Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Factors to Consider When Evaluating School Accountability Results

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Factors to Consider When Evaluating School Accountability Results

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper contains an overview of factors to consider when evaluating the validity and reliability of interpretations and uses of results used for the purpose of complying with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.1 A number of factors are identified and used to examine current interpretations and uses of assessment results for purposes of accountability. A concern is that sanctions and consequences may be imposed on schools through the use of invalid and unreliable results. Specific NCLB Act (NCLB) requirements are identified and used to examine this claim. The requirements include: The development and implementation of content and performance standards and standards-based assessments; Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) with a focus on potential negative impact based on immediate implementation and vague operational definitions; and sanctions and consequences. Clarification of interpretations and uses of results is provided to develop a better understanding for stakeholders who are responsible for making policy and educational decisions. In conclusion, the author suggests that the NCLB Act creates an opportunity for all states to develop and implement valid and reliable accountability systems that clearly and accurately identify effective schools and also provide adequate support to schools in need of improvement so that all students are able to receive quality and effective instruction that improves academic achievement and ultimately allows for students to reach their full potential.

I. INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this paper is to identify factors that are not accounted for but create difficulties with interpretations and uses of results that are generated and used for purposes of school accountability. The importance of the process of validation is repeatedly emphasized with examples of contextual differences that exist between schools to examine the clarity, accuracy, and justifiability of interpretations and uses of results. A primary concern is that some schools face the possibility of confronting consequences and sanctions based on results that may be invalid and unreliable.2

The paper begins with a statement of the problem followed by a historical overview of federal educational funding policies to suggest that the primary purpose for the NCLB Act3 is to ensure that schools are truly accountable for making AYP toward providing all students with quality and effective educational experiences and opportunities that enable them to continually achieve academic success. In addition, NCLB requirements are intended to ensure that historically disadvantaged and special groups of students are also included as part of the vision of improved academic achievement. These thoughts are different from one suggesting that the primary goal of NCLB is to place control of public education in the hands of the federal government.

The historical overview on federal funding is followed by a general overview of NCLB, which is comprised of several requirements but only a select few are used to identify factors that are not included in the methods used for the purpose of determining AYR The discussion begins by defining content and performance standards to identify their intended purpose. Although the content and performance standards appear to be a logical approach to improving academic achievement, there are concerns toward the likelihood of differentiated school and student impact that will be created by requiring the same standards for all students.

The discussion on standards-based assessments defines the intended purpose for assessments and identifies concerns with the difficulty of making clear and accurate interpretations of results in order to make better use of the information they provide. Difficulties with interpretations are based, in part, on a lack of contextual information to allow one a better understanding of existing differences between schools. Other concerns with high-stakes accountability are the potential for corruption of indicators and the difficulties that educators have in being able to clearly and accurately interpret and use results in meaningful ways. …

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