in large systems and external confidence in all districts. Descriptions of the contexts in which assessments are given should be a part of reports. All parties should have some say in what measures are used and the weights assigned to different measures.

    • Districts should be allowed to design their own internal systems of assessment for learning and accountability, as long as they meet certain specified state standards.

    • Those for whom the accountability mechanisms are to apply must have confidence and trust that they are fair and unbiased.

    • Sampling techniques (the full range of examinations, evaluation of student work products, and performances as well as teacher tests and standardized tests) should be used in lieu of testing every child every year.

    • Processes should be clearly defined so they can be controlled, measured, and improved.

    • End results are not the only results that matter, for some results are set as goals that, if achieved first, would enhance the end result.

    • An effective accountability system has multiple measures in place that provide for continuing employment, promotion, development, probation or termination; and respects the perspective that most people want to do a good job and want others to do a good job, as well.

    • Standardized tests (including criterion-referenced tests) cannot measure with precision profound learning.

    • Much for which schools need to be accountable will require subjective measures, and the decision about what and how to measure is admittedly one of the most subjective.

    • Accountability systems are guided by the fact that to attach any matter highly valued by students, teachers, school leaders, or schools/districts to any single measure such as a standardized test, corrupts the test and the integrity of what it measures as well as the accountability it was intended to provide.
    • Labels for schools and particularly those that use the lowest performing unit as the basis for a punitive label should be avoided. There is a distinction between identifying performance gaps and labeling. Identification of performance gaps enables schools to move forward in designing different instructional strategies or approaches to help students achieve the learning desired.

    • Complete transparency is a requisite for how all data is collected, analyzed, and reported, including the subjective, sometimes political, manner in which state proficiency standards are set on state tests, if such tests are to be used.

    • A multi-year cycle for periodic district and campus performance reviews should be established, using highly trained visiting teams to analyze a predetermined set of student performance information.

    • As single measurements, standardized norm-referenced tests, criterion-referenced state tests, aptitude tests, end-of-course exams, other oral and written examinations, student performances/projects/portfolios, regular teacher assessments, and grades each give a piece of the picture; and used in combination, can provide a more holistic view. However, if a high-stakes standardized test is given a preponderance of weight, it will become the assessment that really counts, others notwithstanding.

    • Standardized tests to which high stakes are attached can become substitutes for the learning standards themselves and result in “teaching to the test” rather than teaching for attainment of the standard.
    • Consequences (sanctions) should be associated with a performance assessment only if the assessment uses a combination of measures including sample examinations and other student performances to ascertain the degree to which the learning level is outside the variance allowed.

    • Alternative assessments in combinations as indicated in other premises in this section should be considered.

Consortium Makes Recommendations on Assessment and Accountability