Posts By ncgarrett

US Department of Education Expresses Gratitude to Educators…And I was One of them!

HE CALLED TO THANK ME?! The US Secretary of Education, Dr. John B. King called to thank me?! For my service?…I was in awe; I had to listen to the call myself to even know what I did to warrant such an honor. Our conversation begins about 3:30 minutes into the video.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
I mustered the words I could; I guess at the appropriate times. I was dumbfounded…awestruck even. I have stood in awe of US Secretary of Education Dr. John B. King ever since he took office. His background could have rendered different results; he gives credit to the teachers that invested in him and uses his testimony to motivate educators to provide not just better but the best for the students we serve. Sitting at the helm of the US Department of Education, he remained true to his beliefs in serving all children and supporting the teachers that serve them. Everyday he fights and champions beyond anything we can imagine. And yet…HE CALLED ME?!

Speechless. My team found me absolutely speechless.

Grateful. To know the team I work with appreciates the service I render.

Tear-filled. I “never” cry but I could not help it this time; I am touched.

Honored. In a calling this demanding, there is no greater feeling than knowing you are appreciated. I love and live to surprise the people I care about. This time my team got me instead. And a surprise it was indeed!

Validated. I am rendering a reasonable service.

A Faith to Educate

a-faith-to-educate

All I wanted to do was teach: A Reasonable Service, Part 1,” describes the emotional roller coaster educators ride before they can ever begin to teach:

Baffled. Humbled. Grateful. Awestruck. Relieved. Hungry. Sympathetic. Empathetic. Infuriated. Exhausted. Hopeful. Triumphant. Data-driven. Thoughtful. Pensive.

I came into this profession wanting to impact lives; especially for under served populations. Teaching was the vehicle to do so. With every challenging reality of what it takes, my faith, determining my “reasonable service” is my guide.

Integrity:

036

Pastor Marion B. Robinson speaks with youth and their mentors during a youth summit.

As my career unfolds, my pastor, Rev. Marion B. Robinson reminds me to, “Always do what is right.” Rev. Robinson mobilizes whole communities around issues in education. As an educator, anything that is wrong within, our power and influence, we are obligated to change it. If it is not within our influence, we are required to challenge it. We are advocates for the students we serve. Who else knows their story like we do? Who else knows how it impacts their learning like we do? I can recall being infuriated as a brand new teacher to be handed a full course load of the lowest level students. I wasn’t furious because I did not want to teach them. I was furious because of what their placement and the expectations that were set for them implied about them. My response: teach them; with everything I had. I recall being further infuriated when these same students were not placed in higher level courses the following year as I recommended. Many of those students were more successful than they had ever been because barriers were removed.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Measure every decision against, “What is best for kids?”
  • Remove barriers
  • Challenge policy
  • Challenge Colleagues

Intel:

20150811_141506

Outside of the Impact Center, Pastor James D. Gailliard shares with visiting educators the need for holistic ministries and services in order to impact communities.

Along the way in my career, I met Pastor James D. Gailliard. While leading a holistic ministry to meet spiritual, physical and social needs in his community, he reminds me, “Every number has a name, every name has a story and every story matters.” I am encouraged to serve the whole child in order to impact the whole community. In this world of accountability, everything we do in the classroom will translate into test scores for our students. Students are not scores. We are reminded to look beyond the output and focus on the input; our service to our students. Getting to know our students’ stories is what helps us to know how to meet their needs. Why are they hungry? Is the food in the drawer enough or do we need to help parents find extra income or assistance? Why are they acting out? Is there positive or negative attention provided at home. What are their goals and dreams? How can we provide curriculum and experiences to help them? What experiences are needed that they are not getting? What colleges do we need to visit or work force development opportunities can be created? WHAT DOES HOPE MEAN TO THIS CHILD AND THIS COMMUNITY?

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Do not pass judgment on students, families and their circumstances. “Unpack” issues to determine what help is within our abilities to provide.
  • Do not ignore student needs. Always have a willingness to meet student needs. “Where there is a will; there is a way.”

