A Quandary for School Leaders: Equity, High-stakes Testing and Accountability

Heads up on our brand new piece on accountability and high-stakes testing in the new Routledge publication entitled Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Equity and Diversity. (I don’t receive royalties, only a meager professor’s salary…)

Citation for our contribution:

Vasquez Heilig, J. & Nichols, S. (2013). A quandary for school leaders: Equity, high-stakes testing and accountability. L. C. Tillman & J. J. Scheurich. eds., Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Diversity and Equity, New York: Routledge.

(See also Nichols and Berliner’s book Collateral Damage in the Goodreads section on Cloaking Inequity)

Link to a pre-published final version of our paper here.

We conclude:

By considering the inadequacy of high-stakes testing and accountability for fomenting equity—this chapter seeks to push the field towards a new paradigm of standards and assessment as an ecology and move the field beyond the uneasy dichotomy that currently pits assessment as a technical exercise involving the quantification of cognitive abilities versus assessment as the humanistic endeavor of portraying learners’ qualitative development (Falsgraf, 2008). Ultimately, if standards and high-stakes tests do not provide a quality assessment of knowledge or cognitive ability as measured by college or workforce readiness—higher education and career success—then it would suggest an approach that is more ecological in nature, a development of a multiple measures approach that entails broader subjective and objective assessments that can better predict long-term student success.

  • For school leaders that are pressed by high-stakes testing and accountability, this chapter may be welcome. However, those that support the rhetoric and the hegemony of these structures may be unlikely to support our conclusion. In response, we conclude with a thought proffered by Aronowitz and Giroux (1985, pp. 199-200),

…the debate about the reality and promise of U.S. education should be analyzed not only on the strength of its stated assumptions but also on the nature of its structured silences, that is, those issues which it has chosen to ignore or deemphasize. Such an analysis is valuable because it provides the opportunity to examine the basis of the public philosophy that has strongly influenced the language of the debate and the issues it has chosen to legitimate.

Clearly, equity is a ratiocinative critique of high-stakes testing and accountability.

Of course, my thinking has evolved since our call for the multiple measures approach in the Handbook piece to Community-Based Accountability.

Description of the new handbook:

The rapid growth of diversity within U.S. schooling and the heightened attention to the lack of equity in student achievement, school completion, and postsecondary attendance has made equity and diversity two of the principal issues in education, educational leadership, and educational leadership research. The Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Equity and Diversity is the first research-based handbook that comprehensively addresses the broad diversity in U.S. schools by race, ethnicity, culture, language, gender, disability, sexual identity, and class.

The Handbook both highly values the critically important strengths and assets that diversity brings to the United States and its schools, yet at the same time candidly critiques the destructive deficit thinking, biases, and prejudices that undermine school success for many groups of students. Well-known chapter authors explore diversity and related inequities in schools and the achievement problems these issues present to school leaders. Each chapter reviews theoretical and empirical evidence of these inequities and provides research-based recommendations for practice and for future research. Celebrating the broad diversity in U.S. schools, the Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Equity and Diversity critiques the inequities connected to that diversity, and provides evidence-based practices to promote student success for all children.

The entire Handbook lineup:

Section I: The Tradition in Educational Leadership: Where We Have Come From and Where We Are Going

Section Editor: Andrea Evans, Southern Illinois University

Introduction – Andrea Evans

1. Educational Leadership through Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice and Educational Leadership for the Privilege Imperative: The Historical Dialectic – Jackie M. Blount (The Ohio State University)

2. The Politics of Education: Its development and what is needed for the future for advocacy leadership in a post-racial America – Rosemarie Lerma (University of California at Los Angeles), Matt Linick and April Warren Grice (University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign), Laurence Parker (University of Utah),

3. Policy, Equity, and Diversity in Global Context: Educational Leadership after the Welfare State – Gary Anderson (New York University), Angus Mungal (New York University), Monica Pini (Universidad de San Martin, Buenos Aires, Argentina), Janelle Scott (The University of California, Berkeley), and Patricia Thompson (The University of Nottingham)

4. Organizational Theories and the Development of Leadership Capacity for Integrated, Socially Just Schools – Colleen A. Capper and Terrence L. Green (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

5. Distributed Leadership: Contending with Issues of Race, Power, and Inequality –John B. Diamond (Harvard University) 

Section II: Understanding and Working Successfully with the Rich Racial and Ethnic Diversity within U.S. Schools

Section Editor: Sylvia Mendez-Morse, Texas Tech University

Introduction – Sylvia Mendez-Morse

6. Starting with African American Success: A Strength-Based Approach to Transformative Educational Leadership –Camille M. Wilson (Wayne State University), Ty-Ron M.O. Douglas (University of Missouri-Columbia), Christine Nganga (South Dakota State University)

7. Latina/o learners and Academic Success: ¡Sí se puede! – Elizabeth Murakami-Ramalho (University of Texas-San Antonio), Fernando Valle (Texas Tech University), Sylvia Mendez-Morse (Texas Tech University)

