It's time for a new accountability in American education

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In a new column on the Huffington Post, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Stanford University professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond outline a better accountability model for schools, which moves from testing and punishing to supporting and improving learning.

As more people raise questions about the new Common Core State Standards, write Weingarten and Darling-Hammond, it becomes clear that the main concern is about the consequences of high-stakes tests attached to the standards, rather than the standards themselves. "Trying to implement ambitious goals for deeper learning through an outmoded testing model tied to a long list of punishments for children, educators, and schools," they note, "is like pouring new wine into old bottles."

They argue for a new approach that ensures students and educators get what they really need:

  • Curriculum, teaching and assessment focused on meaningful learning;
  • Adequate resources that are spent wisely; and
  • Professional capacity, so that teachers and school leaders develop the knowledge and skills they need to teach much more challenging content in much more effective ways.

The column contrasts the way in which two states—California and New York—have implemented the Common Core. The California approach, which promotes good teaching focused on productive learning that is supported with the right resources, has led to the standards being embraced by parents and educators. New York, on the other hand, is stuck in a narrow, test-based accountability system adopted under No Child Left Behind and reinforced by federal Race to the Top rules. There, the public has come to equate the standards—and the good teaching they could encourage—with the chaos created by an out-of-control testing system.

"At the end of the day," the authors conclude, "the path on which California has embarked is more likely to produce a truly accountable educational system—one that ensures all students experience engaging learning in supportive schools that help them pave a path to a productive future, not just another test."

Read the full column online. [Dan Gursky]

May 20, 2014