‘Test and punish’ is a state of mind

Test-and-Punish Accountability is a State of Mind, not the State of Reality, argues Anne Hyslop , a New America Foundation policy analyst.

Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond and AFT President Randi Weingarten want to move from “test-and-punish” accountability to a system built on “support-and-improve.”

President Clinton already tried that, Hyslop writes. “Support-and-improve”  became “do-nothing.”

Even when states and district do something to improve schools, results are meager.

After billions invested in retooled School Improvement Grants since 2010, with more resources and more intensive strategies, many under-performing schools have seen no improvements, and a third declines, under the program. Meanwhile, the research on NCLB-style accountability—with consequences—has found positive effects on student achievement, especially for low-performing students and in math.

Furthermore, the “punish” part of “test-and-punish” has vanished, Hyslop writes. “Thanks to the Obama administration’s No Child Left Behind waivers, there don’t have to be stakes, for anyone, on upcoming state tests. None.”

The accountability moratorium will last till 2017 — or longer.

Most reformers believes states should try new “support-and-improve” approaches “in tandem with meaningful accountability systems,” not as an alternative, she writes.

What is incompatible with the support-and-improve mindset is the choices of some elected officials, school administrators, and educators. If drill-and-kill, or weeks of rote test prep, or a testing week “pep rally” is the best you can come up with in response to a system of accountability, then something went terribly wrong, and it isn’t the test.

Transform the response to accountability, Hyslop argues. The test-and-punish culture is a very bad choice. “There are alternatives that don’t sacrifice high-quality, rich instruction at the altar of test-based accountability.”

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  1. Furthermore, the “punish” part of “test-and-punish” has vanished, Hyslop writes. “Thanks to the Obama administration’s No Child Left Behind waivers, there don’t have to be stakes, for anyone, on upcoming state tests. None.”

    This statement is true for the adults, but not true for the students. Test results are used for honors placements in my district, even if the district didn’t bother to teach some of the material on the test.

    • Mike in Texas says:

      Wrong. The waivers require changes in state laws so that teachers are evaluated in part by their test scores.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Mike, you are, of course, right that the waivers require changes in state laws. However, as they say in the legal biz, those requirements “are not self-executing.” At some point, someone in the U.S. Department of Education has to say, “You have not changed your laws sufficiently. We are revoking your waiver.” There is a real question whether that will actually happen.

        • D's Squirrel Food says:

          It’s already happened to Washington state.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            The waiver has been revoked? If so, have there been any consequences yet? Has any federal money been withheld?

            Have all the schools been declared failing, and then closed because none of them achieved total proficiency by 2014, which was a requirement of NCLB? (Yeah, that last one is sarcasm.)

          • D's Squirrel Food says:
          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Thanks for the cite. According the story, Washington state has lost its waiver because it won’t include student test scores in teacher evaluations, and three more states may lose waivers for the same reason.

            So far, the state has not lost any federal money. However, low-performing Washington schools now must use 40 million federal dollars for traditional NCLB remedies rather than being able to do what they want with the money.

  2. What ever happened to accountability? We had an article here in Las Vegas where a young lady (a 12th grader) at a local high school who has a 3.4 GPA, took honors and A.P. classes, was co-captain of the cheerleading squad, and can’t receive her diploma because she failed 3 of 4 required exams for graduation (we call them proficiency exams).

    She only passed the writing exam, failed the math exam (by one point), and was unable to pass the reading and science exams (despite 6 or 7 attempts).

    Her mom is whining that she can’t walk at graduation, due to the fact the state legislature removed the “Certificate of Attendance” which used to be awarded to students who passed all their classes, but did not pass all of the required exit exams.

    Though I actually wonder if she actually earned that 3.4 GPA, due to the fact there are many students who passed all four exams as sophomores, and she’s unable to pass after 6 or 7 attempts .