At the onset of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, I was in graduate school. One of my colleagues came to class excited about the discussions around the legislation and proceeded to proclaim to the class how the legislation would change the way we educate children, “Now educators have to pay attention to all students!” As the only minority in the room, I looked at my classmate and replied, “Why single students out if we are not going to do anything different?”
NCLB ushered urgency toward accountability hinged on improving student performance on standardized assessment without a plan to help students who were not being successful. The academic achievement gap was implied in such educational capstones as 1966’s, Equality of Educational Opportunity, otherwise known as, “The Coleman Report,” detailing the disparities in educational facilities and attainment between minorities and majority students and 1983’s, A Nation at Risk, indictment of the American education system for not adequately preparing students to be globally competitive. The reality of the academic achievement gap became measured as a result of NCLB. In the view of subgroup performance, stakeholders do not acknowledge that one student can be a member of multiple subgroups. Today, educators continue to scramble to figure out how to equalize subgroup performance; while students by virtue of their subgroup classification are being pushed in, pulled out and engaging in other counterproductive educational strategies. All the while, components to educating the whole child into responsible citizens are being lost in numbers. Accountability for continuous improvement requires that our responsibility is no longer to a number. Our responsibility is to educate the child behind the number. The test score is one of many components of accountability for continuous improvement.
The 5 C’s describe how we lead accountability for continuous improvement:
o Cognition– Knowledge of what students have learned is critical. Measuring student learning should not be dependent solely on summative standardized assessments. Student learning is best measured in an ongoing systematic way that allows educators to correct learning errors in a timely manner, increasing students’ opportunities for success.
o Consciousness (wrapped in Care)– It is important for educators to know students beyond their assessment results. Educators, parents and all stakeholders must understand and prepare for the factors that hinder students from learning, i.e. social environments, poverty, etc. It is not that students of different backgrounds cannot learn; their circumstances require varying approaches. As a principal, I saw first hand how hungry students did not focus, especially in early grades when they cannot adequately express themselves. I saw how students with medical needs, were preoccupied with pain, to write sentences upon request. I learned how families in constant transition due to homelessness, work related issues and neighborhood challenges could not ensure students were in their seats everyday without assistance.
o Commitment– Beyond subgroups of students are individual students with multiple personal learning needs. Teaching and learning does not occur in a one size fits all model. As our populations have become more diverse, so have the demands of how we address making sure that every student learns. Every stakeholder is called to be innovative and do what is necessary to ensure that all students access the content and valuable curriculum enhancing experiences
o Collaboration– The responsibility of educating all students rests with all stakeholders: educators, parents, communities, churches, employers, policy makers and anyone that has interest in the future of society. Our nation operates on the outcomes of an educational system designed to improve the communities in which we live and develop. The current accountability model allows stakeholders to place blame on others resulting in isolated views of outcomes and uninformed decision-making on the parts of those not engaged at the foundation of student learning. Students are most successful when stakeholders work together and educate the whole child.
o Correction– While deflecting blame, we all must realize that we each have a role in educating students and be amenable to receiving feedback regarding the needs of our changing world. Test scores cannot be the only reason we change our practice, policies, etc. The health and well being of students should inform our practice and policies.
Collectively, we are accountable for using test scores, among other measures, to determine what is best for students. Simply put, accountability for continuous improvement is a result of every stakeholder doing the work to ensure students access the curriculum and succeed in class and life. I welcome your thoughts on how to lead accountability for continuous improvement.