There is a flurry of conversations about federal accountability policy and assessment going on around the country. You may have heard about it described as accountability 3.0. I had the opportunity to participate in one of the conversations last week and just finished listening to the conversation led by Maria Worthen, iNACOL and Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks held today based on their report A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education: Building Capacity for Systems Change. And I’m feeling inspired to jot down a couple of my thoughts:
1. Federal policy must NOT mandate competency education. We want it to enable competency education and eliminate any elements that inhibit it. Federal policy can even catalyze it. But at this point in time, federal policy should not expect everyone to do it. There are several reasons for this. First, any top down, bureaucratic approaches are just inconsistent with the student-centered, do what it takes, spirit of continuous improvement that is essential to personalized, competency-based schools. Second, we don’t have enough research and evaluation to tell us about quality implementation or what we need to ensure that special populations and struggling students benefit. We just aren’t ready yet.
2. Assessment comes before accountability. It’s almost impossible to untangle accountability from assessment in today’s policy context. That’s because the accountability system has required states to have a specific type of assessment system. This is a huge problem because assessment should be focused on helping students to learn. Instead we see it as part of the accountability system. I know this is too simple… and all the accountability and assessment experts out there might dismiss this. But I just don’t think we can go where we want to go if we start with the requirements of today’s accountability system driving learning. So I think we need to define what is really important for systems of assessments and then draw from that what might be valuable for any type of accountability system. Let’s keep our priorities straight by focusing on assessment and accountability not accountability and assessment. (more…)