Inspections

Those who oppose standardized test accountability have been challenged over the years: do you support no accountability, or different accountability? Richard Rothstein, a scholar at Economic Policy Institute, took up the challenge. His book critiques state testing as too narrow. Instead, he proposes something like the British school inspections.

But that British inspection system may not be all it's cracked up to be, according to a story in the London Times. The inspectors can only check if School X promotes learning how to read, but cannot inspect if kids can actually read.

What was Amy allowed to inspect? She sighed. Ofsted orders inspectors to concentrate on social welfare, behaviour and attendance. They have to check if children are “independent learners” in charge of their own education and if a child enjoys “ownership” of its work. Work should not be corrected in red ink by the teacher.

She was shocked to see that a child’s work was often marked only one in three times for accuracy. Even then, children were not asked to write corrections.

I think inspections combined with test data are better than either one alone. In Massachusetts, charter schools are reviewed every five years with an inspection (which includes but is not limited to analysis of test data).

Ed Schools are currently inspected through quasi-governmental regulators called "accreditors." The process is supposed to change, thanks to external pressure (Duncan, Arne). The critique is similar to the Times story above; too input-driven, missing the big picture.

But we're just at the beginning of that process. Any Ed Schools which would be "nailed" under the new regime will presumably fight back, possibly shopping for another accreditor with a lower bar.

Others who will fight back: those who care about any "input" that becomes stripped from the inspection process. For example, if NCATE were to say "We're eliminating all our requirements about libraries, because Ed Schools might well come up with very different ways for masters and doctoral students to get information"...well some association of university libraries would fight back with all they got.

Meanwhile, Ed Schools will increasingly be measured by downstream test scores linked to the students taught by their alums.