On Her Majesty's School Inspection Service

Reports & Briefs | January 10, 2012
Image of professionals walking in a school. Credit: iStock

After more than a decade (and four years behind schedule) Congress finally seems ready to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For years, critics have complained that the law’s focus on test scores offers far too narrow a picture for judging school quality. There is also concern that the "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, formula is too inflexible to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of schools.

The track record of NCLB also suggests that it hasn't been especially successful in turning around the most troubled schools. In fact, among the 1,200 schools identified for "corrective action" in 2005-06, fully 70 percent were still under an improvement category three years later.

In On Her Majesty's School Inspection Service, author Craig D. Jerald argues that education policymakers should take a closer look at another accountability system—on-site inspections. In the report, Jerald examines the rigor involved in a school inspection in England, a system that aims to give parents better information about schools and to hold schools accountable for performance.

He takes a detailed look at the methods school inspectors use to evaluate schools. The process is thorough and rigorous: "[I]nspectors observe classroom lessons, analyze student work, speak with students and staff members, examine school records, and scrutinize the results of surveys administered to parents and students," he notes.

But would the system work in the United States? Jerald argues that it could. He points out a number of existing programs that use at least some of the features of the inspectorate. He also suggests the estimated cost of establishing an inspectorate in the United States.