Ronald GallimoreEveryone's a teacher to someone (John Wooden)

professional learning communities; teacher learning; teacher teams; continous improvement; Brad Ermelin

Why more accountability might not improve achievement as much as hoped

A RAND study of a few years ago reported that a majority of teachers said new accountability pressures, such as measuring their effectiveness using standardized test scores, had increased their efforts to innovate instruction. However, 90% of the variance was in some districts was WITHIN school, meaning that accountability pressure was not leading to convergence on effective practices. Rather it was scattering teachers in all directions looking for fixes. This is the opposite of what the accountability reformers hoped for. They are operating from the simple feedback model: show teachers a standard to be met, provide feedback, and sit back and watch "market forces" do their magic. One reason of course there is so little convergence is the teacher isolation described in the article recently sent me and to which I responded in a previous posting. Here's another nice comment on this (see attached), and how unwittingly policy might shift focus from instruction.

Alexander Russo added an interesting post to his blog on April 17th summarizing a recent Brookings publication that critiqued the “accountability reform” as a “theoretical bank shot.”

“The contemporary data-driven "reform" movement, fundamentally, is a theoretical bank shot, where in the name of "output-based" accountability non-educators' change the subject away from teaching and learning in order to somehow improve teaching and learning. "Choosing Blindly," by the Brookings Foundation's Grover Whitehurst and Matthew Chingos, is a reminder that the best way to improve classroom outcomes is to concentrate on the real interactions in the classroom and not some statistical models. The better approach, all along, would have been to target the interactions between flesh and blood students, teachers, and the learning materials that they actually use. Whitehurst and Chingos write, "students learn principally through interactions with people (teachers and peers) and instructional materials (textbooks, workbooks, instructional software, web-based content, homework, projects, quizzes, and tests). But education policymakers focus primarily on factors removed from those interactions, such as academic standards, teacher evaluation systems, and school accountability policies." They then nail the essence of the contemporary accountability movement, "It’s as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors give their patients."

A caveat. Choosing Blindly focuses on the lack of information available on instructional materials used in the U.S. The authors argue that most teachers organize lessons and provide instruction that is influenced by instructional materials available and guidelines for the use of the materials provided by local education agencies. Others influences are acknowledged but not addressed. For example, teaching practices such as use of formative assessment, emphasis on conceptual connections as well as procedures, pedagogical content knowledge, etc.


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