Over the past decade, educational reforms have increased efforts to hold teachers and schools accountable for student test scores. Schools without significant progress on test scores have been subject to reductions in funding and even replacement of school leadership. The purpose of these actions is to increase student achievement by raising teacher effectiveness and bringing up the performance of low-performing schools. Yet critics of these accountability systems have argued that they will not lead to meaningful increases in student learning because of incentives to “teach to the test” at the expense of more valuable classroom activities, leading students to have deficits in critical thinking skills.
Based on work he has done for The Hamilton Project, Derek Neal of the University of Chicago outlines a plan to create better assessments and accountability systems to avoid these perverse incentives. The new assessment system would use two different styles of examinations: one traditional test to evaluate student achievement, and a new examination to evaluate teacher performance. Neal provides guidelines for the development of this innovative approach to assessment and details how teacher performance can be measured using a relative scale. An ideal accountability system would combine these new assessments with non-test metrics such as classroom observations, school inspections, and parental input in order to also capture students’ social and emotional development.