PACE explores accountability policy impacts on educators
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- Subject: PACE explores accountability policy impacts on educators
- From: Peter Farruggio <email@example.com>
- Date: Tue, 02 Mar 2004 05:26:30 -0800
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From PACE (notice there is no comment on the validity of the standardized
PACE explores accountability policy impacts on educators
By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations | 26 February 2004
BERKELEY ? California's educators appreciate state efforts to improve
student achievement and low-performing schools, but are frustrated by a
lack of support and teaching resources for addressing achievement gaps,
according to a new report and joint policy brief.
Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a policy research center
at the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and Stanford
University, is presenting its research findings about the impacts of public
school accountability policies today (Thursday, Feb. 26) at a news
conference in Sacramento.
Joining PACE to present additional data on school accountability reform in
California will be the American Institutes for Research and the Consortium
for Policy Research in Education. These three independent research
organizations will release a joint policy brief, discussing overlapping
findings and recommendations.
State Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, will attend today's news
conference to comment on the reports.
PACE's full report and the joint policy brief will be released Friday, Feb.
27, at a Sacramento seminar for education policymakers.
"School accountability continues to dominate discussions of education among
policymakers, educators and the community, and promises to be a critical
issue in this year's election," said Elisabeth Woody, director of PACE's
Educator Responses to Accountability Project. "Yet, little is known about
how teachers and school administrators are experiencing and responding to
the state's efforts to improve education."
Woody said she hopes the study is a "first step" in the investigation and
sharing of knowledge about how to improve schools and ensures high levels
of accountability and student performance.
Researchers concluded that policymakers should continue to listen to
educators and consider providing more focused support to the
lowest-performing schools. They also said policymakers should support
teachers' use of ongoing assessments and data to address inequities in
These findings and policy recommendations come at a time of potential
shifts in California's system of school accountability, as the state's
testing and assessment program is up for reauthorization this year, and the
new governor has proposed changes in public school funding.
PACE and the two other organizations investigating these issues have found
that, while the policies are producing benefits, they also are having
unintended, negative consequences.
For example, testing and test preparation are displacing other
instructional activities. "There's so much that they expect you to do that
it's science that doesn't get taught, art doesn't get taught," a teacher is
quoted as saying in the PACE study. "The things that cause children to love
school and learn on their own are being cut out."
Another teacher interviewed estimated that a month of each school year is
spent in testing. "And our kids are in school for only eight months. So
what is that? Twelve percent? And that is a long time that you cannot
really be teaching them..."
Given teachers' time constraints, the PACE report says it is not surprising
that they focus on teaching the subjects that form the basis for evaluating
student, teacher and school performance.
The study also found another shortcoming of the state system: Annual
testing is done late in the school year, with results unavailable until
late summer. The delay prevents teachers from using those test scores to
inform and modify instruction during the school year, it said.
Researchers did find that some schools are instituting their own measures
for more timely monitoring of student performance and progress.
"We're using assessments in smaller increments to see student growth
instead of, 'Oh, the next grade level, what do we do with them (now)?'"
said a teacher in the PACE study. "And we're really trying to assess
students and change our instruction while they're still in the classroom."
The researchers also report that educators are not always aware of the data
available about how various student subgroups are performing, and do not
always have the needed skills to analyze such information.
Researchers suggest that state and district leaders fund professional
development to provide teachers with data analysis skills and ways to best
use student achievement data in the classroom.
PACE also found that California's teachers feel unfairly burdened with the
responsibility of guaranteeing that students meet standards and improve
"Teachers felt they were usually the ones blamed for any occurrences of low
performance at their schools," says the study. "They advocated instead for
a more holistic approach to student achievement, pointing out that
administrators, parents and students also play a role in a school's
successes or failures."
The role of principals and district officials in school accountability is
largely overlooked, researchers across the three organizations found.
Although state policies hold schools rather than districts directly
accountable for meeting targets, researchers discovered that districts
determine how those policies are implemented, and often implement
additional measures of their own, including district assessments and
professional development. The American Institutes for Research found that
district officials played a key role in deciding which schools would enter
the state's program to assist low-performing schools.
PACE, the American Institutes for Research, and the Consortium for Policy
Research in Education are among the first research organizations in
California to look at how accountability reforms affect classroom teaching,
educators' sense of professionalism, and the shifting role of the district
in navigating new mandates.
During the 2002-2003 school year, their researchers interviewed more than
250 teachers, principals and district administrators to see how they are
experiencing and responding to major school accountability reforms
implemented since 1999. The Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999
created a system of new curriculum standards, statewide testing, and
rewards and sanctions. In the past two years, the state's schools have also
seen additional layers of reporting and sanctions required by federal No
Child Left Behind legislation.
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