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Teacher Accountability and Student Testing

NEA supports strong accountability of teachers, students and schools. A good accountability system uses multiple measures of progress, instead of relying solely on standardized test scores.

Accountability - A Shared Responsibility

Schools, teachers and students should all be held to high standards, and NEA believes that accountability should be shared by schools, education employees, policymakers and parents -- with the ultimate goal of helping every student succeed.

Taxpayers and parents have a right to know that their money is being spent appropriately and that schools are doing their job. However, expectations for student achievement must be in line with the investments that states and communities make in public education. Calls for raising student performance must be accompanied by additional resources for up-to-date textbooks, quality teachers and smaller class sizes.

In addition, any discussion of accountability must take into account how well state standards and expectations are aligned with -- that is, consistent with -- curriculum, instructional materials and classroom practices. After all, it's not reasonable to hold students accountable for lessons they have not been taught.

Finally, NEA believes that all schools that receive public money -- including charter schools and private schools receiving vouchers -- should be held accountable to the taxpayers and communities they serve.

Standardized Tests - Only One Piece of the Puzzle

In recent years, states have increasingly relied on standardized test scores as the most important and in some cases only measure of whether or not schools are meeting expectations. The federal government joined in the high-stakes testing furor through the  "No Child Left Behind" Act, which includes a heavy annual testing component -- and tough penalties for schools that fail to raise scores.

NEA does not believe that standardized test scores should be the only factor in determining progress in student learning -- and parents agree, according to a recent PTA poll.

  • At best, standardized tests can measure only certain kinds of student learning -- and can't give a complete picture of what an individual child needs.
  • Comparing standardized test scores across schools, districts and states doesn't take into account important differences in school funding or parent and community support to help students succeed.

NEA believes that standardized testing should be only one component of accountability. A good accountability system uses multiple measures to determine progress:

  • For teachers, evaluations are a more rigorous and thorough accountability system than standardized test scores.
  • For students, assessment also should take into account classroom assignments, grades, scores on teacher-developed tests and other performance measures.
  • For schools, assessments should take into account graduation rates, progress on standardized tests (as opposed to just raw test scores) and other measures.

Standardized tests should be used to guide instruction by helping identify gaps in learning and groups of students who need the most help. But test scores alone should never be used to punish students, teachers or schools by cutting funding, closing schools or firing teachers.


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