Inter-mutual:

As I am trying to figure out many things in order to better serve my students, I met Rev. Richard Joyner. Rev. Joyner is changing the lives of children and their families through a community garden. He compassionately shared with me, “The schools cannot do this alone. It is our [community] job to get students ready to return to school each day.” He is right; there is a lot we [educators] can do; however, we cannot do it all. We have to enlist our allies, the home and the community.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Value and invite parents to engage and get involved. Be mindful that engagement and involvement are two distinct and equally valuable assets.
  • Tap into the available resources through churches, businesses and agencies. Resources are not always monetary donations or tangible goods; it can be a service.
  • Be open minded of ideas and suggestions from outside the school. We are serving the same communities there may be some issues or needs the school may not be fully aware. Be open to developing solutions collaboratively with parents and communities.

Intra-personal:

44552

Pastor J. Jasper Wilkins visits our schools to make an assessment of how his ministry can support our work.

Most recently in my career, I have reconnected with Pastor J. Jasper Wilkins. Pastor Wilkins was my pastor early on in my life. In my current role, I serve a community dear to his heart- his home. In alignment with his church’s mission to help, hope and heal he is investing in our endeavors along with the surrounding community. Most recently he inquired, “What’s going on in your world?” I immediately run down the list of “band-aids,” we were putting in place in order to get students where they need to be. He then looks at me and says, “How are you?” Band-aids would not do; and it was probably all over my face. I unloaded the frustration of only having “band-aids,” at my disposal. The next question was, “Who do you speak with to make sure that happens?” It is very easy to absorb issues in a manner of bandaging without repairing. Taking some time to debrief within yourself will allow the opportunity to think deeper toward the steps that drive solutions.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Take care of yourself in a manner that provides clarity around important decisions that impacts the students we serve.
  • Take the time to determine how you feel about the service you are rendering to your students.
  • Before a collective conversation, think about what it will take to move beyond the “bandages.”

I walk into my role every day with joy– loving curriculum and what it brings to the students I serve. I also know the daily heartache that comes when I have to unpack students’ stories before my eyes in order for them to attend to the curriculum of the day and obtain the opportunities that await them. Learning involves more than we can imagine; before students ever take their seats and books are ever cracked open. Who am I to not serve with my gifts? Who am I to not serve in the ways that I am able? I may not be able to do it all; but I can commit to doing what I can. My faith will not allow me to do this- Education- any other way.

img_2548

A heart formed after a storm.

I will ride the emotional roller coaster…I trust that daily I visit the following peaks:

Called. I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do and serving faithfully who and where I am supposed to serve.

Fulfilled. My heart is full. I can rest knowing I have done what I can for those I serve. I have given my “reasonable service.”

What is your “reasonable service?” I welcome you to share your thoughts.

Note:

  1. James D. Gailliard serves as pastor of Word Tabernacle Church, Rocky Mount, NC and president and founder of the Impact Center.
  2. Richard Joyner serves as pastor of Conetoe Missionary Baptist Church, Conetoe, North Carolina and CEO and founder of the Conetoe Family Life Center/Community Garden.
  3. Marion B. Robinson serves as pastor of Saint Matthew AME Church, Raleigh, NC and founder of the Harriet B. Webster Task Force for Student Success, the Flood Group: A Community Education Committee and sits on the board for Wake Education Partnership.
  4. J. Jasper Wilkins serves as pastor of Wake Chapel Church, having two locations in Raleigh, NC. He serves multiple facets of the community in the areas of religion, civics, politics and health.

All I Wanted To Do Was Teach

 

all-i-wanted-to-do-was-teach-graphic

ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS TEACH. However, often I find myself…

Baffled. I received praise as I traveled my 50-mile commute post the 8:00 PM hour because we received a call about a missing student. I was just informing. I did not need the praise. I needed to find the student. The student was found.

Humbled. In my absence, my mom informs my church that a number of students were affected and even displaced by Hurricane Matthew. My church family proceeds to fill whole rooms in my mother’s home with clothes and goods to donate to the families I serve.

Grateful. When I share with the marketing director of the local Zaxby’s of the challenges we face in a school in which 75% of students receive free and reduced lunch, she reaches out to her church and provide us with enough food to serve 75 families the Saturday immediately following Hurricane Matthew.

Awestruck. Three local churches reach out to our schools because they know our needs and offer assistance during the holiday season. We were able to provide Christmas gifts to over 32 families.

Relieved. When a parent expresses wanting to find work and establish a career; I can connect them to the local agency and they receive one-on-one assistance and guidance toward their goal…toward better for their family.

