I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

06 April 2013

For What Are You Responsible?

Edited to add: I just saw this accountability rubric for Bill Gates.  It is a wonderful start to sharing the responsibilities more broadly; I hope it guides the Gates Foundation in its work!  I also hope for a pony!

My student teacher starts two solo weeks on Monday.  I feel partially responsible for how it goes: did I provide enough feedback on her lesson plans?  Have I been proactive when I've noticed potential sticking points in her management?  Have I been open about the things teachers do that aren't obvious (why we pick a certain response strategy at a certain time, say, or how I know that child needs, needs, NEEDS the bathroom whether or not he or she says so).

I am a veteran teacher.  One of the perks is finding classroom management easier than a new teacher.  That said, I am responsible for making sure my students treat guests, substitute teachers, and our student teacher with respect.  Even in situations where my students aren't sure what the expectations are, or in which they are disengaged, confused, or just being five years old, I expect them to act with kindness and self-respect.  It is my job to set that standard.

And of course, I am responsible for their academic progress.  I am responsible for creating a classroom that is safe, comfortable, and engaging.  I am responsible for providing scaffolding and support in academics and in social-emotional development.

So whenever I hear that teachers at high-needs schools like mine need to raise their expectations and holler "NO EXCUSES!", I feel frustrated.  And then I wonder: for what is the "no excuses" gang responsible?

Very few Superintendents, after all, are subject to pay for performance metrics.  Indeed, some of our most vocal education reformers have had at best checkered successes while leading districts.

Nor are district leaders held accountable to their schools.  When California cuts school budgets, Superintendents do not need to purchase their own copy paper and sticky notes.  I do.  When a district chooses to cut art, music, and physical education teachers, it becomes my responsibility to teach those standards.  No one is holding the district accountable to advocating loudly, fearlessly, and actively for better student funding. (It gets in the way of the cozy meetings with Governor's aides if you go all civil disobedience on them, I suppose.)

High-needs schools are hard to staff.  Teacher churn is horrible for student achievement.  Who is taking responsibility for making high-needs schools places where teachers feel supported and effective so that they can thrive where they are needed?

I do not see education reformers holding themselves accountable.  Lots of foundation money went into creating the teacher evaluation systems that aren't doing much for learning in DC schools.  The Gates Foundation put millions into small schools, then decided to cut those schools off.  Why aren't they responsible to the children left in those schools, or those who discovered that a small school gets you fewer electives and more overhead expenses?

It gets very tiresome to hear that I am failing students with my lazy lack of responsibility and my desire to blame structural inequities rather than my own inherent ones.  But the hypocrisy of those demanding I make fewer excuses really stings.

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