FairTest Key Recommendations to the Senate, October 16, 2011

FairTest key recommendations to the Senate, October 16, 2011:

Here are FairTest’s key points that should be part of a Senate bill. We rely in part on the recommendations of the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA). We specifically respond to some of the points in the Harkin-Enzi bill to reauthorize NCLB/ESEA.

  1. Do not mandate any additional standardized testing; there is already far too much. Do not use teacher or principal evaluation as a reason to require more tests. The Harkin-Enzi bill will require tens of millions more standardized tests of students so that every teacher and principal can be judged “in significant part” by student test scores. A competing bill by Sens. Alexander and Isakson makes creating systems to evaluate educators an option for states.
  2. Do not mandate the use of student test scores to judge educators in any federally funded program. The Harkin-Enzi bill requires this. The accuracy of student test scores for judging educators is little better than flipping a coin.  
  3. Do not require states to rate schools of education based on the test scores of students taught by their graduates. The inaccuracy of judging classroom educators by their students’ test scores is compounded when used to judge the teachers’ schools of education. [See references to 1 and 2.]
  4. Do not mandate the use of so-called “value-added” or “growth” models for evaluating students or educators.
  5. Do authorize funding to help states, districts and schools develop locally-controlled, teacher-led performance assessments for formative and summative purposes.
  6. Do require locally-designed school turnaround efforts that expect schools to improve through a focus on the “common elements” of leadership; staffing and instruction; professional learning/development; curriculum; school climate; and parent, caregiver and community engagement and support. This would be required of the most troubled schools, encouraged in all Title I schools.
  7. Do hold schools accountable “for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement” (Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind, signed by 155 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent and civic organizations). Require evaluations of the causes of weak learning outcomes in the most needy schools, then mandate development and implementation of improvement plans, to be overseen by the district, that address the “common elements.” Require annual reporting on progress and proposed changes. Recommend this process be used voluntarily by all Title I schools.
  8. Do require states to create opportunity-to-learn indicators that would include community conditions (such as family poverty and mobility rate, and economic or racial segregation), school resources and conditions, and student outcomes. Also require states to develop strategies for providing resources to overcome inequities and inadequacies identified by the indicators.
  9. Do halt exclusionary discipline and support proven practices known as “restorative justice” and “positive behavioral supports.”


Note: A version of this appeared in The Answer Sheet blog on October 7, 2011. That version included links to materials that provide evidence or more explanation to back up the short bullet points here.