Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, August 29, 2014

Joe Nocera Turns Against Test-Based Accountability

How often do you see something like this from a Times opinion page columnist?

What should teacher accountability look like?

We know what the current system of accountability looks like, and it’s not pretty. Ever since the passage of No Child Left Behind 12 years ago, teachers have been judged, far too simplistically, based on standardized tests given to their students — tests, as Marc S. Tucker points out in a new report, Fixing Our National Accountability System, that are used to decide which teachers should get to keep their jobs and which should be fired. This system has infuriated and shamed teachers, and is a lot of the reason that teacher turnover is so high, causing even many of the best teachers to abandon the ranks.

All of which might be worth it if this form of accountability truly meant that public school students were getting a better education. But, writes Tucker, “There is no evidence that it is contributing anything to improved student performance.” Meanwhile, he adds, test-based accountability is “doing untold damage to the profession of teaching.”

Tucker is one of the grand old men of education policy. In the 1970s, he worked at the National Institute of Education, followed by a stint at the Carnegie Corporation. In 1988, he founded the National Center on Education and the Economy, whose premise, he told me recently, is that, in order to meet the demands of a global economy, our educational system needs to be re-engineered for much higher performance.

Not long after founding the N.C.E.E., Tucker began taking a close look at countries and cities that were re-engineering successfully. What he came away with were two insights. First was a profound appreciation for the fact that most of the countries with the best educational results used the same set of techniques to get there. And, second, that the American reform methods were used nowhere else in the world. “No other country believes that you can get to a high quality educational system simply by instituting an accountability system,” he says. “We are entirely on the wrong track.” His cri de coeur has been that Americans should look to what works, instead of clinging to what doesn’t.

How often do you hear a columnist at the Times opinion page write "'test-based accountability is 'doing untold damage to the profession of teaching'" or "this system has infuriated and shamed teachers, and is a lot of the reason that teacher turnover is so high, causing even many of the best teachers to abandon the ranks"?

Not often, that's for sure (though Nocera has sometimes expressed skepticism over ed deform before in his columns.)

Tucker's report attacks the unions and union contracts, so it's possible that this whole "Fixing Our National Accountability System" is just coming at union-busting from another vantage point.

But that the report shows how much damage the testing regime is doing to children, teachers, the teaching profession, and schools is important - especially since its now making its way onto the Times opinion page in Nocera's column.

The more we see columnists like Nocera writing that the test-based accountability system in American schools is a failure, the better.

I might also note, this kind of thing will make Arne Duncan, John King and Merryl Tisch very, very sad.

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