Let’s be audacious enough to get school accountability right. Let’s hold schools accountable for preparing children and youth for life instead of for tests. Throughout American history, leaders have asked that schools help students develop: (1) the abilities to read, to write, and to compute, and basic knowledge of geography, history and science; (2) the abilities to analyze information and solve problems; (3) enthusiasm for the arts and literature; (4) qualifications for the workplace; (5) the abilities to communicate and get along with others from varied backgrounds and to take responsibility for one’s actions; (6) knowledge of how government works and of how to participate in community life; (7) good habits of nutrition and exercise, and (8) self-confidence, respect for others, and the ability to resist peer pressure.
If those are our goals then we will need more than one test in addition to measures of accountability other than tests. We will need: (1) information on the academic growth of students on a variety of measures; (2) student work samples and/or observations of them solving problems; (3) samples of their art work and performances; (4) demonstrations of their workplace qualifications; (5) demonstrations that staff and students work together positively, and that adults use interventions to restore relationships when interactions become negative; (6) demonstrations of students’ participation in community life and of their knowledge of how government works; (7) observations of students’ food choices and exercising, and, (8) interviews with students to understand how they feel about themselves and others, and how independent they are in their decision-making.
Accountability done right is never simple, and accountability is too important to do on the cheap. The costs of doing education wrong are too high for us to continue to get accountability wrong.