- As evidenced in data and research many of us have cited frequently, accountability contributed, particularly in the late ‘90s and 2000s, to unprecedented gains in student achievement and graduation rates.
- Accountability has been under attack with increasing vigor since 2010 and has been substantially weakened at both the state and federal levels.
- Student achievement as measured in many ways, but especially in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has flattened since 2010, and actually dropped in some states and subjects.
- There are a variety of signs of a loss of commitment and success among keepers of the status quo to sustaining improvement in student achievement, perhaps none more prominent than the suspension of the Broad Prize that had been awarded annually to the urban school districts that made the greatest progress.
- Indeed, while there are some counter indications, opposition to education reform and accountability among special interests is fierce, extremely well funded, and effective.
- The broader context in which these “education wars” are being fought is one in which while education improvement is clearly associated with economic growth and increasing productivity, we’re experiencing new stagnation in achievement along with stagnation in economic opportunity for many and stagnation in income mobility.
- If student achievement continues to stagnate or decline, it is unclear whether or how the public will hold accountable those who have brought about the policies that may be responsible for it.
- Yet, there are many successful entities, including high quality charter schools, that are regularly and substantially beating the odds at boosting student achievement, especially for disadvantaged students.
- As a matter of respect and inclusion, it may, thus, be more important now than ever before that parents be given greater and more robust choices for their own children’s education. For if some providers fail and others succeed, parents ought to be able to choose the successful over the failed for their own children.
- In no other phase of life do we, or at least should we, say that protecting the system and its interests is more important than meeting the needs of those the system was created to serve.
- If the system fails to improve in the manner needed for true student success and other choices are not provided to parents, who will be held accountable for this most significant failure? With eviscerated accountability, it is unclear now that anyone will. Even finding the responsible bureaucrats and politicians who years before put these policies in place would be hard enough, much less “holding them accountable.”
- Yet, someone will likely be blamed, especially if the failure is as severe as it may eventually be. Will the justifiable rage be directed in warranted directions, or will it be blind or politically directed, perhaps in directions that bear no reasonable alignment with the principal causes of the failure?
- It should never come to this! And, of course, to a large degree it won’t, IF parents have ownership of the decisions and implementation of schooling for their own children.
- Choice! Choice! Choice! Whether it’s charter schools, online schools, blended schools, the regular neighborhood schools, magnet schools - parents must be given abundant, high quality choices.
- I prefer that the choices be public schools. But where the system does not provide abundant choices of truly effective, successful schools, it’s time, with reasonable protections, for the public to bring into play independent and private schools chosen by parents to meet their children’s needs.
- No solution is perfect. But, if the system refuses to be strictly accountable to parents, taxpayers, and the public for real student success, I, for one, would support placing accountability for success where it is likeliest to be taken most seriously in most instances - and that is with the parents of the children about whose interests we say we care. Education will continue to be the work of teachers and other educators. We cannot, nor should we, expect bureaucrats and politicians to disappear from the scene. But the public essentially needs now to start asking the teachers fundamentally to work for parents rather than bureaucrats and politicians.
Suggestions for further reading: