Chiefs for Change call for commitment to accountability

In response to the call for a moratorium on accountability related to the Common Core State Standards by some in the education community, Chiefs for Change, a coalition of state school chiefs and leaders committed to education reform which Commissioner Bowen is a member of, released the following open letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan this week:

Dear Secretary Duncan:

On behalf of Chiefs for Change, thank you for your continued leadership and collaboration on education reform issues, especially as states across the nation work to raise standards and strengthen accountability.

As you know, Chiefs for Change is an organization of chief state education officers committed to putting children first through visionary education reform. We do this, in part, by being honest about what works and what does not, making data-driven decisions, learning from one another and continually challenging each other to make the hard choices that best serve the students in our individual states and local districts.

As state education chiefs, we know firsthand how critical preserving and strengthening accountability is to raising the quality of our schools and providing children across the nation an excellent education. Research shows us accountability – in every area of our lives – yields results, and we have witnessed these results in our states. Consequences and rewards based on student progress are bolstering achievement across the board. Holding our schools accountable for the progress of our students is the only way we will transform education, remain internationally competitive and close achievement gaps.

Recently, some members of the national education community have advocated for pulling back on accountability in our schools. With the majority of states across the nation adopting new assessments – based on higher academic standards – in the 2014-2015 academic school year, it is important for state education leaders to communicate in detail how we will sustain strong accountability during this transition.

The members of Chiefs for Change reject any calls for a moratorium on accountability. This position overstates the challenge and undervalues our educators. A one-size-fits-all suspension of accountability measures denies the unique circumstances each state faces. We will not relax or delay our urgency for creating better teacher, principal, school and district accountability systems as we implement more rigorous standards. That is a disservice to our students and would undermine the tremendous amount of preparation our states’ education agencies, districts, schools and educators have contributed to this multi-year effort.

The Chiefs for Change states are prepared to thoughtfully manage the transition. We have participated in the development of the new assessments; put in place comprehensive plans to provide necessary professional development to educators; and our accountability systems are ready for this change. Over the last few years, each state has developed its own unique accountability model that is demanding in regard to academic outcomes but flexible, when necessary, with regards to changing processes. Individual states must examine closely how these changes especially affect teacher evaluation policies and student growth models, and we are doing so. We adopted these higher academic standards autonomously, and now it is time to uphold our commitment to faithfully implement them.

As states undergo this transition, we challenge and encourage our fellow state chief education officers to join us in rejecting any moratoriums on accountability. We must sustain and build on the policies that hold us accountable for producing better educational outcomes for all kids, regardless of socioeconomic background. Only through world-class academic standards, measured through rigorous assessments, will we realize a world-class education system that raises student achievement and, ultimately, maintains our nation’s economic competitiveness.

We welcome additional opportunities to work with other states and with our federal partners on strengthening accountability in education.


Members of Chiefs for Change
Janet Barresi, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tony Bennett, Florida Commissioner of Education
Stephen Bowen, Maine Commissioner of Education
Chris Cerf, New Jersey Commissioner of Education
Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Commissioner of Education
Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana State Superintendent of Education
Gerard Robinson, former Florida Commissioner of Education
Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary
Eric Smith, former Florida Commissioner of Education
John White, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education

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