from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some interesting material on education - take a look 

As some may know, besides serving as a teacher, I am also involved in educational policy issues - as an advocate, occasional writer, and advisor to political candidates.  This coming Wednesday I am appearing at a Blue Ribbon Commission in the county in which I teach which is concerned about our schools' performance on mandatory state tests.  I am presenting primarily on my perspective as a teacher, but have been asked to include policy insights as well.

In  the process of preparing for my presentation, I explored some material from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), and encountered a list of adopted positions on educational issues from this very important professional organization.

The main ASCD webpage can be found  here.  They also have a list of adopted positions.   Let me share several of those positions.  In each case the title of the position will be followed by the date ASCD adopted that position.  I will occasionally put part of an item in BOLD. Any comments by me will apply to the PRECEDING blockquoted text.

Accountability (2001)

Students, parents, and the public appropriately hold educators accountable for providing equitable, high-quality learning experiences for all students. Historical funding inequities, flawed staffing patterns, and episodic professional development are barriers to ensuring that each student learns. Holding educators accountable for results requires providing clearly articulated expectations, sufficient resources, access to data from multiple assessments, and appropriate professional development to learn the new skills and knowledge required.

This statement on accountability touches on many important issues, incluidng the need for clear expectation, sufficient resources, and not relying upon a single measure.

Assessment and Goals (1971, 1975, 1979, 1987, 1990, 1998)

External tests should not determine the goals and content of curriculum. Educators and citizens should set curricular goals first, and teachers should have access to a variety of teaching materials and strategies by which to accomplish the goals. To evaluate results, school should use strategies and instruments designed to assess the goals.

There is no doubt that some have used tests to drive curriculum:  we have seen this in attempts in Kansas to drop evolution from testable biology content on the state tests.  Of course, in some states the way this is addressed is by imposing mandatory state curricula which in fact are aligned with mandatory state tests.

Assessment: Uses and Misuses (1998)

Policy decisions for determining what assessments will measure and when to administer them should be guided by knowing who may use the assessment data and how. Assessment is valuable when educators use it to guide programs, determine instruction, influence resource allocations, and authentically make judgments about student learning. The history of assessment reminds us that tests and their results can be misused, leading to the potential harmful classification and tracking of students and ranking of schools and school systems. This history should always inform policy decisions relating to student assessment. Assessments might include norm- or criterion-referenced tests and performance tasks to evaluate students, schools, and programs. Assessments need to clearly reflect curriculum goals, and their use should be guided by the involvement of all those affected by or who have a stake in the assessment process. The general public also needs to be fully engaged in the purposes and uses of assessment data.

Unfortunately the public is NOT informed about assessment, and scores ARE misused - realtors use school scores to steer prospective clients towards or away from certain neighborhoods. Misuse continues.  I believe the testing regimen mandated by No Child Left Behind has become one of the worst misuses of assessment ever.

Equal Access to Excellence (1999)

ASCD supports policies that provide adequate funding for all learners and recognizes that the different abilities, backgrounds, and needs of students require diverse resources and multiple approaches to high-quality teaching and learning.


In its previous statement on equity in education, ASCD had supported equal allocation of education funding. However, it is crucial that educators and policymakers realize that equal funding is not necessarily adequate funding for equal opportunity. To achieve equal access to knowledge and skill development for all students, regardless of background, race, or gender, resources must be adequate for the specific needs and circumstances of students and their families.

Equity and Standards

Standards must serve as targets for student learning, not as obstacles to student success. The implementation of standards must be accompanied by policies that guarantee adequate resources for less well-funded communities to implement mandated standards.

Equity and Funding

Due to different abilities, backgrounds, and preparation, some students require additional educational resources to achieve comparable standards and to develop the skills necessary for success. Adequate funding for some schools may mean additional funding to meet some students' learning needs. Further, spending must be linked to specific, measurable outcomes.

 This position contains a lot of key information.  The paragraph on Equity and Standards should be ever present in the minds of policy members.  What in fact has happened is that less well-funded communities and schools in communities with lower income and less-educated families have in general NOT received additional resources to achieve standards, but have been forced to SHIFT resources away from other things in order to achieve sufficient performance on the tests used to measure standards.  On this point see the next item as well.

Funding (2001)

Policymakers, sensitive to the changing school population, are introducing new initiatives to ensure that each student's needs are met. Although it is appropriate for schools to explore reallocating resources to fund new programs, they still require consistent funding over time for ongoing, successful initiatives. Funding for new accountability mandates and programs should not detract from funding that already supports student learning.

High-Stakes Testing (2001, 2004)

Decision makers in education--students, parents, educators, community members, and policymakers--all need timely access to information from many sources. Judgments about student learning and education program success need to be informed by multiple measures. Using a single achievement test to sanction students, educators, schools, districts, states/provinces, or countries is an inappropriate use of assessment. ASCD supports the use of multiple measures in assessment systems that are

    *     Fair, balanced, and grounded in the art and science of learning and teaching;

    *     Reflective of curricular and developmental goals and representative of content that students have had an opportunity to learn;

    *     Used to inform and improve instruction;

    *     Designed to accommodate nonnative speakers and special needs students; and

    *     Valid, reliable, and supported by professional, scientific, and ethical standards designed to fairly assess the unique and diverse abilities and knowledge base of all students.

