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Connected Educator Month, The Challenge

homepageThroughout the month of October, NCTE has been a theme leader, covering “Innovations in Assessment“. Throughout the month, we have also been issuing a challenge: How can we re-envision assessments for accountability and equity?

In the debate over the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act over the past year, many teacher groups have come out strongly in opposition to continued yearly standardized testing of all students, noting their often disastrous impact on the learning environment in schools and the inability for testing results to provide a complete picture of student learning. Many members of the public have also expressed their dissatisfaction with overtesting students, with families across the country (over 20% in New York) opting their children out of state tests this year. However, many civil rights organizations, natural and traditional allies of teachers, have vehemently opposed any reduction in testing or states’ accountability to act on the basis of the inequities that tests uncover. They argue that if we don’t test all students every year, we have no way of knowing whether students in certain communities or vulnerable or traditionally underserved groups—such as students in poverty, students of color, those with disabilities, or English language learners—are not learning what they need to know to be successful in adult life. Addressing these inequities is a crucial civil rights issue, and unless inequities are measured, they are easy for policymakers and district leaders to ignore.

Holding leaders accountable to their responsibility to ensure that ALL students have access to a high quality education and graduate with the skills they need to be successful in college, careers, and civic life was a driving force behind the debate about ESEA fifty years ago. Ensuring equity is a key civil rights issue. However, relying on yearly standardized testing as the sole measure of success is a deeply flawed approach to addressing the issue. Challenges in the current debate over reauthorization of ESEA reveals a lack of understanding about alternative ways to meet this imperative.

We invite you to join us in the challenge to envision what an accountability system of the future might look like, one that:

  • Engages the need for equity head on while also ensuring that evidence of student learning is gathered in ways that are consistent with good instructional practice
  • Mirrors the ways that educators themselves effectively use evidence to improve instruction
  • Measures the full range of important contributions to student learning and development, providing a more holistic view of student progress

It is also essential that any new system focuses on holding the whole educational system (including state policymakers) accountable for its results, not individual teachers or their students.

We’re inviting people with innovative ideas in this arena, particularly those who are already experimenting with new approaches, to share them through a series of online discussions during Connected Educators Month. NCTE will be continuing to explore this challenge beyond October, and we hope your contributions during CEM will launch deeper collaboration with us in the coming months. If you are interested in working with us on this issue but can’t commit to doing anything in October, please get in touch anyway. Have an approach to share? Let us know! Contact Darren Cambridge, NCTE director of policy research and development at dcambridge@ncte.org or +1-202-270-5224.