Elementary Principal Testifies on Federal Accountability, Recommends Fair Measurement

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Maryland principal tells Congress that the current method of measuring performance is deeply flawed

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We are required to operate—day in and day out—in today’s one-size-fits-all federal approach to accountability with little room for state and local input into such systems

At today’s House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on the federal role in public school accountability, elementary principal A. Blaine Hawley testified that although principals welcome high standards of accountability for school improvement and student achievement, our nation’s current all-or-nothing yardstick for measuring performance is deeply flawed.

“We are required to operate—day in and day out—in today’s one-size-fits-all federal approach to accountability with little room for state and local input into such systems,” said Hawley, principal of Red Pump Elementary School in Bel Air, MD. Hawley, the only principal on the four-person panel that also included a state secretary of education and two district superintendents, said that while NCLB (also known as ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) has helped set high standards for education, it has done more harm than good.

A component of NCLB mandates that all students are 100 percent proficient in math and reading by 2014, a requirement that is unrealistic, unfair, and fails to accommodate critically important state and local contexts, Hawley said. Consequently, principals are now facing “punitive labels acquired from a federal mandate that inaccurately measures student performance” using the too-narrow results of standardized test scores, which she said represent a “single snapshot in time” of student achievement rather than a comprehensive assessment of performance in several subject areas over an academic year.

Despite the unrealistic mandate of NCLB, Hawley said she and her fellow principals welcome greater calls for accountability—as long as they are assessed on meaningful factors that support teaching and learning. “Many see our work as a calling,” she said. “We are not finger-pointers, disgruntled complainers, or spotlight-seekers. And we don’t pass the buck. The fact of the matter is clear-cut: We are, and always have been, highly accountable for what teachers teach, what students learn, and how schools perform.”

Hawley suggested seven factors members of Congress should consider in the upcoming reauthorization discussions to make accountability measures more balanced, fair, and accurate.

Read the full testimony.

Hawley, a 26-year veteran educator, is an NAESP member and president of the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals.

Established in 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) leads in the advocacy and support for elementary- and middle-level principals in the United States, Canada, and overseas.

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