 Lack of timely information from high stakes tests and reliance upon single measures is flat out wrong and unacceptabled.

Low-Performing Schools (2002)

Every student has the right to attend a high-performing school. School performance and resulting "high" or "low" designations must be determined by multiple indicators that extend beyond the use of tests. Identification and intervention strategies should focus on improving, not penalizing, schools. Interventions in "low-performing" schools should include coherent strategies that include understanding each school's unique context, strengths, and needs; ongoing professional development for staff; research-based practices; parent, student, and community involvement; and the necessary financial resources to support school transformations from low-performing to high-performing.


The identification and labeling of schools as low-performing, now part of many state and federal accountability policies in the United States, pose serious challenges to educators and affected communities. Declaring a school to be low-performing creates tension among faculty, students, and other stakeholders. Responsible interventions are required in a school when many students are not succeeding. However, the inappropriate use of rewards and sanctions connected to single measures is likely to further disagreement and controversy.

Adopted Extension (2003)

Clear expectations and appropriate support should accompany accountability policies that identify and label schools as low performing. Before the implementation of rewards, sanctions, penalties, or similar accountability policies, schools need adequate support for

    *     Professional development that ensures the capacity of teachers to teach all children well.

    *     Highly qualified teachers in every classroom.

    *     Data-driven and research-based improvement efforts that focus on raising student achievement.

    *     Assessment systems that are fair, balanced, and grounded in pedagogy that provides for special needs, high poverty, and language-minority students. Such systems should use multiple indicators that inform fair and just educational decisions on behalf of students. This includes taking into account the diversity of students and the need for timely data and formative assessment practices.

 Note again the importance of adequate funding and the warning against reliance upon single measures in the original statement.  But let me offer a caution on the adopted extension:  the passage on "data-driven" concerns me because I have seen misuse of data from what is effectively a single measure - a high stakes test even if it provides scores by subdomain within the overall subject.

Professionalism in an Era of Accountability (2000)

To enhance the professional and cultural status of educators, we need policies, practices, and resources to support the following:

    *     The creation of educational environments that bear witness to continuous growth and that empower educators to contribute their own knowledge and apply current research and inquiry to their work.

    *     Inclusion of all teachers in a professional learning community that stands for equity and quality and that incorporates collaboration and mutual support.

    *     Professional development that includes opportunities to examine research and engage in inquiry that directly relates to creative problem solving around the constraints impeding improvement efforts. Such constraints include time, curriculum, family and community expectations, externally imposed standards and mandates, and necessary resources needed to respond to such constraints.

    *     Greater attention to the moral and ethical grounding of the education profession. Moral and ethical imperatives, not simply economic utility, pervade the education profession. These imperatives arise out of the responsibility of enculturating young people into democratic societies, ensuring access to knowledge for all students, and improving teaching and learning, which is the key role of all educators.


This position arose out of a deep concern about the role of professionals in the current climate of accountability in school improvement worldwide. In almost every state in the United States, and in many countries around the world, there is serious policy and political focus on standards-based reform and the use of increasingly "high-stakes" assessments for students and, in turn, for educators responsible for student performance. The position also articulates the central role of professional development and gives specific ideas about what constitutes quality professional development. Connected to the importance of professional development is the goal of enhancing the status of educators as stewards of their own renewal, and educators' dedication to directing their professional growth to student achievement and performance.

Standards and Accountability (1999)

Public policymakers, families, schools, and communities bear the responsibility for creating the conditions and providing opportunities and resources necessary for the success of all learners. Student success in standards-based programs requires that all educational stakeholders contribute to setting standards and creating conditions for meeting them. School systems must be held publicly accountable for all students meeting standards. Educators must use multiple approaches to teaching and learning and varied methods to assess student achievement.


Accountability systems are often disconnected from what educators and researchers know actually works to improve student achievement. Many educators agree that there is an urgent need to redesign these systems. The standards movement is a good example. High standards for all students is a worthy goal, but often assessments and evaluation based on the standards are not congruent with how students learn, even when aligned with what students are taught. Student assessment for the 21st century must use diverse approaches to measure and to value multiple approaches to teaching and learning and have as an expectation that all students will improve. Further, the standards movement must not limit learning by narrowing curricula, nor inhibit creative teaching and learning that is grounded in effective practice and sound research and inquiry.

Improvement, not sorting

Accountability systems should be designed to provide useful and appropriate information for educators, policymakers, and the public. Further, standards for learning and performance and their accompanying assessments should serve as targets for inspiring and improving student learning, not as a means to sort and to rank students.

 What I have placed in bold should be self-explanatory.

Vouchers (U.S.) (1986, 1991)

Governments should not give public funds to parents, directly or indirectly, to pay for nonpublic schooling because

    *     It takes badly needed money away from public schools.

    *     It violates separation of church and state if religious schools are included.

    *     It increases inequity by encouraging the most active parents to leave the public schools.

    *     It does not provide accountability for use of public funds.

 Unfortunately this statement has been rendered moot by the decision in the Cleveland voucher case, at least at the federal level.  There are still bans in many states because of so-called Blaine amendments, but those amendments are being attacked as anti-Catholic, which in fact was their original intent.

I hope what I have provided is of some value.   These were the position statements relevant to my presentation.  There are others that might interest some who read, so this take a look.

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