The dictionary defines accountability as a willingness or obligation to account for actions or accept responsibility for them. The debate over how to apply this idea to our education system has been growing over the past several decades. Recently, every state in the country has implemented their own accountability and assessment plans in an attempt to improve the quality of education their students receive.
This sounds like a good idea setting measurable goals for our students; unfortunately, this idea hasn’t translated as well as we would like. A recent study shows that American 8th graders are still lagging behind students from 14 other countries in literacy, science and math. The question becomes why?
If each state develops, implements and tests accountability standards, why are our students under performing? Some experts believe that the wide social, racial and economic disparity that exists throughout the country is the culprit. Students from poorer regions and those from urban areas generally under perform. Because the standards are statewide, these disparities are not taken into consideration.
Perhaps the larger question is whether our accountability system should be based on standards at all. The matter is further complicated when we consider funding. A percentage of each state education funding comes from the federal government and is based on students within the region performing well on a set of standardized tests. This has led to an environment where students are taught on a standard basis instead of an outcome basis.
Many of us are confused and disheartened by this issue. Of course we want our children to perform well. We want all of our children to have access to quality education so that we can compete globally.
Instead of changing the definition of accountability as it relates to our education system, maybe it is time to reconsider who should be held accountable and for whaat.