“Accountability is hard. But it is necessary if we are to expand opportunity to all children,” explained ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque recently in The New York Times’ Room for Debate.
Last week, Levesque and Kevin Welner, a professor of education and the director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, exchanged viewpoints on testing.
Read an excerpt below, and visit The New York Times’ Room for Debate for the complete discussion.
Testing Is Necessary to Expand Opportunity for All
There is a growing opportunity gap between those with knowledge and those without.
The Information Age is demanding, and the ability to succeed in it is determined early. Children who cannot read or who lack basic math skills in the early grades already have fallen woefully behind, and their chances of catching up diminish every year.
We must approach education as an urgent endeavor on which lives depend.
We do this by determining what children need to know, not what we think they can learn based on their circumstances. We then measure their progress and hold adults in the system accountable for doing their job.
Massachusetts did that when it adopted the Education Reform Act of 1993. It now is the nation’s top academic performer.
Florida adopted the A-Plus Plan slate of reforms in 1999, including the nation’s most rigorous accountability provisions. Ever since, the state has become a national leader in academic progress, with disadvantaged children showing the most gains, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (N.A.E.P.).
Tennessee, Indiana and Washington, D.C. showed the biggest overall reading and math gains on the 2013 N.A.E.P. All are reform-minded with strong accountability policies.
Kevin, you focus on the shortcomings of No Child Left Behind. But state policies, not federal requirements, drive student learning.
Successful policies include school choice for parents, accountability for every child, early-grade literacy, elimination of archaic teacher tenure policies and adoption of college-and-career ready standards measured with quality assessments.
Kevin, those on your side, including teachers unions, fight vigorously to block such reforms and then argue accountability is not working. They don’t want it to work. Instead they give us repackaged arguments for more money backed by vague assurances of results. Just don’t hold them to it.
That is why many civil rights groups support annual testing and accountability. They know a child whose progress is not monitored, whose results don’t matter, is a child likely to fall through the cracks.
“Deeper, broader learning” is something we all support. But a child who cannot read a science book cannot learn biology. A child who cannot write cannot create poetry. A child who cannot work with fractions cannot pass algebra. With no foundation in the basics, there will be no deeper, broader learning.
Accountability is hard. But it is necessary if we are to expand opportunity to all children.