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 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.