Since the early 1990s, the standard and accountability movement for teacher led instructions has dominated the political discourse and reform efforts in the United States. This movement is based on the theory that three principles will ultimately improve the nation’s education system. The first adheres to the academic standards or what is required for student learning. The second focuses on statistical tracking and data, often found by statewide examinations that measure students understanding of such standards. And finally, the third looks deeply at both the educator’s tactics and their student engagement in meeting those standards.
On the face of it, these three principles seem relatively logical and well intentioned. However, like any perfect plan, there are always flaws. Unfortunately the reality to keep both teachers and students accountable at unrealistic expectations has driven our education system down a misguided and unintended path. Throughout the past ten years, teacher retention rates have continuously lowered where more than 50% of new educators are said to leave the classroom before their five year mark within education. With this type of fluctuation, has massively impacted the students and their academic development. Having such a constant change, students are met with inexperienced and under-resource teachers who do not have the knowledge, expertise, or skills to modeled them in the best way possible.
For educators and students alike, “accountability” has become synonymous for the phrase “do your job.” In fact, it often relates to a more negative connotation asking trained individuals to do the impossible. Veteran teachers have even spoken out through social media about the ill hearted turn “educational accountability” has taken on their lessons and student learning.
(Watch this teacher take a stand here.)
While I unequivocally agree that teachers must take partial responsibility for their student’s achievement, whether it is positive or negative, we also need to comprehend that there are other factors at play. Teachers have no control over the lack of resources and timing that is expected from them. This burden by the local media and national politics is hidden and distorted the real problems at heart of our education system. These problems include poverty, the community, and the overall environment of the school. Oftentimes, a schools culture can be cultivated by the low socioeconomic status from its surrounding community. That impact is then taken into a classroom where violent unwelcome behavior can be seen.
Now the question we have to ask is if this is the teacher’s fault. In reality, it is very difficult to answer. But to add on, it is absolutely unfair to set an educator, let alone a new educator, to master the new, and constantly changing, Common Core standards while handling the ongoing problems of the classroom such as oversized classes, lack of student material, or mismanaged students.
To alleviate the problem, we need to move away from the blaming game and look at the real problems impacting our educator’s day-to-day schedule. In order for the next generation to thrive, our teachers need our support. They need our understanding. And most importantly they need our recognition. Teachers do incredible things in the classroom with the cards they are dealt. While we still cannot deny that there are those that take the backseat of teaching, we also need to recognize that a majority of the teachers is there each and every day giving our children the best education they deserve. If we want to improve the system, we need to start by looking at the first cause that knocked down the rest of the dominos. It will be then that we can finally reach our goals by providing education equity across the nation.