Assessment and Accountability


Assessment and accountability are not new to educators, but they have been brought to the forefront as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to conduct annual mathematics and reading tests in grades 3-8. While these tests are not universally accepted, standardized testing has eliminated many innovative approaches to learning, as teachers teach to the test - knowing that their careers, as well as those of their principals and superintendents, depend on good scores.

Holding instructors accountable is no easy task, whether they are K-12 teachers or college professors. In contrast, teachers in other countries are rarely ever held responsible for student achievement. This is because assessment testing in the United States is recognized as a measure of effective instructional practices. However, negative reactions are voiced due to the following:

  • Lack of understanding of needed goals and value of assessment testing;
  • Fear of evaluations based solely on student performance in standardized testing;
  • Results may be valueless if integrity d'es not exist and teacherscontinue to teach to the test; and
  • Reaction of others based on less than perfect results.

Regardless, there is an increased emphasis on the need for accountability, and many sources are contributing. For example:

  • Schools of education are preparing teachers in better classroom management skills, improved interpersonal relationships, and the value of accountability and assessment.
  • Private companies are including assessment tools in course materials. For instance, Scantron Corp. is offering up to 1,000 free assessments per district in reading and math. However, the schools have to pay a $2,000 fee for on-site training.
  • A New Education Support Team partnership has been formed between the AOL Time Warner Foundation, The New York City Department of Education and The Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. It is an innovative five-year $3.5 million program that aids new teachers in New York City with such things as curriculum development and assessment strategies.
  • It's beginning to be recognized that there will be little chance of raising test scores or improving student achievement without raising standards for the teaching profession. Presently, only 28 states test future teachers for content knowledge.

The expansion and rapid growth of e-learning have many institutions looking at various forms of assessment. The chart above, from Training magazine (October 2002), though concerned with training, could be titled "How Education is Delivered." Instructor-led classrooms are decreasing, though it is still the preferred method of choice. And instructor-led courses from a remote location and training by a computer without an instructor will continue to grow, especially in 2003. Many evaluations of e-learning versus instructor-led learning are available, which require instructors to rethink testing strategies and their accountability.

Accountability and assessment will not go away. The results, hopefully will lead to better teaching and learning.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.