For almost two decades, school accountability has focused on creating clear content standards for what students should know and when they should know it, testing to measure their mastery of those standards, and applying consequences and rewards to those responsible for the success of students in meeting the standards.
School accountability has worked. It has contributed to rising, impressive NAEP scores and record graduation rates. Long-term trend results, which were absolutely flat in the decade just before accountability became the norm in the country, improved dramatically between 2000 and 2008. There was generally improvement in reading and math by a significant rate of one to two grade levels among 9- and 13-year-old African American and Hispanic students during this decade.
Yet, momentum has recently slowed. Student results have begun to stagnate, just as accountability policies have weakened. The long-term trend data for 2008 through 2012 is beginning to show a clear pattern of flattening.
Don’t get me wrong, we need to fix the problems within accountability systems. Yet we must stay the course with rigorous, sensible and fair accountability.