Is There (Finally) a New Paradigm for “Teacher Accountability?”

Two compelling events happened yesterday, each raising the possibility of a new paradigm for teacher accountability and each important in its own way.

First, Bill Gates published an op-ed in the Washington Post, “A fairer way to evaluate teachers.” Here is the heart of the piece:

This is one reason there is a backlash against standardized tests — in particular, using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers. I’m all for accountability, but I understand teachers’ concerns and frustrations.

Even in subjects where the assessments have been validated, such as literacy and math, test scores don’t show a teacher areas in which they need to improve.

If we aren’t careful to build a system that provides feedback and that teachers trust, this opportunity to dramatically improve the U.S. education system will be wasted.

This comes from the man, through his foundation and reputation, who has been one of the most influential educational “reformers” in the past decade. And even he is cautioning us about the ways in which the current push to tie test scores to teacher accountability is wrong-headed. Finally.

NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning
NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning

On another front, the National Center for Literacy Education shared a new report, “Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works” on Capitol Hill. The main findings include:

  1. Literacy is not just the English teacher’s job anymore.
  2. Working together is working smarter.
  3. But schools aren’t structured to facilitate educators working together.
  4. Many of the building blocks for remodeling literacy learning are in place.
  5. Effective collaboration needs systemic support.

This morning, I participated with colleagues on the NCTE Task Force about computerized scoring and the PARC and SBAC assessments. We have a plan for a white paper, and hope to have it done next week.

So, is there maybe, just maybe, a bit of hope for a new paradigm in teacher accountability dawning on this fine spring day? With the complete lunacy of our current accountability system now exposed for the racket that it is, my hope is that we are turning a new page for students, parents, teachers, and our nation.

Update: April 5, 2013

In addition to correcting a grammar error, a colleague has also suggested that I add a link to Peter Smagorinsky’s op-ed from April 3rd, “Seeing teachers as technicians ignores what else they give students: confidence, moral support and inspiration.” Here is a brief segment from his post that highlights his main ideas for rethinking teacher evaluation:

In order for a teacher evaluation system to be legitimate, it should have a related set of qualities that go well beyond the simplistic approach imposed by the U.S. Department of Education. A credible evaluation system is valid (it has buy-in from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives, including the teachers for whom it is developed); it is reliable (similar results would be available from different assessors); it has utility for all participants regardless of the outcome of the evaluation (including those who are found deficient); it fosters the development of better teachers; it provides data that contribute to this development by attending to multiple facets of faculty performance; and it is conducted respectfully in terms of the magnitude of the job and the resources provided to undertake it.

I look forward to hearing more about his proposal at the CEE conference later this summer and when it is published in English Education later this year.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

8 thoughts on “Is There (Finally) a New Paradigm for “Teacher Accountability?””

  1. It’s really a cool and useful piece of info. I’m glad
    that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  2. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this issue here on your web site.

    Like

  3. Why do you think it has taken so long for other teachers to become accountable for teaching literacy as well? I feel like it should be a teacher’s responsibility, regardless of the subject, to make sure that students are literate in their areas.

    Like

    1. This is another good question, Tyler. My simple response to this is that many teachers who are in other content areas have, traditionally, seen all reading and writing as curricular tasks that fall under the purview of the English teacher alone. As we have moved through the past three decades — and made many shifts in our theoretical and practical understanding of what it means to be “literate” — all of us are starting to see the highly specialized ways in which we use literacy in various genres such as creating a lab report, a movie review, a description of solving a math problem, or a historical analysis. As we continue to learn about the CCSS and invite our cross-content area colleagues into conversations about how best to teach reading and writing, we should acknowledge their disciplinary expertise and work to understand how they view reading and writing in their subjects.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s