8. American Indian Educational Leadership: Context, Conceptions of Leadership, and Practice –Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz (Indiana University)

9. Asian/America and Education: Problematizing Problems of Knowledge- Thu Sýõng Thị Nguyễn (Indiana University), Pei-Ling Lee (University of Texas-Austin)

10. Advancing Educational Leadership: Learning from Multiracial Literature – Erica Mohan (University of British Columbia), Leanne Taylor (Brock University), Tera Venzant Chambers (Texas A & M University), Joanne Calore (St. Mary’s College of California

Section III: Understanding and Working Successfully with the Rich Language, Cultural, Social Class, Ability, Gender, and Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Diversity in U.S. Schools

Section Editor: Colleen Capper, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Introduction – Colleen Capper

11.Latino English language learners in a changing demographic landscape: Critical issues for school leaders to consider in implementing best practice – – Gerardo Lopez (Loyola University of New Orleans), Lauren Harvey (Indiana Department of Education), and Colleen Chestnut (Indiana University)

12. Social Class in Education: Implications for Educational Leadership — Andrew Brantlinger (University of Maryland-College Park) and Ellen Brantlinger

13. New Directions for Socially Just Educational Leadership: Lessons from Disability Studies –Sarah A. McKinney (Bernalillo Public Schools) and Rebecca J. Lowenhaupt (Northwestern University)

14. An Exercise in Tempered Radicalism: Seeking the Intersectionality of Gender, Race, and Sexual Identity in Educational Leadership Research – Karen M. Jackson (University of Utah), Chia-Chee Chiu (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Rosita Lopez (Northern Illinois University), Juanita M. Cleaver Simmons (University of Missouri-Columbia), Linda Skrla (Texas A & M University), Linda Warner (Haskell Indian Nations University)

15. Creating Inclusive Schools for LGBTIQ Youth, Staff, and Families: Equitable Educational Leadership and Research Practice – Michael O’Malley (Texas State University)

16. Leadership Promoting Equity and Excellence for Bilingual Students – Martin Scanlan and Francesca Lopez (Marquette University)

Section IV: Research on Equitable and Excellent Schools: Lessons for Leadership Practice Section Editor: James Earl Davis, Temple University

Introduction – James Earl Davis

17. A Quandary for School Leaders: Equity, High-stakes Testing and Accountability –Julian Vasquez-Heilig (University of Texas-Austin), Sharon L. Nichols (University of Texas-San Antonio)

18. Culturally Responsive Teaching and High-Performing Schools that Serve Diverse Populations – Joseph F. Johnson, Jr., and Christina Willis (San Diego State University)

19. Educational Leaders as Policy Actors and Equity Advocates – Andrea Evans (University of Illinois-Chicago)

20. Leadership for More Equitable Schools through Service Integration – Mavis G. Sanders (University of Maryland-Baltimore County) and Jennifer Hembrick-Roberts (Johns Hopkins University)

21. Leadership for equitable access and transition into higher education – Terrell Strayhorn (The Ohio State University) and James M. DeVita (University of North Carolina-Wilmington)

Section V: Critical Issues for Successful Schooling of All Students

Section Editor: Gerardo R. Lopez, Loyola University of New Orleans

Introduction – Gerardo R. Lopez

22. Race, Class, and Education: Lessons for School Leaders from Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast – T. Elon Dancy II (University of Oklahoma), M. Christoper Brown II (Alcorn State University)

23. Working Toward a 21st Century Framework for Researchers of School Safety Leadership in Practice – Billie Gastic (Beam Youth Collaborative), James Earl Davis (Temple University)

24. Intersecting educational finance, politics and law with racism: A critical race case analysis –Enrique Aleman (University of Utah)

25. Legal issues for diverse and equitable schools – Laura McNeal (University of Louisville School of Law), Mark Gooden (University of Texas-Austin)

Section VI: Promoting the Preparation of Successful Leaders for Diverse, Equitable Schools

Section Editor: Michael E. Dantley, Miami University of Ohio

Introduction – Michael E. Dantley

26. Preparing Leaders to Reculture Schools as Inclusive Communities of Practice– Kristina Hesbol (Illinois State University)

27. CULTURE-BASED LEADERSHIP AND PREPARATION: A QUALITATIVE META-SYNTHESIS OF THE LITERATURE – Vonzell Agosto, , Leila Dias, Nikia Kaiza (University of South Florida), Patricia Alvarez McHatton (Kennesaw State University), Donna Elam (University of South Florida)

28. Rethinking the Universal Approach to the Preparation of School Leaders: Cultural Proficiency and Beyond – Noni Mendoza-Reis and Arlando Smith (San Jose State University)

29. Evaluating Social Justice Leadership Preparation – Monica Byrne-Jiminez (Hofstra University), Margaret Terry Orr (Bank Street College of Education)


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s