measure than any one measure alone. If the compensatory system is used for multiple indicators within a single subject area, then incentives will focus attention more broadly across the full range of the subject than a single test would. If the compensatory system is used for multiple indicators across subject areas, then incentives will focus attention across the full range of subject areas. In both cases, there are no targets for the individual measures—which means no targets on the individual tests when compensatory measures are used within a single subject area and no targets on the individual subjects when compensatory measures are used across subject areas. Attaching incentives to a compensatory system of multiple measures within a subject area may be appropriate for a subject area that is critical where there is concern about the necessarily limited coverage of each of the available measures. Attaching incentives to a compensatory system of multiple measures across subject areas may be appropriate where there is more concern about tracking overall performance and less concern about the relative performance in particular subject areas.
Another possible approach is to use large-scale test scores as a trigger for a more in-depth evaluation, as proposed by Linn (2008). Under such a system, teachers or schools with low scores on standardized tests would not be subject to automatic sanctions. Instead, the results of standardized tests would be used as descriptive information in order to identify schools that may need a review of their organizational and instructional practices. With such identification, the appropriate authority would begin an intensive investigation to determine whether the poor performance was reflected in other measures, possibly including subjective measures.
One way of thinking about the trigger approach is that it effectively institutes a system of multiple measures in stages, incorporating additional measures of school performance only when the test score measures indicate a likelihood that there is a problem. The approach trades off greater reliability and validity of a system of multiple measures applied to all schools for a more detailed inspection carried out for those schools identified as possibly in trouble. In addition, the approach combines the step of obtaining additional information with the opportunity to provide initial recommendations for improvement, if they seem to be warranted.
Variations of this approach are already being used in some places (see Archer, 2006; McDonnell, 2008). For example, in Britain, teams of inspectors visit schools periodically to judge the quality of their leadership and ability to make improvements. The inspectors draw on test scores, school self-evaluations, and input from parents, teachers, and students and then issue a report on various aspects of the school’s performance.