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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

October 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Judging school performance: Is there a better way?

Many agree that the way we evaluate schools, often with a heavy emphasis on test scores, isn’t working well.  So what would be better?   That’s what the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) asked recently, acknowledging problems with what’s happening now.

Paul Tong / Op Art

Paul Tong / Op Art

“There is a backlash against accountability,” wrote Robin Lake, the center’s director. “Critics have legitimate concerns about imperfect measurement and unintended consequences.”

Many others are asking similar questions. One example: Linda Darling-Hammond, the influential Stanford University professor of education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, recently announced their own ideas for how to move forward, away from what they consider a test-and-punish approach to a support-and-improve one.

At CRPE, which is affiliated with the University of Washington Bothell, Lake and others recently released a set of eight principles, which they think most can support.

A sampling:

  • All parents need to know immediately when their children are not learning at a rate that makes it highly likely they will graduate high school, enter and complete a four-year college or get a rewarding, career-ladder job.
  • Student test scores provide indispensable information, but they should be used in a way that provides trend data for individual students and for schools, and be combined with other valid evidence of student progress (e.g., course completion, normal progress toward graduation).
  • Because a student’s level and pace of learning in any one year depends in part on what was learned previously, the consequences of high and low performance should attach to whole schools, not only to teachers in grades tested. In evaluating teachers, school leaders should have the fullest possible information about individual teachers and be free to consider additional factors (e.g., classroom observations, contributions to school professional climate, and parent or student surveys).

What other thinkers/proposals would you add to this list? Please let us know in the comments section.

One commonality between CRPE and Darling-Hammond/Weingarten: Accountability isn’t likely to go away.

As Lake put it, “Americans can’t be compelled to send their children to schools that don’t have to demonstrate results.”

Comments | More in News | Topics: accountability, Center on Reinventing Public Education, Linda Darling-Hammond

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