Most of today’s K–12 accountability systems are, themselves, persistently underperforming. One of the big problems is that they lean so heavily on student scores from reading and math tests. Even if the system uses growth measures in addition to proficiency, those growth scores are also typically based on reading and math tests.
Though basic literacy and numeracy are invaluable, schools provide boys and girls with so much more. When those other things—citizenship, the arts, non-cognitive skills, and so on—aren’t part of the system, all kinds of unfortunate stuff can happen. Curriculum can narrow, teachers feel constrained, the goals of schooling feel less fulsome, and kids’ opportunities can be limited.
There’s also the problem known as Campbell’s Law, which states that "the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."
The idea is that people and organizations feel compelled to change behavior, often in regrettable ways, to hit targets. So by focusing so specifically on reading and math tests, our accountability systems can actually diminish the value of reading and...