I spend a lot of time talking with state chiefs, policy makers, teachers, and parents about the need for tests. I often think about this debate as analogous to running a business. As CEO, I am accountable to my employees, customers, and shareholders each and every day. I am put to the “test” all of the time and I am measured by results — both quantitatively and qualitatively. This is good business practice and appropriate accountability. As we think about serving our kids in our 14,000+ school districts, the need for accountability is no different.
I understand all of the arguments around over-testing our kids. However, I will challenge anyone to measure growth and competency without assessing. We do it all the time — every day. It happens both formatively and summatively.
As a parent, the first place I go when evaluating schools for my two kids are the schools’ state test scores. Why? Data-driven decision making and accountability is necessary for all of us to grow and make good decisions. School leaders, teachers, and students need a report card that tells us if we are moving forward or backwards and as a parent, I want to measure quality, equity, and performance of my neighborhood schools. Without a scorecard from which to start most parents wouldn’t know how to choose what is best for their kids. I have had the great fortune of working in education for a long time so I know the instructional questions to ask to ensure I can measure schools beyond just the test scores — this is not something every parent has access to or knowledge of. As CEO of an assessment company, I am not advocating that the way we test today is the perfect method. I am advocating that we need to assess to know what our kids know and don’t know and we need to make sure we are holding all of us accountable for results, and furthermore, giving our teachers good tools and information to better serve our kids.
I am optimistic to see both the house and senate working on reforms to ESEA and as a great nation we will have many debates around these issues in the coming months. Let’s debate in the best interest of our kids. At the end of the day we cannot forget that all of this impacts them in a very real and very lasting way. Let’s be accountable as leaders and move innovative and accountable education reform forward.