Sunday, July 6, 2008

Accountability Review

Posted below is my review of two articles dealing with the topic of accountability. I read both and have provided some insight as to how accountability affects me personally as a teacher, and the issue that I feel is most important when dealing with accountability as a teacher who has dealt primarily with struggling learners. The links to the actual articles themselves follow this review. Enjoy!

4.3 – Accountability Article Review
Tim Chalmers

“Accountability: Where Do Teachers Fit?” by Lorna Earl
“Accountability in Education” – The Alberta Teacher’s Association

The most imperative question framing both of the papers listed above (and stated in Earl’s paper) seems to be “What does accountability mean for teachers?” Having pondered this question and how it relates to my own practice, I would say that as an English teacher, accountability is of the utmost importance, due to the very subjective nature of the grading in this discipline. In other subjects, such as mathematics or even science, accountability in terms of test scores and student achievement is for the most part solely numerically based; if the answer or formula is correct, the proper figures will be there. If it is incorrect, then the formula or calculation needs recalculating. In English, accountability lies with the teacher him or herself; as I have found to be exceptionally true in my five years of teaching. An English teacher in Ontario must be able to justify every mark lost on an essay, as their professional judgment dictates. But what may constitute as a “great” essay to one (perhaps less experienced) teacher may be only “good” to a more experienced teacher. Accountability lies, then, in the rubric itself and the guidelines that are clearly laid out by the instructor. As Earl’s article states, “[t]eachers are, first and foremost, responsible to their students” and that “[q]uality teaching depends on building and maintaining a specialized knowledge of the profession.” I agree with these notions, and believe that accountability is most important between students and teachers.
On a larger scale, as an English teacher in Ontario in the age of the OSSLT (the Literacy Test) that this test brings to light my feelings as to the key issues in accountability. My school, this year, scored an impressive 95% overall pass rate for our OSSLT results, the highest in our region. However, we could have done even better, but the 5% who did not pass belonged primarily to our struggling learners, and those in specialized courses or on an I.E.P. Earl’s article describes the idea of equity, and states that the “challenge now is to provide the kind of school that will produce high levels of success for all the diverse learners in schools” and also references the fallacy of the North American belief that it is a student’s innate abilities that give them success over the idea of quality schools and teaching. The background paper from the Alberta Teacher’s Association references a similar notion in accountability when describing their “Key Principles for an Effective Accountability System. Principle 2 states: “The primary purpose of accountability in education is to support the broad goals of education and the diverse learning needs of children and youth.” In order to best serve each and every one of my students, I feel that these issues are most important when I discuss accountability. Mind you, I come from a teaching background dealing mainly with the kind of struggling learners that these ideas reference, so with that bias in mind, I assert that in ignoring the need for better facilities (like my own high school) in relation to success on standardized tests is a grievous error where accountability is concerned.
As I mentioned in opening this review, I feel accountability between students and teachers is the most important aspect of this many-faceted dilemma, and the two articles I read dealt with these issues as a part of their overall concern for the nature of accountability today. If we can not reach all of our students, and base school success (and future funding for resources) on the achievement of those who do not struggle, is a disservice to the idea that accountability matters for all students.


scribbler said...

Tim. I like the way you are putting a brief intro on top of these posts, just to explain to the general reader what they are looking at.

Good job.

scribbler said...

Did you think the Alberta paper was strong enough to have some effect on policy in that province? Did you think it was in line with what Ontario teachers might say in their own jurisdiction?