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Coalition of Unions, Ed. Groups Call For New Accountability System

A coalition of groups, with support from the two national teachers' unions, is calling for a different take on school accountability—one that reduces annual testing and includes a broader mix of school outcomes. 

Among other things, such a system must be focused on "meaningful learning" using "rich assessments," and a "school quality review" that looks at schools' data to examine how they are doing.

All of the levels of government also must be held accountable, the groups say, "for equitably allocating adequate resources—dollars, curriculum and learning tools, well-qualified educators, and safe, healthy environments for learning—to meet student needs and support meaningful learning." 

In all, the slate of principles mirrors the accountability resolution that the AFT passed at its July meeting, even including some of the same language (such as calling for replacing "test-and-punish" with "support-and-improve" accountability.) It also seems consistent with the "51st state" proposal that three other thinkers recently proposed. 

What you won't find in this new proposal are a lot of specifics about how to get such concepts enacted in legislation. None of the terms in quotes above are defined, for instance. Remedies for struggling schools aren't spelled out.

Right now, the coalition is working on getting signatories for this "social compact," so more details are probably forthcoming in the next few months. (Also, both of the national teachers' unions support grade-span testing rather than annual testing, and have endorsed different proposals introduced in Congress to that end, as colleague Alyson Klein recently wrote.)

Supporters include AASA, the School Superintendents' Association; the American Youth Policy Forum, and the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

There's been a variety of voices clamoring for new kinds of accountability system lately, and many of the ideas overlap. Just yesterday, a variety of civil rights groups sent a letter asking Congress and President Barack Obama to include resource equity in a revamp of the No Child Left Behind Law, Alyson reported. She also astutely notes that it isn't even all that new of an idea, dating back to early days of standards-based education policies.

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