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Effective Transparency

May 21, 2017 by

Ready or not, the world knows what is happening in our schools.

Autonomy Lost

There was a time, not that long ago, when a teacher could close the door of their classroom and expect a degree of privacy as they conducted the work of education.  Closed door or not, teachers could expect regular observations and other measures that would ensure their practices are consistently aligned with school policy and practical pedagogy.  In recent years, that arcane concept of teacher autonomy had given way to the Professional Learning Community, co-teaching and other efforts to ensure each student receives the best learning opportunity.  Many teachers and administrators have welcomed this more open and collaborative approach to teaching, but few could anticipate the rise of the “Age of Transparency,” or the challenges made possible through technology. Technology has made communication between all education stakeholders readily available, accessible and more manageable.  It has made documentation of communications, classroom activities and decision making more available to internal and external clients. Just ask any student who checks that infamous grading app on their smartphones every single hour until the teacher posts the grade to that all important quiz or test just taken.

Transparency for All

Technology makes accountability more absolute for all parties.  E-mails can be reviewed to insure communication is complete and appropriate. Cameras in classrooms and hallways make documentation of the day’s events automatic.  Even the vital statistics of school budgets and cafeteria menus can be readily accessed through school websites.  Transparency is much more than security and accountability.  Transparency is a tool for organization and innovation.  When information and data are made readily available to all those collaborating will flourish and redundancy will be minimized. Parents and students are more likely to engage in the life of the school when provided ample opportunity to examine rules, policies and more detailed information about their schools.

Candor as a Culture

The idea of transparency has transcended contemporary society.  We demand the leaders of political and social institutions to make financial and personal details readily available.  Social networks and other technological means have made personal lives very public and sometimes with disastrous results.  All too often, instances of inappropriate relations between educators and students are revealed through social network comments, texts or e-mails.  Inappropriate conversations between school leaders have not only led to firings and ruined careers, but also personal embarrassment.  The expectation of privacy for the modern educator is a very limited concept.  Technology has provided a window into the public and private lives of teachers, principals, students and most every individual in the community.  As troubling as this change in the very concept of privacy may be, individuals can protect themselves and the institutions they represent with some common sense considerations and proactive thinking.

Freedom through Transparency

When the larger implications of transparency are considered, teachers and school leaders may feel heightened anxiety and stress as once confidential activities and information is shared.  Schools can begin with making traditional public information clearly available.  Anything the school is required to publish as a matter or legal record such as budgets or construction bids should be readily accessible.  Calendars and broader goals that may have once been included in a student handbook make great content for a school website.  More important information like attendance and standardized testing data, curriculum details and personnel reports can be shared in an effort to build greater interest among all interested stakeholders. Of course, student and employee confidentiality is off vital concern.  Vetting and technological safeguards can reassure that transparency and confidentiality are both maintained.  The important component here is to increase transparency towards increasing student achievement and improve schooling practices for all of our students. That is the reason for transparency, to improve the school environment for all.

Keywords: technology, K12, transparency, data, school budget, assessments, school goals

Chime in: how do you increase transparency in your school or district?

References

Johnson, D. (2014). Power Up! / Using Technology for Transparency. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept14/vol72/num01/Using-Technology-for-Transparency.aspx

Passanisi, J., & Peters, S. (2013). A New Era of Classroom Transparency. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2013/04/03/fp_passanisi_peters_transparency.html

Pondiscio, R. (2015). Teacher autonomy in the classroom. Retrieved from: http://edexcellence.net/articles/teacher-autonomy-in-the-classroom

Schwartz, K. (2014). How Transparency Can Transform School Culture. http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/05/19/how-transparency-can-transform-school-culture/

Sifry, M. L. (2011). Wikileaks and the Age of Transparency. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press. Can be purchased at: http://www.counterpointpress.com/dd-product/wikileaks-and-the-age-of-transparency/

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