“Accountability” is a popular buzz word in the field of education. Often it is used in reference to teachers in correlation with their students’ standardized test scores; however, that’s a very limited scope and sequence.
Accountability is so much more than that.
Who is accountable for fueling our students with healthy, nutritious meals? Who is accountable for ensuring that our students are reading on or as close to their grade level as possible? What about our students’ social and emotional development and well-being? Who’s responsible for that? Is it their parents/guardians? Their schools/teachers? Their communities/support systems?
The answer is all of the above.
Everyone involved in the lives of our students holds a shared accountability for their success. That includes the students themselves. It is not teachers’ sole responsibility to feed, nurture, educate, and love every student we teach. We do it instinctively. Don’t confuse that with not needing, wanting, deserving, and requiring help from other support systems that also nourish our students.
The first teachings for every child begin in his or her home. Home, school, community, and student must work in tandem to ascertain the best steps for that young person to take in order to fulfill their desires and dreams.
This is where, unfortunately, we, as a society, meet a roadblock.
Parents and schools want students to do well, yet parents are exhausted from working all day and night to help their child(ren) read or complete assignments, Teachers are overworked from the before-school, during-school, and after-school investments they make in the students in their classroom each year. The children of teachers, like my own kids, complain that their parent is too worn out from raising everybody else’s kids to come home and help their own. What a sad, but true commentary. The community offers programs and supports but in areas like mental health and counseling, particularly in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods comprised predominantly of minorities, these much needed services are limited, at best.
We can’t just accept this dubious status quo. At least I can’t. What can we do as a collective to address these very real, very debilitating issues?
According to Deborah Davis at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory,
The first step to improving parent, family, and community involvement in your school is to assemble a team composed of:
Parents who represent any major groups at the school, i.e., parent-teacher association, English-language learners, representatives of majority ethnic groups
Federal programs staff (i.e.,Title I, Title IV, and Title VII)
Community members and agencies
- Students, when appropriate
- District staff
Principals! Assistant Principals! I’m calling you out! Is this part of your vision for the schools you govern? If it isn’t, it should be. Too often the focus is just on improved scores while little focus is on how that goal will be achieved, besides the usual test-prep. It’s time administrators see the bigger picture and get with the program for real — not just on a paper that gets submitted to the superintendent for paperwork’s sake.
The article cited above goes on to note that
Research from the field shows that strong parent, family, and community involvement doesn’t just happen and isn’t limited to certain types of schools. People come into the school community with a variety of prior experiences with schools, conflicting pressures, and expectations. Some may have underlying issues of suspicion or other conflicts that can affect the relationships between home, community, and school. Many schools have gone to the expense and effort of planning a series of events for parents and community members and have only two or three people attend. When this happens, school staff become disillusioned and begin to wonder if school partnerships are even worth the effort.
New York parents, students, teachers, schools, and communities — let’s be accountable. Let’s make it happen.