The English use school inspectors as well as centralized testing to provide feedback to principals, inform parents and identify “serious weakness,” writes Iftikhar Hussain in Education Next.
Inspectors visit schools once in three to six years. They observe classes, interview school leaders, examine students’ work and talk to students and parents. In addition, students take a national test at age 7, 11, 14, and 16.
From 2006 to 2009, 13 percent of schools were rated Outstanding, 48 percent Good and 33 percent were Satisfactory. Six percent failed: 4.5 percent were moderate fails and 1.5 percent required “special measures.”
Schools that receive a moderate fail rating are subject to additional inspections, with an implicit threat of a downgrade to the severe fail category if inspectors judge improvements to be inadequate. Schools that receive the severe fail rating may experience more dramatic consequences: these can include changes in the school leadership team and the school’s governing board, increased resources, as well as increased oversight from the inspectors.
Inspector ratings are correlated with student- and parent-reported measures of school quality, even after controlling for test-score results and other school characteristics, writes Hussain.
Fail ratings lead to test score improvements that are especially large for the lowest-scoring students, Hussain finds. “These results are consistent with the view that children of low-income parents, arguably the least vocal in holding teachers accountable, benefit the most from inspections.”
Some U.S. education reformers see school inspectors as a way to hold schools accountable without relying exclusively on test scores.