Saturday, June 22, 2013

Professional Accountability

Ever stopped and thought why we have so many standardized tests in education?  Seriously, between students taking pre and post assessments so that growth can be measured, common formative assessments to see if students are actually learning the standards, benchmark assessments so that we know if students are tracking toward passing the state test, teacher created assessments so we can give out grades, and finally the state mandated high stakes tests it is no wonder educators are adamant about too much testing.  But have you considered why students are required to take so many tests?  Almost all testing has been added in the name of accountability.

Accountability is one of those neatly packaged catch phrases that is running rampant in educational circles, but not always in a good way.  That begs the question; what is professional accountability? To look at the words separately might give us an idea.  “Professional” means characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession.  “Accountability” can be defined as an obligation or willingness to take responsibility for one's work or performance.  Basically, professional accountability in education means teachers providing justification and being held responsible for their performance.  But what are we responsible for and to whom are we responsible?

There will be almost as many answers to that question as there are educators, but let me tell you what I think is professional accountability. An educator’s job is not to teach, it is to facilitate learning.  This is the major tenant of our profession.  Our job is not about teachers teaching; it is about students learning!  Students do not leave our classrooms with what we have taught; they leave with what they have learned.  As for the technical and ethical standards of the profession, teachers make sure of their student’s safety and security, their emotional and psychological well being, and they make sure that every child experiences learning activities associated with the standards of the class/subject and learning activities on those standards are on grade level.  Furthermore, the educational profession requires that teachers never give up on their students; that we take students from where they are academically, and we do everything in our power to move them as far down the learning continuum as we can.  Professional standards require that every student is exposed to a guaranteed and viable curriculum.  It is simply not enough for teachers to stand in front of their students and present the material nor is it enough for teachers to arbitrarily decide what our students will and will not be exposed to.

Who are we accountable to?  I say it is the students, the parents, the community, and your fellow teachers.  Your students today are someone else’s students tomorrow.  If teachers arbitrarily dictate what is taught, to whom it is taught, and to what level it is taught are we living up to our professional standards?  If I teach a subject/class differently than my same subject/class peers am I being accountable to the students, parents, school, or my fellow teachers?  NO! It is simply not enough to justify my actions with the pretense of “the best interest of the students”.  Those teachers who deviate from the guaranteed and viable curriculum and think they know what students should and should not know better than the state standards or school adopted curriculum are just using students as an excuse to be pedantic.  In short, those types of teachers are simply doing what they want to do and not what the professional standards require of them. 

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that teachers have to teach the same thing the same way; teachers must have autonomy to teach the standards in a manner that maximizes their teaching talents and their students’ learning styles.  For the record, it is also professional malpractice for our teachers to be so microscopic on the testing blueprints that they purposely skip standards to maximize test preparation.  These educational extremes neither meets the professional standards or accountability standards required of our noble profession. Some of our nation’s very best teachers have one or the other of this type of mentality, and that is why the standardized test craze has become both so prominent and so reviled in today’s educational system. 

#OKlaED Chat Questions


1.      What is professional accountability?
2.      How can professional accountability be supported?
3.      Can we have accountability without testing? How?
4.      What are obstacles to professional accountability?
5.      What are educators accountable for?
6.      To whom are educators accountable?
7.      What can we do to overcome the obstacles to professional accountability?

8.      What role do teachers play in peer to peer professional accountability?