The Need for Stable, Growth-Based Accountability

“Privileged groups work for greater power consolidation through favoritism.”
― Bryant McGill, Voice of Reason

School accountability models that have unreachable goals and are not growth based have one purpose, to confuse the public and the schools themselves. They yield negative results for schools that are not truly reflective of student learning nor giving meaningful information to anyone. Such models serve no purpose other than a political one to make school systems appear to under perform to achieve political goals, regardless of what is truly occurring in a school.

Likewise, when states change their models every year as well as the assessments used in these models, the effort is a meaningless waste of time and funds, lacking any meaningful results. A state would be better off without an accountability system rather than one which is constantly changing as both scenarios produce no accurate data to be used in meaningful ways. At least the absence of any accountability system whatsoever does not waste tax dollars on tests given without a real purpose and instructional time wasted on such testing.

Growth-based, objective assessments of student performance, achievable accountability models that incorporate such growth, and systems of accountability which are stable over multiple years are the only meaningful types of statewide accountability. A state cannot afford not to have such a quality system in place that is the same for both public and charter schools. Yet, no system at all would be preferable to one which lacks these essential elements.

When accountability models have no meaning due to their lack or consistency or achievability, we return to a time period where the public is largely ignorant of which schools are actually producing growth in students. We also return to a time that a few school systems were incredibly lucky enough to have honorable and intelligent administrators and teachers willing to face up to political pressure make decisions based upon optimal learning of students. However, for the many school systems, no accountability, to one degree or another, returns to the days where the school’s main goal was not to attract any attention, to keep the “right” parents in the community happy, to keep property taxes low regardless of need, and to make sure it provided jobs and promotions for the well-connected of the community instead of those who produced the most gains for the student.

Some educators would like to go back to the “good old days” prior to any testing or accountability. Yet those old days were a world where the best schools, the best teachers, and the best administrators were largely decided upon for subjective reasons such as their likability to those above them and the perception of those around them regardless of facts. Even with evaluations based upon observation every educator knows another teacher or is a teacher themselves who is able to “put on the dog and pony show” for an administrator’s view often at the drop of a hat. Many say they detest politics and popularity contests in our schools today, but without objective accountability measures for many in our school systems such subjectivity will be the only means of criteria left for making decisions. I am for accountability models and their assessments as necessities, but only for those designed to actually work. Without it there is absolutely no pressure on anyone to put people into positions based on their ability to produce as opposed to simply the whim of those making such decisions and the influence of others upon them.

-Clint Stroupe