Common Quality Issues in Education

Quality in Primary and Secondary Education

Common Quality Issues in Education

The U.S. education system – from the highest levels of government right down to the classroom – needs to deliver the knowledge and skills that students need, and to respond as those needs change.

Quality tools and processes can help.

Some starting points:

Accountability. Methods are needed to judge the performance of processes within the system.

Accountability means establishing:

  • A systematic method to assure stakeholders (educators, policy-makers and the public) that schools are producing desired results.
  • Common elements that are applied to all participants. These should include clear goals, progress indicators, measures, analysis of data, reporting procedures, help for participants not meeting goals, and consequences and sanctions.

From accountability methods, the need for continuous improvement can become clear.

Alignment. A curriculum must match relevant testing programs’ evaluation measures and requirements.

  • Federal view: Student requirements have been determined by the federal government in the No Child Left Behind act:
    • Annual progress is needed to meet proficiency standards for all students mandated by 2013-14.
    • This accountability system is based primarily on assessments, but also can include other reliable and valid indicators, such as graduation rates from high school.
    • Academic Achievement Standards are the goals and report cards are the reporting procedures.
    • Seeks to ensure that students are performing at grade level.
  • State view: State criteria and assessments are in place and are responsible for ensuring:
    • The criterion or standard of performance is communicated clearly to local agencies, districts and schools.
    • Students are performing at grade level.
  • District view: District standards and assessments need to be in place to ensure:
    • Schools have measurable objectives, intermediate goals and a collection of baseline data.
    • What they are asking of the students aligns with the criteria or standards of performance.
    • The criteria or standards of performance are communicated clearly to the schools and students.
    • Students are performing at grade level.
  • School view: Principals and teachers translate district standards into student-friendly language and effective teaching and learning. Through achievement, aptitude or competency tests they:
    • Create a common assessment based on standards for all students around certain areas of the curriculum.
    • Ensure students are performing at grade level.
  • Grade, classroom and student view: Teachers of individual grades and classes work with criteria and assessments from higher levels to ensure that students are performing at grade level and provide additional assistance/service to students who are not.

Assessment. Schools need measures for assessing how well students are doing. These measures should incorporate feedback from students, parents, the community and other stakeholders.

Types of assessment include:

  • External assessment, such as state or district tests, communicates what the state or district considers important to teach and learn in school.
  • Classroom assessment, the day-to-day assessment of students by teachers in the classroom, communicates to students and parents what the school and teacher value in student performance.
  • Alternative assessments are not typical standardized tests. Instead, they involve practices such as demonstrating a skill, answering open-ended questions, assembling portfolios of work and instructor observation of students.

Read about selecting the best measurements: Eight Steps to a New Performance Measurement System, from Quality Progress magazine, February 2002.

Student requirements. Businesses speak of “customer requirements” – what it takes to satisfy the people who consume the product or service being offered. Some of the same methods for achieving customer satisfaction in the business world apply in education as well.

Organizations offering more resources for accountability, assessment, alignment, and student requirements:

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