Once again the value of effective teaching assessments is being undercut by the problems typically created by an overbearing federal involvement defining teacher accountability.
Teachers, parents, and children want the benefits gained from quality assessment tools but they are running from tests that are being imposed upon the educational system today because they are typically unfair.
Relics like Marc Tucker who represent years of advocacy for federal control of our educational system have set the foundation for this debacle by continually supporting morphed versions of failed federal educational policies. The Tucker/federal solution is to eliminate or to transform testing materials rather than address federal overreach, the real problem facing the educational system. Tucker’s approach would remove accountability of federal policies.
The goal of using assessments to improve the educational system are reversed when the tests are too long, when the questions are too political or are irrelevant for determining mastery of a subject matter, or when testing standards are unfair. Federally created privacy issues are turning a supportive public against state and federally funded educational systems.
Tucker misses the point that each new federal program and each step away from local control of schools has historically resulted in a decline in academic progress. Citizens are furious and want federal overreach to stop. Tucker and other experts who earn their living through funding provided to support federal educational policies ignore the solutions for academic decline in America.
In an Educational Leadership article: “NEEDED: An Updated Accountability Model,” Tucker uses the growing number of teachers leaving the profession to justify eliminating accountability test. He explains that the decline in applicants to schools of education is in large part because testing fails to make education better.
As a teacher, I can assure Mr. Tucker that teachers are not leaving the profession out of fear of being held accountable. They are leaving because the federally defined accountability tools are unfair and destructive. This truth is often lost in the debate.
Teachers are leaving the profession because it is unreasonable to expect teachers to assure that every child functions at grade level when the classroom is comprised of students with many medically diagnosed disabilities which impact the speed of learning and with students whose IQs range from the 80s to well above 120. Students with an IQ of 80 who work very hard may not make a full year of academic growth. Students with higher IQs should be expected to make more than a full year of academic growth.
No student with an IQ of 80 who has made eight months of academic growth should be considered a failure. To make that level of growth, both the student and the teacher had to work very and should feel successful. Current testing methods would define this teacher and student as failures. Federally aligned testing is not created to accomplish reasonable goals.
If the accountability expectations were individualized by student ability, the success of students and teachers would be more accurately defined. This should be the purpose of an assessment tool. When teachers feel that their efforts and successes can be fairly recognized, they will be more willing to stay in the profession and to apply to schools of education.
Teachers understand that research by Betts & Costrell in 2001 and Odden in 1995 indicates that well-structured testing tools provide students with sufficient information needed for them to set personal academic goals. Teachers are provided essential facts about the current level of understanding an individual student has about the subject being taught. Teachers must have this level of information to know what needs a student has.
Parents need assessment results so they can accurately monitor their child’s academic progress, understand what their child needs, communicate those needs with the child’s teacher, motivate their child, and direct their home studies.
Quality testing tools are often essential to successful educational experiences for students. Federal involvement and the political and self-serving agendas of many educational experts has so thoroughly confused the debate that many teachers, parents, and students fear quality testing will be lost for many generations.
Data privacy is another issue acerbated by federally aligned testing. Federal and state privacy laws are inadequate and cannot protect a child’s right to privacy. Their testing data will be shared with federal agencies and other educational entities. The federal government is trying to accumulate massive amounts of information on each citizen to be used for political and economic reasons. Parents and students do not want anyone to have access to early academic records. Students must have chances to make mistakes without fearing life-long consequences.
The real accountability issue is not the value of quality assessment tools. The real issue is that, once again, the federal government is interfering in local control of schools and imposing another federal program which will do more harm than good. Our children and the American educational system will suffer again. Parents can stop this federal overreach by taking back their schools at the local level.