1. KEY INDICATORS OF EDUCATION RESOURCES: The GSP recommends that each year in each school there should be a survey of key indicators of education resources available in that school. This would include class sizes, availability of services for students with special needs, cleanliness of schools, whether there is a library, whether it is open and has teacher librarian available, air quality, adequacy of administrator time, availability of teacher counselor etc.
2. ACCREDITATION/NEEDS ASSESSMENT/GOAL SETTING: The GSP recommends that every six years schools should carry out a formal accreditation/needs assessment/goal setting process. This process should be time-limited, should be explicitly oriented to school improvement (as determined by the school community), and resources should be available to implement the goals for improvement identified by the process.
3. CLASSROOM AND SCHOOL LEVEL ASSESSMENT: Assessments developed and administered at the school and classroom levels must be the foundation of all assessment work, which means skilled teachers and administrators employing a wide array of methods to discern student achievement, how students learn, how best to help them, and how to ensure that students also learn to self-assess. Assessments at the local level are important to insure a broad range of educational outcomes are addressed including literacy and numeracy skills, critical thinking, aesthetic and cultural sensibility, problem solving, self-confidence, sense of self in historical, geographic, social, class, gender and ethnic context, vocational readiness, emotional resilience, social solidarity, individual responsibility, readiness and ability to apply oneself to difficult tasks, media and computer literacy, democratic citizenship, etc.
4. RANDOMIZED TESTING: The GSP recommends that the Ministry of Education carry out randomized testing or sampling toget a high-level understanding of progress in the system. The tests must be determined to be both valid and reliable indicators of system health, and meet all appropriate professional and ethical assessment standards.[i]
5. DIRECT REPORTING BY THE SCHOOL TO ITS COMMUNITY: The GSP recommends that each year each school report directly, in an anecdotal form, to its school community. The report should be rooted in the actual activities, learning and progress of students in the school. This reporting should be done in an accessible way, taking into account parents’ language requirements, literacy skills etc.
6. USER’S GUIDE TO THE SCHOOL: The GSP recommends the preparation of a “User’s Guide to the School”. This guide, especially aimed at parents who aren’t comfortable interacting in the school setting, should provide key information about the school and how it works, and suggested questions for parents to ask to help them make their own assessment of their school. Some parents, especially poor, marginalized, immigrant, and working class parents, are often very uncomfortable and feel, or are made to feel, inadequate in the school setting. A handbook with prepared questions, which ask important and provocative questions, could make the task easier for many parents.
7. STUDENT VOICE: The GSP recommends that one important element of school assessment and accountability is “student voice”. Children should be asked to participate and be involved in an ongoing way in assessing their school. Care must be taken that such a process is not simply pro forma or token. Cultural norms need to be fostered in the school to make sure such an opportunity is taken seriously by students, teachers and the community.
8. PARTICULAR EMPHASIS ON THE REQUIREMENTS OF STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS AND THEIR FAMILIES: The GSP recommends that special emphasis be placed on meeting the school accountability and assessment requirements of students with special needs and their families. This would include, among many other elements integrated in #1 – #6 above, communicating to them in an accessible and transparent way whether the programs, teachers and attitudes needed by their children are available in any given school.
We are keenly aware of the danger of contributing to further marginalization of those already marginalized children, schools and communities if the recommendations that come out of our project aren’t carefully developed and implemented. If the goal of redressing educational and social inequality is not at the forefront of our discussions, our debates and our recommendations, we will have failed in our work.
[i] See for example The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, jointly published by the American Psychological Association; the American Education Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and endorsed by the Canadian Psychological Association.