Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reasonable Accountability - A Primer for the Texas Legislator

First, let me state for the record that I am a public school advocate and an accountability proponent. As are most of the proactive public educators that I know and work with. 

Accountability, implemented correctly, is good for students.  Because without accountability, it is too easy for too many students to be systematically underserved by the schools they attend. This is a real problem that requires a real solution. And in spite of the rhetoric of anti-accountability advocates, the “We will hold ourselves accountable,” premise has never worked at scale.

Now, my accountability revisions. 

Shorten the End of Course (STAAR/ EOC) exams. Twenty to twenty-five questions are more than adequate. 

Reduce the number of elementary and middle school tests.

3rd grade: Reading and Math
4th grade: Reading and Writing
5th grade: Reading and Math
6th grade: Reading and Science
7th grade: Reading and Writing
8th grade: Reading, Math and Social Studies

Make the high school exit tests actual high school EXIT tests instead of high school PROGRESS tests.

Algebra 2 (instead of Algebra 1)
ELAR 3 (instead of ELAR 1 and 2)
U.S. Government / Economics (instead of US history)

Administer the EOC’s are at the end of April / beginning of May.  Any student that does not a pass a particular EOC gets to take the failed test again, at the end of May. For accountability purposes, passing either administration counts.  This takes the, “One day should not measure a school,” argument off the table, and it is more fair to students.

Set the passing rate at 75%. Yes, I know this is significantly higher than the current standard.  But we (educator, taxpayer, politician) should expect mastery of the subject.  And correctly answering 75% of the questions on a test that is 100% correlated to the state mandated standards is not an unreasonable expectation.

Allow district to exempt up 5% exemption of its students from testing.  Use a sliding scale that is driven by the percentage of students with severe special education needs and LEP students enrolled in a district. Again this is reasonable and fair.

Recognize that when considering student demographics, poverty is the great equalizer. Therefore, the performance of economically disadvantaged students should be the primary driver of accountability ratings for districts.  Then based on the performance of other demographic groups allow some ramp-ups and ramp-downs. But basically assign accountability ratings based on the following performance standards:

Acceptable / Met Standard / C: At least 75% of students pass their EOC’s.
Recognized / Exceeded Standard / B: 85% to 92% of students pass their EOC’s.
Exemplary / Model School / A: More than 92% of students pass their EOC’s

As always, I’m open to further discussion.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

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