As this gets discussed in the coming weeks, months, and possibly years, it's important to understand what's at stake. Nearly all the back-and-forth will be about what gets measured. But equally important--perhaps more important--is who does the measuring.Carey is completely right, you cannot allow the persons being held accountable to do the measuring. The measurements must be as "third" party as possible. But even now, we are not at a true independent assessment, no matter what model of assessment you choose.
The multiple measures idea stems from one the most common--and correct--criticisms of NCLB: schools are rated almost exclusively based on state assessments in reading and math. This system can be inaccurate and reductive--not only are we limited to one way of measurement, via standardized tests, but we're also limited in what's measured. Subjects like art, music, social studies, etc. are left out, along with the non-academic skills and character traits that schools are charged with teaching students. By expanding school measures beyond once-a-year tests, the thinking goes, we can get a broader, more nuanced, more accurate sense of what schools are really doing for their students.
A worthy goal, to be sure. But here's the problem: in many multiple measure scenarios, it's the schools themselves that will be doing the measuring. And that undermines one of the great virtues of NCLB: the separation of those being held accountable from the process by which they're judged. That independence is based on a rock-solid understanding of human nature: people can't be wholly accountable to themselves.
I talked about multiple test format accoutability schemes and the benefits that can be garnered by relying on more than one test as a measurement of education success. But even in my scheme, the idea is that the testing must be done by an outside group. The fact is that even now we don't have a true third party evaluation. The states generally choose the test and administer the test while still having a pretty massive stake in the outcome (states with better schools attract more business and therefore more residents and consequently more tax dollars).
If the who of assessment is so important to objective testing, why are we still allowing the states, let alone the local school systems or even the schools themelves, to do the assessments? If as Carey points out, independent evaluators like outside auditors or tennis judges are important to maintain independence, then the states are not independent enough of an arbiter when it comes to education.