Priorities for Changing NCLB:
Where does the NEA stand on accountability, testing, and standards?
NEA welcomes public accountability. NEA opposes invalid, inappropriate, and unreliable accountability that destroys morale and sucks the energy and joy out of teaching and learning.
Accountability that makes sense keeps its eye on the goal -- supporting student learning. It uses test results to identify student needs and guide instruction. It includes multiple measures of student learning and school effectiveness. It values the role of teachers and other classroom educators. It provides resources for improvement and technical assistance to schools that need help.
Standards that fail to recognize that students learn at different rates and fail to acknowledge progress set students up for failure. Tests alone cannot raise student achievement. Tests should be not be used to stigmatize students or schools or educators.
Where does NEA stand on NCLB's accountability, testing, and standards provisions?
Accountability under NCLB is an exercise in misleading measures. Students and schools are labeled based upon a single snapshot, two fill-in-the bubble test scores. They alone determine whether a school has met the required proficiency in reading and math. They do not provide a realistic picture of student achievement or what is happening in a school.
The Adequate Yearly Progress measure (AYP), in fact, does not measure progress. AYP does not recognize student growth. It particularly fails to reflect accurately the needs and academic growth of special education students and English language learners.
In the real world, teachers must take students from where they are and help them grow. Students who may have started far behind are not given credit for marked gains in achievement, and the school's efforts are not recognized.
More and more schools are being labeled "in need of improvement." Why?
AYP sets 37 benchmarks against which schools are ranked. A school must achieve each of the 37 benchmarks to meet AYP. Schools that fail to meet even one benchmark are labeled "in need of improvement."
The student body as a whole, as well as each sub-group of students, is held to the same standard. A subgroup is made up of students who share certain characteristics (students who are economically disadvantaged, students of color, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency). This rigid formula does not recognize that students learn at different rates and in different ways.
This "failing" label is applied in the same way to schools that miss only one of the 37 fixed markers as it is to schools that miss all 37. AYP fails to differentiate between effective and ineffective schools. It is inevitable that under this ill-conceived formula, the number of schools labeled "in need of improvement" will continue to go up.
What is NEA doing to support an accountability system that makes sense?
NEA is waging an intensive campaign -- working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle -- to make fundamental changes to AYP. We are pressing Congress to shift from the one-size-fits-all accountability model to one that:
- Stops measuring schools based on just two test scores
- Uses multiple measures and methods (such as local assessments, teacher-developed tests, student portfolios, graduation/dropout rates, college enrollment rates, and percent of students taking advanced classes and AP exams) to assess whether schools have improved student learning
- Uses growth models instead of the current snapshot method that compare this year's 3rd graders with last year's 3rd graders. Students learn at different rates and in different ways. Growth models acknowledge the progress that students make over time and recognize significant academic gains.
- Shifts from labeling and penalizing schools and teachers to acknowledging success and using growth results to guide instruction and professional development.