Assessment and Accountability
Texas was one of the first states in the nation to embrace standardized testing and develop school accountability laws tied to assessment data, which heavily influenced federal law in the early 2000s. The enactment of state and federal accountability laws launched an entire industry related to testing and longitudinal measurement of student growth using test scores. Testing students and rating or ranking schools based on testing data have become the primary mandates in public education and drive spending, learning, and behavior in public schools. Student test performance has also been used widely as a component in educator evaluations, compensation and employment decisions, outcomes-based school funding, and other high-stakes decisions.
Federal accountability requirements for schools are primarily found within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Originally enacted by Congress in 1965, the law was reauthorized in 2001 and became known as the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) Act. Congress reauthorized the law again in 2015, referring to it as the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA). The law holds states and local schools accountable for student progress and requires that students be tested at certain intervals and in certain subjects.
The Texas Legislature adopts additional laws requiring student testing and sets the parameters of a state accountability system for schools. Currently, Texas school districts and campuses are assigned accountability ratings under an “A through F” school grading system that is based on testing data and other academic statistics. Texas schools also receive financial accountability ratings.
For schools that fail to meet state or federal accountability targets, the consequences can be harsh. Interventions and sanctions may include investigations and monitoring, public hearings, implementation of improvement plans, removal or reassignment of school personnel, the appointment of a board of managers to take over the duties of the school board, and the consolidation or closing of schools. Some school districts have partnered with charters or other entities to manage certain campuses in order to avoid tougher sanctions and, in some cases, to receive additional state funding. Accountability-related decisions that take away the authority of locally elected school boards are especially controversial.
- Proponents of high-stakes testing for accountability purposes believe the data generated from the tests should be used to punish and reward, and they favor having a standard measure to gauge the value of the public education system. Believing that testing data can provide objective measures of student growth, they favor incorporating student test scores into school accountability ratings, teacher evaluations, funding formulas, and accountability systems for educator preparation programs.
- Opponents generally believe that the high-stakes nature of testing and the amount of time devoted to it narrow the curriculum and the educational experience and detract from a skills-based, well-rounded education. Attempts to measure educators' effectiveness based on student test scores are also troublesome because the majority of all teachers teach a subject or grade level in which there is no state standardized test.
ATPE has long supported the development and implementation of assessment and accountability systems that support student learning and help educators meet the needs of their students. We believe such systems must be developed with educator input and should be transparent and statistically valid. ATPE members oppose the use of high-stakes tests as the sole measure of student achievement and believe testing data should not be the primary factor in decisions about teacher evaluations, compensation, or employment actions.
Read our member-adopted ATPE Legislative Program to learn more about our positions on assessment and accountability. Find additional information about ATPE’s advocacy efforts related to these issues on our Teach the Vote blog.