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How Should We Measure Accountability?

[Editor’s note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple.]

Every public and charter school student in grades 3 – 8 will be taking the New York State English Language Arts (ELA) exam in two weeks. The results of the exam are the core of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and a major section of the School Progress Report.

From the NCLB perspective the results of the exam measure “proficiency” and schools can be branded as Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI) or Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) … and this designation is one element in determining school closings. The exam is a major factor, along with “growth,” in deciding what letter grade a school gets on its School Progress Report.

The NCLB methodology is zip code based, and states have tweaked the data for their own benefit … while the School Progress Reports fail the “validity and reliability” test.

Parents and teachers want to know how their school is doing in comparison with other schools as well as against an agreed upon standard.

Should accountability be a “photograph” of a school, or a measurement of a school over time?

Should poverty be a factor in any rubric?

How about the experience level of teachers?

Regardless of the accountability tool, what should the consequences be if a school is not making sufficient progress?

To what extent should parent and teacher opinions be imbedded in a school accountability tool?

One clear lesson of NCLB has been the mine field it has created. The National Education Association (NEA) wants to sink NCLB and leave it up to the States. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) wants to “fix” the law. Elected officials all oppose the current law, but, aside from vague comments, avoid specifics in discussing a replacement.

It is very much in the interest of public schools to have an agreed upon accountability tool. We lobby for more school funding, for lower class size, for more parent/teacher input, etc. … we can’t also say, ” … we don’t want any assessment measurement.”

Our problem: can parents and teachers agree upon a tool, a methodology for measuring schools?

While it is a complex and difficult task it is essential that, as teachers and as union members, we pursue a way of measuring schools, and, that we seek the “right” tool.



  • 1 phyllis c. murray
    · Jan 5, 2008 at 12:30 am


    Shared decision making is as American as apple pie. So one might ask: What happened to the shared decision making process in education? Certainly, it is effective at the school level as an informed populace works toward improving teaching and learning within the school. The school leadership team in conjunction with parents, teachers, support staff, community members, and the principal are empowered to make decisions which impact the climate and culture of the school.

    Surely, federal, state and district mandates are observed. However what is paramount is that the needs of the students are identified and met. And since the team meets monthly, opportunities are afforded to fine-tune the programs implemented. Research also takes place as best-practices are examined. And assessments are ongoing. Changes are not dictated but agreed upon by the members of the representative team and faculty and community ( the stakeholders) prior to implementation. Thus, all persons, who hold a vested interest in this public school have a voice. Such an approach seems to mirror democracy in action as the responsibility, rights, or powers are placed in the hands of the school. And if this can be done at the school level successfully, why aren’t educators and parents a part of the Board of Education’s team ? Why aren’t educators and parents full participants in a shared decision making process…especially when all the top to bottom and unilateral decisions are being planned and implemented? Why are educators and parents only informed in the media of unilateral changes which impact their lives and the lives of all children in New York City Public Schools? Furthermore, if the goal of public education is the preparation of our students for effective participation in a democratic society, no child should be left behind. Nor should the “one-size fits all” test practice become the new mantra for NCLB.

    Leo Casey is right:
    “Make no mistake about it: we are clear that the management of our public schools need to be reformed, and that real decision making power needs to be devolved to the schools, in the hands of school leaders, teachers, and parents. We need real empowerment of schools, not rhetorical empowerment smokescreens. We need public schools accountable to the public, not outsourced to private entities in a perpetual deferral of accountability by its top leadership”

    Phyllis C. Murray
    Chapter Leader
    District 8

  • 2 Schoolgal
    · Jan 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    The reality is that shared-decision making does NOT exist in most schools.
    The SLT members and staff are losing ground each and every day.

    Until the UFT makes full collaboration a part of the contract, we will see more principals yielding power in favor of a test scores rather than the complete education of the child.