Measuring Success
Abigail Evans, NAESP Government Relations Specialist
Communicator, Vol. 33, No. 3, November 2009

What exactly do educators mean when they say “multiple measures” must be used to determine the success of students, educators, and schools? This is an issue NAESP and other national education groups continue to grapple with. Multiple measures covers a whole host of ideas, concepts, and practices, and may be contributing to some of the tough questions the Obama administration and legislators in Congress are asking about how to fairly measure academic success. What exactly does multiple measures mean?

The simple answer, of course, is that multiple measures means different things to different people. I would venture a guess, for instance, that your superintendent has a slightly different idea of what effective measures should be quantified in determining your students’ success because he or she is responsible for an entire district’s success. What about the measures that should be used to determine your success? Do you and your superintendent agree on that? Everyone has a different idea of what measures academic success fairly: the PTA/PTO, the school board, the teachers in your building, and the think tanks in Washington, D.C., that are advising the U.S. Department of Education.

Education Reform
We can question who is right and who is wrong, but this is a distraction from the real issue. What NAESP wants to know is, what do principals mean when they say multiple measures? The K-12 education policy conversations happening in Washington these days are focused almost solely on education reform: How do we fix the nation’s poorest-performing schools? Education Secretary Arne Duncan spent much of the summer making his recommendations and soliciting feedback from the broader education community on how to do just that. The U.S. Department of Education is looking at many ways to improve the academic success of children in these struggling schools, and seems to favor a carrot-and-stick approach to incentivize states, schools, and individual educators to “do better.” 

Two major proposals were released in July and August by the Department of Education: the proposed rules for participating in the Race to the Top fund (part of the nearly $100 billion education funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and proposed changes to the School Improvement Grants fund that provides monies to the lowest-performing schools via formula.

NAESP submitted comments on each of these proposals, sharing our areas of agreement and concerns. We reiterated our fundamental support for multiple measures in determining student, school, or educator success in our comments on both of the proposals. We expressed our concern that these proposals stick to the underlying federal education law’s (No Child Left Behind) over-reliance on standardized assessments as the sole or primary measure of success. This echoes what is listed in our recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; currently known as NCLB), where we emphasize the importance of measuring the myriad factors that impact student learning. Additionally, we reiterate our strong belief that nonacademic factors like student health and nutrition, as well as the social, emotional, and cognitive health of students, must be met to foster academic success.

Duncan has announced his strong support for reauthorizing ESEA sooner rather than later. Although some in Congress estimated the reauthorization would begin in earnest as early as this fall, others, particularly those in the U.S. Senate, believe reauthorization won’t begin until 2011, well after the 2010 midterm elections have ended. Duncan, however, has indicated that the Department of Education will be releasing its recommendations for reauthorization to Congress early in the new year. 

NAESP would like to hear from principals about what you believe should be measured to gain a full and accurate evaluation of your school and students success. We also want to know what you believe is a fair and accurate measure of teacher and principal success. Like it or not, momentum has shifted to tying student achievement scores to their educators. NAESP regularly cites the Wallace Foundation’s finding that principals are second only to classroom instruction in influencing student achievement. We can’t very well tout that as an example of the role of the principal in schools today while brushing aside the calls from Washington for greater accountability. Help us define what principals mean when they say “multiple measures.” To submit your ideas, go to NAESP’s blog, the Principals’ Office.
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