Hungry. The snacks purchased for personal sustenance during the day becomes manna for the hungry students I serve. The snack drawer; now a pantry.

Sympathetic. Preparing assignments to send to the local prison for an incarcerated or homebound students. Developing a means to translate the content feasibly in the absence of face-to-face instruction.

Empathetic. Stock piling clothes into a clothes closet to ensure students have uniforms and clothing to wear to school.

Infuriated. Adhering to policies that do not serve students well and ostracize certain populations.

Exhausted. Addressing social-emotional needs that stem from loss, lack of exposure and experiences, and poverty, be it absolute, generational, or relative. We extend our day to support students in extra-curricular activities or engage parents in meetings, conferences and discussions.

Excited. When donating items to a local church for Hurricane Matthew victims and volunteering during their giveaway, I connect with families that I did not know were displaced and in need. We are able to help them find the social service assistance needed to help with recovery.

Hopeful. Helping more students to gain exposure to a college-going culture, career pathway, and opportunity unknown as they prepare for graduation through local community college partnerships. Connecting with local mental health services to address some of the needs students have that may impede learning.

Triumphant. Doubling the number of students gaining access to college level courses in high school.

Data-driven. Using every tool to understand what the students I serve need and how the curriculum needs to be delivered to ensure they receive it.

Thoughtful. Trying to determine what needs to happen to create the best school culture for students to learn. Figuring out ways to reach parents and partner with community entities. Putting the puzzle together to determine which partners can help plug which holes for students and their families.

Pensive. Racing to the end of the year, to get end of grade/course test scores securing the evidence needed to show we helped students grow and gain proficiency.

ALL I EVER REALLY WANTED TO DO… WAS TEACH and somehow I find myself on this emotional roller coaster.

I enjoyed teaching so much; I wanted to help others love teaching and curriculum as much as I do. In July, I began serving in my dream job: Chief Academic Officer. I love where I am in my career. Although, there were many changes traveling the road from being a teacher; what has not changed are the daily peaks and dips of this roller coaster ride.

When I share my day with others I often hear the sympathetic, “I do not know how you do it.” Or as we vent as colleagues I hear, “That’s not my job.”

The issue is…if I was not doing all of these things…I would not be able to do my job.

I would not be able to educate.

All I wanted to do was teach. After years as an educator, with the ups and downs, sways and jerks of the roller coaster, I now understand it all as my “reasonable service.”

What necessary “ups, downs, sways and jerks” would you add to the roller coaster? How are you addressing them? Share your thoughts. Let’s keep this ride going…

A Reflection: Teaching Service & Gaining Affirmations

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“No Gifts this Christmas!” That was my Christmas 2016 declaration for my godchildren. Although worried that others may have the impression of me being cruel to my 10 and 12-year-old godchildren; I could justify my declaration.

  1. I believe in investing in experiences. Often aligning these experience to what they are studying in school. These experiences are necessary support to their achievement in school and quality of life.
  2. As they grow older, they are developing an awareness of wealth and it’s perceived connection to success. With this growing knowledge, there seems to be little consideration of the efforts “successful” people put into acquiring their wealth.
  3. My godchildren have the fortune of being raised by a village. In this village their primary responsibilities are to:
    • Attend to the lessons that will make them healthy human beings and
    • Attend to their studies.

I grow concerned that they are not prioritizing their responsibilities as they should. I do not want them to develop a sense of entitlement. Christmas 2016 was an opportunity to work on this. I set out to provide a different type of experience that would help my godchildren understand the value of service and the meaning of gratitude. They did not receive toys or gadgets for Christmas this year. Instead, we would serve together to feed the homeless in our community.

We walked to the venue. During our walk, Isaac asked, “Chaunté, what are we going to be doing?” I replied, “Feed the homeless.” He then looked at me as a know it all 12-year-old would and said, “But WHAT are we going to be doing?” I explained we would help where we could. I did not have a clue as to the specifics of this experience. For them, feeding the homeless resulted in many lessons. In this experience, I found several affirmations for me as an educator:

  1. The Value of the Hidden Curriculum! Hidden curriculum are those covert or unintended learning opportunities that are developed throughout or embedded in an intended lesson or curriculum. The skilled educator can find these opportunities and deepen learning to create relevance for students. Our four block walk, is one I often make and take for granted; however, they were curious with many questions about people and things we encountered along the way. Acknowledging their questions and finding answers along the way allowed me to create lessons for them and expand a context I never bothered to acknowledge.

