AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Characteristics of Fair and Sound Accountability

Accountability means holding states, districts schools, educators and students responsible for results. It also entails acting upon the reported data. High-quality accountability systems are necessary if public education is to fulfill its responsibility to parents and the public.


The AFT has identified the following criteria for using test data for accountability purposes:

  1. Results from assessments should be considered for accountability purposes only when the instruments are valid and reliable.
  2. State accountability programs should recognize test score gains and progress in addition to absolute test scores or levels of attainment AND place more emphasis on comparisons of performance from year-to-year than from school-to-school.
  3. States should set both long- and short-term goals for all schools to reach.

In addition, the AFT has identified the following criteria for making high-stakes decisions:

  1. States should phase in high-stakes consequences once the standards-based system is in place (i.e., after full implementation of standards, curriculum, professional development, assessment and support/intervention programs).
  2. High-stakes decisions for students should be reinforced and corroborated by multiple indicators (e.g., teacher judgment, teacher-generated assessments and observations, grades, performance-based tasks, exhibitions/portfolios of student work).
  3. States should build into their systems an appeals process.
  4. Students should have multiple opportunities to retake high-stakes tests.
  5. High-stakes accountability should use new high-quality assessments each year that are comparable to those of previous years.
  6. Accountability systems must have resources to address the needs of struggling students.