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Are School Inspectors Next?

Recognizing correctly that test scores alone cannot fully capture educational quality, reformers are considering the use of professional inspectors ("Now is the time to experiment with inspections for school accountability," Brookings, May 26).  They would make periodic visits to schools to confer with administrators and teachers, and review pertinent documents.  Their written reports would be available for public inspection.

I think this approach has great potential.  But the devil is in the details.  Would the visits be unannounced?  Who would be responsible for creating the rubric used by these inspectors?  Would they be totally independent?  For example, England has seen its inspectors (Ofsted) involved in controversy about their primary responsibility. Would their findings be used punitively?  These are all important questions that warrant careful consideration. 

Nevertheless, professionally trained inspectors using the proper rubric can provide invaluable information to all stakeholders.  Too often test scores are given undue weight by the media in reporting about schools.  Inspectors can include qualitative evidence to offer a more comprehensive picture of schools.  For parents seeking a good fit for their children, such information would save them precious time and effort, particularly as the parental choice movement grows.

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