Educators are the content experts of their classrooms; content knowledge can easily be taken for granted. What we know may look and appear very different through the lens of the children we serve. For fear of getting “off pace,” or not being explicitly included in the curriculum guide we may not embrace their questioning and queries. Be aware and embrace the hidden curriculum. Hidden curriculum provides valuable learning experiences too.

45611

Distributing toiletries

  1. The Value of Student Autonomy in Learning! I was worried they may be paralyzed with discomfort. Upon arrival, we had to “jump in” to help and they looked at me baffled as to what they were supposed to do. I gave them the following directions, “You see the man in the red shirt? Ask him if you can assist with handing out the toiletries.” The first 5 minutes they were paralyzed. My goddaughter, even looking back at me with confusion. Within the next five minutes, they were independently distributing materials. As toiletries were no longer available they began to distribute socks. As they served more people, I heard their wishes to have a “Merry Christmas” become stronger and more confident. They even decided to enhance the experience and entertain by playing music from the new cell phones. They became so committed to their assignments that they would even come from around the table to run and find people who missed picking up toiletries and socks as they came through the line. The humbling reality is that I did not have to do everything in order for them to engage and learn the intended lessons. All I had to do was create the opportunity; they were empowered to build the bridge. They turned this experience into one of the their own and brought some of themselves to it.

How awesome would classrooms be if we gave our students the opportunities to explore during learning more often? When they have the directions, tools, know what they are supposed to obtain at the end of their engagement; let them. They will meet and exceed expectations. The inability to provide student autonomy is stifling to their learning at in-depth levels. Allowing students to bring parts of themselves to their learning opportunities creates levels of relevance and a sense of achievement that we as educators cannot create for them.

  1. The Value of Curriculum Connections! On our walk home I questioned the pair, “What was interesting today?” Isaac responds, “I have never done this before. That made it interesting for me.” This was a shocking reality for me. The many donations we made purging closets and pantries in the name of service to others; I never provided them with the connecting experience of seeing and knowing how their efforts impacted other people. I set out to teach them to be servants and gracious givers; but did not provide the connection for them to fully understand the concept.

As educators, we provide great lesson plans, unpack the content to its foundation but often miss providing the experiences that provide the conceptual understanding. Curriculum connections are critical to students acquisition and comprehension of what it is intended for them to learn. Opportunities to engage authentically and immerse themselves is key to developing conceptual understanding of the content.

  1. The Value of Service! As we continued our walk, I continued to probe. “What did you see?” They questioned seeing children in the serving line; I explained that children are homeless because their parents are homeless. This was an unfathomable reality. They recalled seeing people juggle multiple plates of food and bags of food. I explained that this was because they did not know when they would receive a meal again. As I explained, we were passing the park just as the many served were unpacking their dinner plates. As we approached the house, Isaac turns to me and asked, “Chaunté, how do we keep them from being homeless?” I was proud; because he “got it,” and yet ashamed, because with all the effort to teach the lesson, I did not have the answer. I gave him the best I could at the time; honesty. “Son, I do not know. People are homeless for a lot of different reasons. As we learn their needs, we can try to help them.” He responded, “Well what do we do?” I am surprised at his probe of me now. “We can help in the ways we have: collect clothes, food, and assisting like today,” I needed him to know his previous efforts were accounted for and then followed up with, “I think we ensure we are always able to serve and make sure we continue to serve.”

As educators, we all have a classroom of children or a child that baffles us and challenges every best practice we know. We want so much for them, their circumstances, their qualities of life, their lack of support are constant hindrances to their success. There is no simple, one solution. We CAN dissect and develop the learning opportunities and experiences that will expose students to the hidden curriculum, give them the autonomy to develop in their own learning and provide the appropriate connections. WE CAN CONTINUE TO SERVE.

The holiday break is a time for educators to rejuvenate. Reflecting upon Christmas 2016, I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time learning and growing with the children I love. I am grateful for the affirmations gained in practice that I can employ with the students I serve when we return to school in the new year.

