Instruction That Measures Up: Successful Teaching in the Age of Accountability

Instruction That Measures Up: Successful Teaching in the Age of Accountability

Instruction That Measures Up: Successful Teaching in the Age of Accountability

Instruction That Measures Up: Successful Teaching in the Age of Accountability


High-stakes testing. Mandated content standards and benchmarks. Public scrutiny of student and school performance. Accountability. Teachers today are challenged to provide instruction that will measure up: to the expectations of administrators, parents, and taxpayers; to their own professional standards; and, most essentially, to the needs of students.

Policy debates rage in the press, and pedagogical pundits always have a new and better solution to offer, but inside the walls of the classroom, instruction boils down to teachers deciding what they want their students to learn, planning how to promote that learning, implementing those plans, and then determining if the plans worked. And the best instructional decisions are informed by empirical research, assessment evidence, and the sound judgment of the professional educator.

In this book, W. James Popham calls on his half-century in the classroom to provide a practical, four-stage framework for guiding teachers through their most important instructional decisions: curriculum determination, instructional design, instructional monitoring, and instructional evaluation. Along the way, he emphasizes the critical ways in which assessment can and should influence instruction, advocates for a dash of curricular insurrection, and offers advice for maintaining both teaching excellence and teachers' sanity.


I’ve spent most of my life in schools of one sort or another. For more than a half-century, I’ve seen firsthand what goes on in classrooms. Based on those observations, I have no doubt that what’s taking place instructionally in many of today’s classrooms is dramatically different from what was taking place in classrooms when, as a beginning teacher, I cranked out my first lesson plans and used a sometimes-screechy piece of chalk to write my students’ assignments on a real slate blackboard.

You could point to countless differences between the classrooms of today and yesterday, including my blackboard’s evolution to green (and then to white and completely chalk-free) and the infusion of all sorts of sophisticated electronic gear. But perhaps the most meaningful difference revolves around the use of significant educational tests to provide accountability evidence that schools and teachers are doing what they are supposed to do. That’s an enormous change. When I was first teaching, if someone at a faculty meeting had used the word accountability, my colleagues and I would have thought it referred to what an accountant or a bookkeeper did. Accountability, in those days, had absolutely nothing to do with education. That was then. It’s true that the intensity of pressure on teachers to have their students perform well on external . . .

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