Student Accountability: The Real Issue In Education
The Forgotten Issue In Schools
During my first year in college, I took an American history class where one of the first things the professor said was that education was sick.
Though I dropped the class because the professor wasn't a nice guy, I realized that he was right when I started to work with young people.
As someone who over roughly two decades taught physical education as well as coach various sports, tutor and teach after school, helping kids with homework, I was a direct witness to the issues that have plagued education for a long time; I saw teachers get fired because the principal didn't like them somehow, a personal vendetta of sorts, and I have experienced - many times - parents getting on my case due to them believing that I was unfair or mean to their child.
This issue of teacher accountability for student achievement, especially in regards to standardized test scores, has been all over the news in recent months.
The Los Angeles Times, for example, caused some controversy when they publicized on their website the rankings of school teachers based on how their pupils did on tests. United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the Los Angeles Unified School District's teachers union, called for a boycott of the Times as it was felt that the rankings painted the lower ranked teachers as incompetent scapegoats.
Even though efforts in attaining a career in education didn't work out for me, and while I understand that the administrators want to hold teachers more accountable, there is one thing that I have always felt was overlooked and completely ignored...
The accountability of the students in their learning and classroom performance.
It seems to me that in the ever-present struggle to prepare children for a 21st century world that they are oftentimes not ready to tackle, that it is the responsibility of the children to learn, achieve, and succeed in schools as much as it's the duty of the teachers and their parents to see that they do these things, if not more.
It is a common saying that in sports, the coach gets too much credit when his team wins, and way too much of the blame after losses.
The exact same thing can be said of school teachers.
While I fully acknowledge that there are bad teachers who are only in school for the paycheck, I've seen plenty of good instructors get scapegoated and let go whenever their charges fall short of expectations, no matter how legitimate the reasons may be; I've personally experienced that myself.
There is an old saying that illustrates this issue well:
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink it."
This statement has particularly shown itself in certain students' attitude and behavior, which is every bit as important as their reading, writing, and 'rithmetic.
In fact, I've always considered responsibility to be the fourth "R" in education, something that is as essential for youngsters to master as the other three R's.
In my view, every time a kid came to school without his homework done or misbehaved in class, such kid failed in his or her school responsibilities.
However, teachers would often be blamed for the child's failings; I've seen kids get away with the worst incidents because of the mindset that "these are just kids" - the most loathed phrase of all time in my book.
For example, I remember being told of one incident in an elementary school where a young boy gave the middle finger to his teacher and was summarily sent to the principal's office. The injustice was that this miscreant apparently spun a tale to make it seem like his teacher made him do it somehow, and the teacher got reprimanded as a result while the problem child got off scott-free.
It was the kid's fault that he didn't have the discipline necessary to perform in school; he should have been suspended, and the fact that he wasn't was utterly unfair.
The frustrating part of all of this is how despite their best efforts, educators continue to suffer the wrath of the principal and the parents if their students fall short; this means that they are often at the mercy of the youngsters.
A teacher can be so dedicated, staying after school until 6:00 every day to give a child the help he or she needs, calling and emailing parents, and even going to their homes to keep their pupils on track and to monitor their progress until they are blue in the face. But...
The child, if he/she chooses, could still blow off homework and class assignments or fail the test on purpose out of spite, making the teacher who's going above and beyond the call of duty look bad. I've worked with quite a few kids at different schools where I wouldn't put it past them to do that, their sense of doing the right thing was so warped.
The bottom line here is that when it comes down to it...
It's the student that needs to do the work that is assigned in class.
It's the student that needs to get their homework done.
It's the student that needs to behave appropriately and have good discipline at all times.
And it's the student that needs to take the tests, standardized and otherwise.
No one else, not teachers, administrators, staff, or even custodians or yard duty leaders, can do these things for the child.
It's the kid's responsibility to succeed, and the kid's alone.
That's why as schools across this country are underway with the new semester, I'm sick, tired and just plain fed up with this "blame the teacher" mentality, where folks with over twenty years in the classroom are fired for one review that's below par, or because their pupils aren't in the 95th percentile on the Stanford Nine or whatever standardized test is being taken these days.
And I've definitely had it with educators and staff being thrown out because some little brat lied in accusing a teacher of mistreatment - that's happened to me and other school workers I have known.
The powers that be in education, the people that make the policies, need to remember that it is student accountability and responsibility that's just as important as the accountability of the teacher or the involvement of the parents.
And I feel that it's more vital to the success of the child, being that it's the child that's doing the schoolwork and taking the exams.
Essentially speaking, that's the point I am trying to make here.