What affirmed best practices are you looking forward to using in your service? I welcome you to share.

Where Accountability Lies…

shutterstock_207752659 copy

I consider feedback to be a gift! When I am out in the community and others learn I am an educator, I have grown accustomed to receiving all of their suggestions as to how educators can improve schools. As much as I appreciate the interest and the willingness to share, there are some great gaps that need to be closed when society considers where the accountability for student learning lies.

When I go to the doctor, I respect and trust that they are trained and equipped to help me with my needs. I provide the doctor with my symptoms. The doctor then questions for greater detail and uses the tools at their disposal to make an assessment. As the findings are confirmed, a diagnosis is provided and medications are prescribed. With the information I provided to the doctor and the doctors expertise; we work together to “fix” what is ailing me.

When the doctor recognizes that I am sick and identifies my needs, expertise is put into practice in order to make me well. The doctor knows that I am holding them accountable for my well being. The same is true for what we do every day as educators. When we realize students have not learned; we put our expertise into practice to help students attain the knowledge they need. Often times, this results in practices beyond the school day and beyond school hours because there are many non-educational societal factors that impede student learning prior to students coming to school each day. That’s where accountability lies. Current accountability models do not consider all the factors of student learning.

Accountability models are premised on the notion that standardized numerical outcomes are indicative of the success and health of our students, schools and quality of instruction. This may be true; but the unproductive ways in which these measures are discussed and used within our society will not improve outcomes for students. In order to improve student outcomes; we as a society must improve student inputs such as health, quality of life, access, opportunity and the list goes on; in addition to the continuous improvement of schools and schooling. Educators are accountable for student learning; however with all of the factors that impact student abilities to learn, educators are not the only stakeholders sharing in the responsibility of optimizing learning opportunities for students.

Accountability models across the country allow stakeholders to place blame on each other instead of accepting responsibility for educating students within their respective roles. Policy places the responsibility on educators. Educators place blame on unrealistic policy expectations. Parents blame educators for not caring. Educators blame parents for not supporting the educational system. Employers blame educators for the lack of skilled workers. Communities blame parents and schools for the lack of vitality. The blame game goes on and on and students are lost in the shuffle.

The role of the educational system is to improve the communities it serves. As stakeholders, our roles are as follows:

  • Parents/families are the first teachers of our students. Students experience greater academic success in homes where they are engaged in academic discussion and expectations for academic achievement are set. What students’ value when they come to school is very much aligned to what they learn at home. The home has a responsibility to teach children to be engaged, ethical and productive members of society. “The family is the basic institution through which children learn who they are, where they fit into society, and what kinds of futures they are likely to experience…the home environment may influence the extent of persistence and achievement of an individual in any particular endeavor…” (Stewart, 2007, p. 20). There must be a desire for learning, education, self-improvement and social responsibility taught in the home that is supported through engagement in the educational system.
  • Schools are where the vision of a greater society meets future leaders tasked with carrying out the vision. School factors that affect student outcomes are organizational structures, climate, policies and procedures, academic organization and teachers (Heck, 2008, p. 229; Johnson, 2009). All students come to school with varying backgrounds and experiences. The educational institution is where differences are nurtured, learning needs are met, and students are educated in preparation for participation in the larger society. Through engagement in the educational process, every child should gain access to the opportunities that will equip them for success in life.
  • Communities are essential providers of supplemental resources. Education occurs as a result of student interaction with curriculums and relevant experiences. Often parents and schools are not equipped to provide optimal resources to teach the curriculum and provide necessary experiences. “Family SES [Socio-economic Status], which will largely determine the location of the child’s neighborhood and school, not only directly provides home resources but also indirectly provides “social capital,” that is, supportive relationships among structural forces and individuals (i.e., parents-school collaborations)” (Sirin, 2005, p. 420). School socio-economic status can influence such school factors as instructional arrangements, materials, teacher experience, teacher-student ratios and the quality of instruction (Sirin, 2005). Relationships with community entities, industries, employers, support students access to the content and the experiences that are needed for their success.
  • Policy Makers are accredited for having a larger scope regarding the condition of society and the necessities of its forward movement. If students are not educated, society will suffer. Everything that happens in our society; happens in our schools. “Historically, policymakers have made strides to impact students’ achievement through social reform. “Current policies… are holding the educational system accountable for student outcomes. Research indicates that there needs to be a married reform effort between the two: the social and educational aspects … to get the greatest impact for our students” (Garrett, 2012, p. 68). Practices and policies that make children whole and the future of society better are a result of collaboration amongst parents, schools, communities and policy makers.

