Those who have worked with, for, or against me all know that I am pro-accountability.  I keep score and push limits. Not just in my chosen profession but in almost every other facet of my life. I don’t apologize for it; it’s who I am.  But even as an accountability advocate I have to admit that what we have now, both at the federal and state level is a hijacked program designed for the specific purposes of furthering anti-egalitarian agendas and dismantling public education. As an educator, I behoove you, please quit voting for these people. 

However, no accountability (which seems to be a rallying cry for many in our profession) is not the answer. What is needed is a replacement system that is logical, fair and holds all schools accountable to increasing student opportunity. To start the discussion, here is the plan I would start with for traditional and magnet schools.

The Cain Plan

Prerequisites: 1. The state must clearly outline the content that must be taught and the rigor level to which that content must be taught.  In Texas, this is the TEKS. In other states, this could be the Common Core.

2. The state assessment must be 100% aligned to both the required content and the required rigor.  In Texas, because the state has not released the STAAR tests, we cannot say if this is the case.  In many other states, we know this is not the case.

Exemptions: 1. For the state assessment, allow a district to exempt up to 2% of its non-LEP student population from taking the accountability test, for any reason.  This resolves the issue of the empty exercise of testing students with severe and profound learning disabilities.  

2. For the state assessment, non-English speaking (generally recent immigrant) students may be exempted from the accountability test for up to three years. This resolves the issue of the extreme difficulty of teaching content and a new language at the same time.

Tested Content (Grades 1 – 8): Reading – Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Writing – 4, 6, 8 Mathematics – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Science – 3, 5, 7 U.S. History – 5, 8

Tested Content  (Grade 9 – 12): English – I, II, III, IV Mathematics – Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry Science – Chemistry, Biology, Physics Social Studies – U.S. History I, U.S. History II, World History I, World History II

Standards / Rankings: Acceptable A.   90% of the students in each disaggregated student population answer 70% of the assessment questions correctly; and B.    For high schools: 80% of students graduate within 4 years; A dropout rate of less than 8%; 25% of graduating seniors enroll in some post-secondary program (examples – technical program, 2-year college, 4-year college, military enlistment).

Recognized A.   90% of the students in each disaggregated student population answer 70% of the assessment questions correctly; and B.    50% of the overall student population answers 80% of the assessment questions correctly; and C.    For high schools: 88% of students graduate within 4 years; A dropout rate of less than 6%; 50% of graduating seniors enroll in some post-secondary program (examples – technical program, 2-year college, 4-year college, military enlistment).

Exemplary A.   90% of the students in each disaggregated student population answer 70% of the assessment questions correctly; and B.    50% of the overall student population answer 80% of the assessment questions correctly; and C.    25% of the students in each disaggregated student population answer 90% of the assessment questions correctly. D.   For high schools: 92% of students graduate within 4 years; A dropout rate of less than 4%; 70% of graduating seniors enroll in some post-secondary program (examples – technical program, 2-year college, 4-year college, military enlistment).

This plan would require schools to teach the appropriate content.  It would require schools to meet minimum standards.  But most importantly, it would require a school to systematically work to raise the ceiling of student performance if it is to be considered a top-tier school.   Also, notice that 100% is never in play.  I want 100% of my students to be successful, but the reality is that we are in the people business not a simple manufacturing business.  Even if the assessment is a simple as, “Show up on test day,” 100% is not going to happen. But because the ceiling standards are aggressive, the motivation to reduce marginal performance and failure is maintained.  

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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