Monday, November 27, 2006

Snowball Effect

Last night I went to bed while six inches of snow softened the starkness of late autumn. Prior to heading in for the night, I talked with a neighbor, also a teacher, about the impending school closure. We were both excited about it. Six inches of snow, and even the threat of more, is enough to close down school here in the Pacific Northwest.
My day off hasn't amounted to what I had envisioned. The private school my wife teaches at is located in an area that didn't receive much more than a trace of snow. That meant that I would be staying home alone with Tate, our 7 1/2 month old. I figured we would go outside, take the dog with us, and get some great pictures. She's had another idea. She has either slept or been cranky--and I mean cranky.
But, the nap times have allowed me to catch up on reading the blogs and the news. This article from the, reaffirms my belief that accountability in education coupled with poor planning, amounts to little more than another edu-fad.
Before you run off saying that Mr. McNamar doesn't believe in accountability, let me be clear; please hold students accountable for their education. Additionally, please hold parents, teachers, schools, districts, states, and the federal government accountable for properly administering public education.
We are at the crux of the accountability movement. The basic albatross is that poor planning has resulted in a great deal of backtracking. Had the State of Washington prepared for the 2008 start date for making the WASL a graduation requirement, they would have better understood the demographics of the education climate.
The legislature and educrats who do not spend time in the classroom believed that when the WASL became a graduation requirement, suddenly the students would begin to care about it. They thought that previous low scores were merely a matter of student disinterest in a previously non-threatening test. Now that 50% of the state's students failed the Math section, the state wants to change the rules. We hadn't properly prepared the students, so how can we hold them accountable?
Okay, fair enough. But what about the nearly 20% of students who did not pass the Reading section? Or the almost 20% of students who did not pass the Writing section? Do we push the graduation requirement back for them? One could argue that those students were not properly prepared either.
And if the students aren't properly prepared, who, precisely, is accountable? In today's climate of accountability, it certainly doesn't mean the student is held accountable for his or her study habits. It also does not mean that the parents are accountable for their failure to keep track of their student's progress. No, the onus falls to the teachers and the schools.
The Federal government won't put themselves on the AYP list for improvement. The Federal government won't stop funding itself or allow parents to move Congressional districts on the government's dime.
You see, the issue starts small--let's hold students accountable for learning. But it has quickly snowballed into the Abominable Snowman, elusive, malodorous, and big.

Update: The Seattle Times has this article that offers the potential solution.


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