Measuring the impact of education solely on standardized assessments implies that the business of educating children is black and white. It is not; there are many components that are required to educate the whole child. Children are not educated until they are whole! Rather than place the blame, we must realize that accountability lies with everyone who has a role in meeting students needs in order to ensure that they come to school prepared to learn and equipped to learn. Every stakeholder is accountable for making sure we educate our children whole.

What are your thoughts regarding where accountability lies?

References:

Garrett, N.C (2012). A study of the perceptions of school system personnel of the academic achievement gap and how their perceptions influence their educational practices (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/7913.

Heck, R. (2008). Teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Journal of Educational Administration, 47(2), 227-249.

Johnson, C. (2009, May). An examination of effective practice: Moving toward elimination of achievement gaps in science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20(3), 287-306.

Sirin, S. (2005, Fall). Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review of research. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 417-453.

Stewart, E. B. (2007, December/ 2008, January). Individual and school structural effects on African American high school students’ academic achievement. The High School Journal, 91(2), 16-34.

The 5 C’s of Accountability for Continuous Improvement

Small Continuous Improvement

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.

Accountability: What’s Your View?

CloudsThe plane jerked prior to its ascension, I knew at that time, I would see Raleigh, NC differently than I typically do. As a native of Raleigh, I consider myself better than proficient in navigating the city. Whatever the mission, I can find the closest or most efficient route through or around the city and…MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! However, from the window of an ascending plane, I no longer recognize the city. I see highways, buildings, cars and trees but I can no longer decipher which hotel is which, which highway is which, which neighborhood is which or any other landmark I frequently use in my travels. I know when I initially look out the airplane window, I am in Raleigh; when the plane takes off, a few minutes later, and I am not sure where I am exactly.

The further the plane ascends into the heavens; the less I know about where I am. In this age of accountability, many educators probably feel just as lost as I do when trying to decipher what I think I know from the window of an airplane. In other professions, accountability is about systems, processes, checks, balances and making sure things are done in the appropriate manner for the intended outcome. In our profession, we have come to know accountability as testing and test scores, the intended outcome being that students achieve at optimal levels. The educational conversation regarding accountability is completely different from the accountability that drives operations and success for other organizations. The intended outcome should not be the test score; the score is the tool to help arrive at the outcome. The intended outcome is that students are equipped to achieve in the classroom and in their lives.

One of my accountability mentors shares frequently, “Behind every number is a child.” In the classroom, we are in our neighborhoods, traveling and navigating the streets we know. As a classroom teacher, I did not worry about scores. I knew if I walked into my classroom, and did what was best for my students, the score would come. I analyzed data; every assessment I created and every formative the district mandated. All of this told me what I needed to do for my students:

  • Did I miss teaching some foundational skills to “Susie?” or
  • Do I need to modify assignments for “Johnny?” or
  • What’s going on with “Danny,” because this is not his usual performance?

The data I used was not personal regarding the quality of my teaching; it was personal regarding the needs of my students. It was how I used the numbers that impacted student achievement.

When traveling by plane, the buckle of the wheels lifting and jolt of the plane as the fuel reaches the engine lets you know you are on your way to your destination; however the view from a few thousand feet is different from on the ground. You aren’t navigating your own neighborhood, but you still know you are in the city. In the city there is still hope that you can recognize something and operate in a sense of familiarity with regard to arriving at your destination. In the principalship, you know students. You may not know all of them by their number, but you know them by their cohort, their targets for success and you carry that at the forefront of everything you do. You push students and teachers towards this target; providing teachers the support(s) needed and students access to opportunities. As a principal and a district level curriculum specialist, I analyzed data. It was personal, in the sense of what does this group of students need and what do I need to do or provide to equip principals and teachers to provide it. Data drove instructional techniques, professional development, scheduling, teacher placement and additional opportunities for students and teachers.

