Teachers need to be accountable, but to whom?

On Thursday night, after working all day and attending a union round table discussion about education, I met up with an old college friend at the bar to catch up. He is a vice-president of a small financial services company, lives in an affluent community, and enjoys the finer things in life. After getting past the normal pleasantries and catching up with news about each others families, he asked me Why I was on his “side” off town. As I attempted to explain about the “education reform” movement in the state of Michigan and how it is affecting teachers, he asked “Shouldn’t it be about what parents and students want?”

This question rings true: Shouldn’t education reform be about what the community wants? Not what legislators desire. I agreed with him, since I have never had a parent complain about my instruction and the district where I work typically has strong parental support for what the schools are doing. Parents are always thanking the teachers for the job that they are doing working with their children. “I won’t want you job!’ and “You are a saint!” are comments often overheard at conference time.

“So why are we reforming schools?” Was the question he asked. I answer that it seems to be about accountability and money. Being from a sales background he agrees with these motives. Teachers should be accountable for sure but to what? Now teachers are accountable to their district, community and ultimately to their students. Reformers desire teachers to be accountable to a standardized test. Which is right?

From a business perspective the test is easier to measure and attach funding. Tests are part of a business model. Test producers also sell books, software and “canned programs” to schools. They can make it advantageous to schools to buy their products or use their online programs. In turn these companies can make millions off of educating our youth. Do these results show we have made a true difference using their measures? That can be debated. Many would argue the same or similar results would prevail if we stuck with what we have now.

Teachers should be accountable to their students. Students’ individual needs have to be addressed and accounted for on a daily basis. NO standardized test can measure all the “teaching” that goes on in the classroom. Communities and locally elected school boards have to monitor and decide if schools and teachers are doing what is necessary. Each community will be different, just like each child is different in the classroom. Society cannot us predetermined benchmarked norms to decided if a school is effective. That would be similar to measuring a parents effectiveness based on how the child meets development standards.

Society needs to stand up to the corporate take over of our education system. School boards are elected for a reason: to hire leaders that will create schools that meets the communities needs. We cannot let a publishing company mandate what every school district needs. It is funny that GOP leaders don’t want this to happen in health care (Obamacare) but support it with education!