The Proper Use of Accountability

Aug 17, 2015 by

Sandy Kress—who, as senior advisor to President George W. Bush, was one of the key architects of NCLB

Sandy Kress—who, as senior advisor to President George W. Bush, was one of the key architects of NCLB

Sandy Kress –

I find it bizarre and disappointing to read the constant barrage of commentary, largely in social media, that accountability in education is only about shaming people and hurting or putting the “stick” to them.

Some, but by no means all, of this moaning comes from educrats and their supporters who simply don’t like the pressure of accountability and want to eviscerate it altogether. Many of these folks have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and quite a lot of people power and time over many years to destroy accountability policy, not fix its problems. They are what I call the “end, don’t mend” crowd.

Yet, many of these complaints are legitimate; they come from teachers and parents who have been victims of accountability practices that have run amok and been implemented to their great detriment. These complaints deserve attention and fixes, and immediately. What’s most disappointing about much of this is that many of these problems have actually been caused or worsened by inept administrators who either weren’t trained in the best consequences to apply to improve teaching and learning or cynically chose the path of blaming accountability instead of fixing the problems it identified.

This is unproductive and shameful. Instead of responding with solutions that would actually use accountability to help teachers and improve schools, the system too often put a bad name on accountability and, at the same time, kept students behind.

I want to illustrate two ways that administrators could respond to a bad diagnosis in a more constructive way. This was the purpose of accountability: to use standards and measurements TO IMPROVE. It was not to blame or shame, but it was also not to continue to hide problems or neglect to fix them.

The federal Institute of Education Sciences has produced 19 outstanding practice guides that, based on the very best research, show in practical ways how many of our most difficult problems in education can be best addressed. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Publications_Reviews.aspx?f=All%20Publication%20and%20Product%20Types,3;

The George W. Bush Institute has compiled similarly excellent resources to help middle schools become more successful. http://www.intensiveintervention.org/resource/middle-school-matters-research-platform-transformation-middle-grades.

My basic question is this: how many administrators do you know who have turned to these resources and implemented them vigilantly and with fidelity to improve their schools? On the other hand, how many administrators do you know who have complained about testing and accountability? If you know more of the latter than the former, you now know the nature of the main problem you face.

Source: The Proper Use of Accountability – Sandy Kress | Weebly

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