Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teacher Effectiveness and Reciprocal Accountability

According to an article in the Washington Post (Mar 2, 2010), President Barack Obama has condoned the mass firing of teachers at Central Falls High School, one of RI's poorest high schools:

"If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability," he said. "And that's what happened in Rhode Island last week at a chronically troubled school, when just 7 percent of 11th-graders passed state math tests -- 7 percent." 
-Barack Obama

Of course such low scores on the state's math tests are sad.  However, before we conclude that the teachers are accountable for such low scores, we should consider the issue of reciprocal accountability.  Specifically, we can ask what kinds of supports were in place to make sure that teachers could be effective.  If teachers are going to be accountable for student achievement, then teachers can require that schools, LEAs and state education departments provide the context for student achievement.*

Within schools, reciprocal accountability can mean many things.  Most importantly, teachers need to have the time to co-plan and influence school-wide policies.  I wonder if Central Falls had any reciprocal accountability in place?

Questions to consider with regard to reciprocal accountability:
  • Professional development (PD):  Are teachers involved in creating and facilitating their own PD?  Teachers are in a perfect position to align district priorities with the interests and needs of their students.  Why not create working groups in which teachers run PD alongside school and district administrators?
  • School Climate: Are teachers examining the research on school climate and then developing policy that matches their school's needs?
  • Assessment:  Arguably sub-set of PD, teachers could be looking at a variety of assessments that help them know how students are growing academically - - - and socially.  Everything from state-level standardized tests, district-mandated tests, formal and informal assessment, portfolios, rubrics and project-based learning should be up for discussion.  Each of these has a profound impact on how teachers organize their curricula and how students experience their learning.  
    By providing time for teachers to reflect and co-plan,  schools and districts will be providing one aspect of reciprocal accountability. What does reciprocal accountability look like to you?

    * Up next: considering society's reciprocal accountability to teachers.

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