When you are traveling by plane, and searching for familiarity, once you reach the clouds there is nothing you can do but sit back in your seat, trust the flight plans, and trust the pilot(s) to get you to your destination. While you know there is a plan that keeps you steadily in the air, you do not know what all is happening up under the mask of clouds or even in the cockpit. You may think and map out what you will do when you plant both feet on the ground; but until that time, it’s all about what was put into getting you in the air and staying there until you land at your destination. At the district level, accountability is similar to the bird’s eye view. Every number has a name, but they pass on fleeting sheets of paper, that transform into composite scores and specially formulated results indicative of schools’ performance. While you no longer touch every child directly, you analyze the data to develop the strategic initiatives aligning the data to the instruction and to the compilation of educational experiences that will support schools and lead to student acquisition of learning. As a district level administrator, I ensure that all accountability tools are in place, creating understanding around what these tools mean, and develop the map (for a neighborhood and city I no longer navigate) in which we follow to lead our students to their destiny.

Reality is…no matter what the view, when I step on the plane, I do so with the belief that I will get where I am going and doing so is not solely dependent on me alone. Growth in this field of education provides the understanding that accountability is not a finger pointing game; it is a manner of collaboration toward the expected outcomes. In our educator silos, we can easily operate from the lens of doing what we must do to do help students be successful; however the reality is whether teacher, principal or district administrator, we all play a significant role and have a significant view in ensuring student success.

VISION. Identifying what is expected of the students we serve. This is not only regarding their test scores, but also regarding their lives. Who are we teaching them to be? Every school has the responsibility to produce responsible, contributing and functional citizens. This is not a call for educators to be parents; this is a call for educators to be educators! Teaching the curriculum is about teaching life. Teaching life prepares students for the assessment and much further beyond. Who are we preparing our students to be?

VALUE. “Behind every number there is a child.” Giving that number value and meaning focused on the student or needs of a group of students is key in helping children succeed. Those digits provide great access to the stories of our students. • Why they learn or not? • How they learn best? • Is there something systematic that keeps students within a subgroup from accessing the curriculum?

VOLITION. I often share with educators that we are called to be diagnostic and prescriptive. Once we identify the issues using the data, what are we going to prescribe to assist students with learning the content? The choices that are made knowing the stories behind numbers should be aligned to the learners needs and to the vision.

These things cannot be done single-handedly from the streets in the neighborhood, navigating the city, from a 5,000-foot view or even from the clouds. It is a collaboration, determination and trust that we, as educators, place in each other that allows us to push students toward achievement for their future health and well being. That’s accountability!

Author Henry J. Lewis defines accountability as “Clear commitments that- in the eyes of others- have been kept.” In education, accountability is the systemic process of collaboration in which we meet learner needs and ensure their access to the curriculum. The tools and the appropriate use of the tools, clear and understood expectations and directions or plans on how to achieve outcomes are what we are accountable for.

It is not the score; it is what we do with the score that will make the difference. In this conversation about accountability in education, what “views” will you add? Please share your thoughts.

Welcome!

Image

Welcome to my blog! This blog is an opportunity to inspire, ignite and empower educators around critical topics in education. I hope that we can challenge each other, provide insight in each others practice and find our most valuable resource in our union as educators.

I truly believe every child can learn, it is our duty as educators to provide access to the curriculum and learning opportunities that will help every student succeed and be a contributor to the world. Therefore, in this blog I welcome you to join me in a dialogue that will help educators ensure student learning needs are met and students are equipped for everything they will face in this world. As educators, when we do our part, our students can do their best. It’s “heart work.”

I enjoy learning and growing in this profession. I look forward to sharing and learning from everyone who will bring their ideas. Everything that happens in our societies, happens in our schools. What we bring to the table are solutions within some hard conversations among everyone not just educators. We will hold ourselves accountable for preparing our future leaders to the best of our ability in these changing times. Our dedication is what drives our abilities to educate our students and motivate them to go above and beyond the imaginable.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I am excited about what we are doing and how it will impact the world. How about you?

Come. Let’s talk.

Quotes on Education

images-17

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” – Aristotle

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin

chauntegarrett

Ensuring Quality Education

jamesgailliard

Independent, Informational, Intellectual, Inspirational Commentary on the issues that matter

A Year of Reading

Ensuring Quality Education

Aggie Research

Information for and about researchers at North Carolina A&T State University

Evolving Educators

Taking part in the conversation

%d bloggers like this: