Sunday, January 22, 2006

A few words on accountability.

Reform is not rocket science is the motto of Charles E. Breiling is a teacher in Philadelphia and host of The piece below is taking in part from his BLOG.

Schools are No Different: The preceding four paragraphs were a defense of the status quo, and we don't believe them for a second. Sure, they have elements of the truth, but they gloss over the important parts, concealing the cold reality: accountability for failure is possible with schools.

If Johnny was never taught fractions, what did Johnny do in 4th grade math? Who was his math teacher and why was Johnny passed on to the next grade? If Suzie has only 6th grade skills, but is a sophomore in high school, why was she promoted repeatedly above her level of scholarship? Who were the principals of the schools which permitted that?

Schools can claim "we have no idea how that happened" but this is really a lazy way of saying "we haven't paid any attention." Being that education is a process that is people-centric (as opposed to an engineering analysis of structures and forces), this means we need to examine people.

There is a Better Way: The solution is a universal system of standardized testing, which we call ATESLA: Annual Testing for Every Student, with Longitudinal Analysis, (which we've discussed before). Simply stated, instead of having several widely-spaced standardized tests, some of which are "high stakes," test every kid every year, so that there is no excuse for not knowing that failure exists. Longitudinal analysis will permit measurement of the year-to-year growth of student skills.

In addition to universal testing, the names of a student's teachers, along with subjects taught, need to be part of a student's record. This is extremely controversial, tying teachers' names with student records. Real accountability, down to the level of individual teachers, is simply not done in today's big-city school districts, which can depend on the sheer size of the district to provide a level of anonymity for teachers.

For example, American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino, who dropped out of school after 9th grade, revealed that she's functionally illiterate. Sure, she didn't graduate from high school, but what we want to know is who taught her in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade, along with all the rest of her teachers who promoted her every year without teaching her to read.

These teachers have names, along with their principal.

You want accountability? Measure students every year, and start taking names.

To view the preceding four paragraphs of the BLOG click here.

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