Love. Serve. Teach. Learn.

Posts by ncgarrett

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The struggle…IS REAL! This is an understatement for many people, including myself, experiencing loss over the holidays. The months of November and December especially reign as pervasive reminders of what is lost. After a loss, be it a loved one, a relationship, a home, or a job…simply put life changes; and so does the experience during this time of the year. Loss, a physical event, leads to grief, an emotional journey. Grief creates this physical sensation of hollowness that our logical brain convinces us we can find a way to stuff full again. Therefore, we seek a lot of different ways to deal; sending us on a ride of emotions.
A few years ago, a civic minded friend invited me to feed the homeless on Christmas day. In this experience, I felt many emotions including shame and gratitude. After suffering several losses this year, and remembering those lost long before, serving on Christmas day 2017 became all the more important to me. As I recruited friends to participate; I wanted to believe it was my selfless nature that was driving me. As I reflect on our Christmas day experience; I was very selfishly needing an unnamed something from this experience. I found it in the form of the lessons below:

To Remember that in the midst of our experience we are still called to serve. “On a single night in 2017, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States,” (2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, HUD Exchange, December 2017). This is less than a 1% increase from last year (HUD Exchange, 2017); yet speaks to the persistence of the issue in all of our communities. Driving home from serving, I debriefed with my godchildren. When asked, what was shocking, my godson replied, “I recognized some of the same people from last year.” Truthfully, so did I. Then reality struck: a moment of charity made everyone feel better but it did not change the condition. The emotional experience of loss does not absolve us of our personal responsibility in the world. the feelings associated with loss become inconsistent overtime; where as our homeless community experience the feelings and the conditions of loss, day in day out and for some, year after year. Service as an event is a band aid; it is help but it is not healing. What more can we do to serve others by way of healing conditions rather than bandaging them?

To Recognize a new normal. When experiencing loss, whether we realize it, the way we eat, sleep, perform basic tasks and engage in what seems like minor daily events change. We can fight it by trying to make everything look and seem the same or we can embrace it. I used to take great pride in gifting during the holidays (or anytime of the year really!). Without the chance to exert that time and energy; I am confronted with the reality that the opportunity is no longer there. Rather than gifting; my new normal is giving. Feeding the homeless on Christmas day may be thought of a selfless giving of my time, my resources and myself; but honestly, it selfishly fills me with gratitude and fulfillment and reminds me of the grace and mercy that supports me through the tough times. We cannot erase the loss we feel but our new normal can invite many healthier emotions, like joy.

To Reinforce what makes you healthy. When experiencing loss we are often encouraged to find ways to make us happy. Happiness is an emotional choice; however, because it is a choice, when we are not attending to it; it can escape us. While striving to be happy we must also strive to be healthy! Our health is the collective of what we experience emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The weight of loss is heavy and it permeates through every aspect of our being creating fatigue without obvious warrant, frustration with misaligned triggers, withdrawal without cognition of where our presence should be, and making decisions with a long-term impact during a temporary mindset. I first accepted the invitation to feed the homeless because it just didn’t feel right to say no. The preferred alternative was limited interaction, introspective solitude and sleep. What I gained is an experience that rejuvenates and recalls me to my purpose; impacting me personally, in how I steward my gifts and resources and professionally by the attention I give to identifying and supporting students affected by homelessness. This service is my healthy choice for the holidays. Before reacting, deciding, and committing, give great thought into what will help you be healthy overall, beyond being happy in the moment.

To Receive each blessing as intended. As we grow older, we realize that people and relationships we value are irreplaceable. There isn’t a new relationship that makes us forget a past one; we are simply blessed to move past it. There isn’t a new baby that replaces a beloved family member; our families are simply blessed to keep growing. The blessings that are connected or follow are the next steps in God’s design, with their own intended purpose. As I reflect upon the homeless men, women and children that came through the serving lines on Christmas day, there was no emphasis placed on their current circumstance. A citizenry that knows loss as a way of life, there was a willingness to engage and a gracious “thank you,” for the blessing in the moment at hand. Every moment of our lives works together together for our good as a part of His plan (Romans 8:28). No moment or event can be replaced or erased; only acknowledged for what it is and the blessings that are revealed unto us as we go through it.

I know holidays will always be different from before and no experience can replace what and who is no longer there.

I also know to look for more.

Christmas day, I selfishly set out to walk in my purpose of serving not knowing how I would be served. With my family and several dear friends experiencing the absence of loved ones this season and the life changes that accompany it, I felt the need to share these lessons learned. I selfishly write as a welcome for anyone who knows this journey to share the experiences that taught valuable lessons while experiencing loss.


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.

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.



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.



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



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.”


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.



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.


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.


  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.
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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…


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“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.


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.


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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?


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

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.

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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.

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