Accountability Excessiveness

I haven’t written in a while because I’m having trouble prioritizing this. I think one of my challenges is that I don’t want to write junk but I know how much time it would take to write what I want to write. So I just put it off.

This isn’t going to be what I want to write. But at least it will be getting some of my thoughts out of my head and here instead.

from Gwydion M Williams’s flickr

I spent an hour and a half yesterday in training for our state standardized tests. I am now aware of how much time my students and I are going to need to spend exploring and understanding how to use the online testing program. There are so many tools and things for them to know before the tests in a month. So instead of spending time exploring books or nature or magnets or building blocks or something else, we’ll spend time exploring an online testing program. A program that likely costs my state a large amount of money.

I spent all day today in training to score binders for a state alternate assessment. In two weeks I’ll spend two days scoring. There were about 100 of us in training today. More folks will be trained tomorrow and Thursday. These alternate assessments are in binders (about 20,000 of them for our district) with many, many pages in each.

The time, energy, and money spent on accountability measures is horrifying to me. I’m not anti-accountability, but I’m anti-the-way-we’re-doing-it-now.

4 replies on “Accountability Excessiveness”

  1. Tara says:

    First…I, too, am learning that it is better to finish and share than it is to get everything perfect. I’d like both with the data project I am posting this year, but I am learning to accept that it’s good to put ideas into the world. Others can help me shape them.

    Second…as an assessment director for a district, I end up having lots of conversations about the accountability piece. I don’t think it’s bad—I think that the public deserves to have some sort of measure for the investment of their tax dollars. However, I do think that we put too much emphasis on it. In other words, I don’t object to the testing, but I don’t think the results should show up on Zillow. I also advocate for students to understand how any test (including the paper/pencil type) “works,” but there needn’t be days spent with that.

    I don’t know what the whole answer is, but I do know that part of it has something to do with how we define transparency in this age of accountability. Our district is tiny compared to yours, and we transmit over 500K fields of information to the state each week. Very little of that is ever available to the public due to student privacy concerns. What else can we all (big and little districts) share that everyone can understand? Hmmm.

    • jenorr says:

      I love that you’ve validated my frustrations without whining in any way and then got me thinking about this in a whole new direction. Maybe if I think about what information I think should be shared with families, the community, and the wider public, that will help me consider what matters in this whole accountability craziness.

  2. Karla says:

    I think about the emotional cost that accountability is having on some of our third and fourth graders. Students that have higher levels of anxiety because they are worried about taking and passing a test.

    I wonder about eye fatigue / strain that our kids have when testing all day staring at a computer screen. Even with two-day testing, our kids are having to stare at a crt for three to six hours. It isn’t healthy for our eyes to read hour on end on a screen.

    The state tests do not always reflect what a student has been taught during the school year.
    For students that understand the semantics of the questions, the State tests are fine.
    My daughter can break questions down to figure out what is being asked.
    My son knows the content, but isn’t sure what is being asked.
    He is able to show his knowledge and perform better using a format other than an online test.

    Spending hours learning how to use testing tools for an online test is necessary for our kids to pass the tests. They need to know how to drag and turn the measurement tools, to their advantage.

    At what point is the accountability too much for our kids? Will they burn out from numerous high stake tests and become apathetic about school?

    Not proofed….

    • jenorr says:

      I believe the anxiety issue is a significant one. I also have issues with the tech stuff. I adore technology and believe there is so much power in it, but too often we use it for the lowest possible options.

      My husband can pass a standardized test in a content area which is completely new to him. His sister, equally smart, talks herself out of right answers frequently. She was valedictorian of her high school class and salutatorian of her college class (he was neither).

      So, all that is to say that you’ve hit on many of my concerns. I fear kids will either burn out or not learn how to actually learn, an important skill in life.

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