Sunday, April 11, 2010

Holding Students Accountable

Here's a letter to the editor in which a teacher laments that only schools and teachers are held accountable for student progress as measured by standardized tests, but students are not. While I don't disagree with the letter at all, there's a tendency for some teachers to take those same points somewhere I can't go. They'll claim that all other players have to be fixed first, and only then can teachers be held accountable. "Fix the society, fix the family, fix the bureaucratic screw-ups and burdens, and make the tests have some impact on the students; only then can you start to hold me accountable."

It doesn't work that way.


Mrs. C said...

I agree, Darren. They even have a school-y name for it: "out of school factors" or OSFs. OSFs are used to justify national healthcare and a bunch of other stuff so that students can be "ready to learn."


Ellen K said...

I do my best every day to bring information to the table. I succeed more often than not, but I still contend that too many of our students end despite their homelife, not because of it. I have too many parents trying to buy love by excusing absolutely horrible performance and behavior. When I get notes asking me for a chance to turn in work that is weeks late or get emails from parents in July regarding grades that were put to rest in May, I have to wonder if these kids are just the casualties of a culture where all rodes are made smooth and all dangers safety netted.

Anonymous said...

Students spend less than 20% of their waking hours at school. So 80% of their waking hours are spent away from school, presumably under the guidance of their parents.

Yet there never has been any real accountability for parents in the education of their children. Schools will even feed the kidlets if the parents planned their family poorly. Parents--with three times the contact time--are not accountable.

And you like those odds?

Steve USMA '85 said...

Is there a reason we can not find a way to give the kids incentive to do well on the tests? Make the tests part of their own class grade?

I think there would be a tendency to slack off on a test that had no impact on your own well-being.

Darren said...

Steve, that's one of the bureaucratic screw-ups I referred to. We teachers shouldn't require that every other problem be fixed before anyone looks at what we do, though.

maxutils said...

You can feel free "to not go there," but you're still wrong on this one. First, it makes absolutely no sense to hold a teacher accountable for student results when there is no measure of student accountability, and that would be the easiest fix ever. Don't even factor it into the student's grade -- make a certain level of performance be a requirement to move on to the next grade or next course. If the students have no incentive, they can easily tank the test to harm a teacher -- very likely, the strict one who was doing them the most good. Second, you can't apply normed test standards to biased samples and expect even moderately meaningful results. And, like it or not, low income schools always perform at the low end, and high income schools always perform at the high end. Normed results based on a random sampling have no meaning here. And, if you want to base it on percentage improvement, a low performing school will always be easier to improve, since it starts with a lower number. You don't have to change everything first -- just the stuff that makes the most obvious sense.

Curmudgeon said...

Over and up here in the great white north, the math/eng tests are given in Nov of junior year and the scores are returned to us by march - maybe. We (and many other schools in this state) are on a block schedule so any student who has english or math during first semester is done by the time scores are returned. Probably 40% of the students had English and math in the fall semester of sophomore year, then not again until fall of junior year - go figure the intelligence of that idea.

The science tests are given in May of the junior year and the scores returned to us in the fall of the senior year. Not very helpful.

The upshot is that the scores cannot be used to measure them, only the school and the teachers. Likewise, we cannot use the scores to help the students who earned them - only the curriculum and the teachers can be changed.

It's fairly obvious that the students benefit is not what is at stake here.

DADvocate said...

In my experience, teachers virtually never take responsibility. I'm so sick of the "you don't know what it's like with a classroom full of kids..." shtick. My two youngest are honor students have never been disciplined (8th and 11th grades), yet when I express a concern to a teacher or administrator over something that happened at school they (the school personnel) have more excuses than a student that habitually "forgets" their homework.

teacherblogger411 said...


Sorry to hear you've had such a bad experience with your neighborhood schools. For teachers like myself who are trying to do it right, we have really had our hands tied, and it is VERY discouraging.