A New Paradigm: Balanced Accountability

K-12 Testing

Building on the principles of the Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind, the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) has put forth a vision of balanced accountability that replaces NCLB's focus on tests and punishment with a capacity-building model stressing professional development and family involvement.


FEA members unveiled a new report, Redefining Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity http://www.fairtest.org/FEA_Home.html in February and presented their recommendations to congressional education committees.


The FEA report's capacity-building approach represents a stark contrast to NCLB, which fails to bolster schools and ignores underlying issues that prevent children and schools from improving. For example, the law currently forces districts to spend federal grant money on transferring students to other schools and on unaccountable, private tutoring companies. In addition, it mandates unproven and potentially destructive "changes in governance" under the guise of "restructuring" that can include private control of schools and districts.


Redefining Accountability instead focuses on professional development, parental involvement and support for families, and an approach to accountability that balances inputs, processes and outcomes. It defines six principles for high-quality professional development and describes how schools, districts and states will collaborate to meet real educational needs. FEA also recommends that the federal government fund literacy training for parents and mentoring for youth who need more adult attention.


The FEA's accountability proposals hold schools and districts responsible for implementing "systemic changes" aimed at improving student learning. Schools also would be expected to reach rates of improvement currently attained by a significant percentage of Title I schools. Schools that cannot make positive changes or that fail to demonstrate a "positive trend in learning outcomes" will be given additional, targeted assistance, with stronger interventions aimed at those which do not improve despite added assistance.


Later this spring, the FEA will release a report containing detailed recommendations for improved assessment approaches. The FEA is a working group of some of the signers of the Joint Statement.


- The full report, Redefining Accountability, is online at: http://www.edaccountability.org/pdf/FEA-CapacityBuilding.pdf.
- The report, an Executive Summary, and the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB with a list of signers are posted at http://www.edaccountability.org/ as well as www.fairtest.org