Monday, December 15, 2008

More Phony Accountability

In case you were having even a moment of doubt, let me assure you that accountability is the educational mantra of the moment. In an editorial last Friday, the New York Times praised a program in Louisiana for gauging teacher and teacher training program effectiveness. The Times writes:
"The most striking innovation is an evaluation system that judges teacher-preparation programs based on how much their graduates improve student performances in important areas, including reading, math and science. Once the evaluation system is in place throughout the state, officials would be able to determine which programs are turning out first-class teachers and which ones still need work."

What's not mentioned is that the way that the state will be judging improvement in student performance is through standardized testing. Let's ignore for a moment that (as Eduwonkette has posted) the standardized tests given across the country can't really be used for measuring student progress from year to year. What really concerns me is how abstracted these accountability measures are becoming from real learning.

Consider this. What the Louisiana program is really measuring is which teacher-preparation programs best teacher teachers to teach to the test. That's what it comes down to. A college of education would be judged by the results twice removed from its actual program. In addition, a well-regarded school like Bank Street College of Education in New York would probably get panned in such a system because of it's progressive, test de-emphasizing approach.

Now, there may be a debate to be had over whether Bank Street is better or worse than a more traditional schooling approach. But let's actually have that debate. Let's not just assume the debate is over and now it's time to start measuring the results.

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