AccountabilityShould teachers be held accountable for the grades of their students? I have always done everything in my power to differentiate my instruction to reach as many children as...


Should teachers be held accountable for the grades of their students? I have always done everything in my power to differentiate my instruction to reach as many children as possible.However, do you think teachers can be held accountable for grades on standardized exams? Also, do you think if this becomes more the case, then grading standards may become relaxed? What is your opinion?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is the issue that will be debated for years to come. I remember the furor surrounding NCLB, but the only noticeable change for my own teaching was the introduction of standards, which I support. Now, we have Race to the Top, which seems to be NCLB Part II. However, the problem always lies with assessment. I teach English: how best can I assess my students' mastery of the standards? A standardized test? The only people who really hold those as reliable indicators are those uninvolved in education. An essay? Absolutely, but apart from the SATs, standardized tests generally do not include a writing portion (I'm sure the ACT does too, but it's my understanding that most state tests-those by which AYPs are determined-do not. How about creative projects or speeches? I love using those as assessments in my classroom, but others would argue there's no way to use those as objective measures.

Teaching is a tricky business, an intricate business...something most people, within and without of the profession, don't seem to grasp. There's so many more factors at play with a student's and a teacher's success than in most other professions. Rather than a movie teacher, I've got a teacher next to me who plays the radio in every period loudly enough for my class to determine the exact song. I absolutely love listening to music, but there are many times when I can't have it on in my class. Walking by his, I see students sitting on desks, drawing pictures, etc., while he sits at his computer with the radio blaring. On the other side, I've got a teacher who yells at his students every day. Now, I have no idea what my students' scores are compared to theirs, and
I don't really want to. I don't think education should be a competitive profession, with teachers gloating over test scores and scorning those who students don't perform as well. Rather, I think it should be a cooperative environment, with everyone working to support student success in every class.

Of course, we have to do our jobs, and hopefully do them well. But determining what exactly is "doing the job well" will be the issue in education for years to come.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I see grades and teacher accountability as two separate issues, in some respects. In regard to grades, my experience tells me that teachers at any level who set high expectations and really hold the line frequently take a lot of flak from students, parents, and occasionally administrators. This can be tough, but the alternative is to lie to students, telling them they have done excellent or superior work when they haven't, all the while knowing that they will not be able to compete at a later time with those who have.

Setting high expectations isn't enough, though. They are meaningless if students don't get the instruction, attention, encouragement, and time they need to accomplish what is expected of them. Once those are in place, the teacher has done his or her job. Students are so often amazed by what they actually can accomplish when we have more faith in them than they do.

As for accountability, being held responsible for the degree of each student's individual progress is unreasonable, considering that we have no control over so many other factors, as mentioned here, but it is reasonable to be held responsible for a group of students' overall progress after a year of instruction and guidance in the classroom. If a class as a whole has learned little, we must answer for that. This surely will distinguish between good teaching vs. "push play" lesson plans.

One of my greatest frustrations in the great accountability debate is the amount of teacher bashing going on. I would like the spotlight to shine on all areas of irresponsibility and incompetence, including ineffective administrators who not only fail to further education in the classroom but act to impede it, through fear, ignorance, or laziness. I have been amazingly fortunate to work with great principals (except one), so I know what a great principal "looks like," but I am appalled by some of the stories my friends in other districts have shared with me.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't disagree with the premise of some of the above posters, but "held accountable" is pretty vague.  In terms of pay?  Continued employment?  Evaluations?  In other words, what will accountabilty look like?  There is certainly a devil in those details.  Secondly, if grades are the determining factor of whether or not the teacher is held accountable .... doesn't the teacher determine the grades?  If the accountability is punitive in nature, as I assume it would be, then grade inflation will be the result, just as if it is low test scores, then teaching to the test will be the result.

I teach next to the same kind of movie guy as the above poster.  It's frustrating, sometimes, to work as hard as I do, when I know others do not.  But I try not to worry about it, as I have enough on my plate.  And I still have kids failing my class.  One's high about half the time.  Am I responsible for him?  One's eight months pregnant and gone about 1/3 of the days so far.  Am I responsible for her?  Just like with test scores, there is a lot more at play than simple teacher incompetence when it comes to student success or failure.  You (and I'm not saying "you" as the question poster) can whip the teachers as they are always the easy target, but kids are still going to fail sometimes.

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This topic is great! I enjoyed reading all the posts.

I teach university courses at the junior, senior, and graduate level, and there's no system in place that holds me or other instructors accountable when it comes to general student performance. If anything, we're encouraged to fight grade inflation by not giving out too many A grades 

We don't have the answers for documenting good teaching at our level, either. Our administrators mostly just look at the students' evaluations of our teaching. Demanding teachers of difficult subjects (like the math teacher in lynn30k's post) usually don't come out looking as good on these students' evaluations as do easy teachers.

My view is that occasional (hour-long) classroom observation by peers and supervisors, coupled with evidence that teachers are genuinely attempting to reach low-performing students (e.g. written notes, parent-teacher meetings, referrals, etc.) would be better indicators of good teaching than standardized test scores or students' evaluations. I suspect that standardized test results are used because they're quick and easy, even if they don't really say much about the abilities and efforts of the teachers involved.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with post #5. We need a system that provides accountability to weed out teachers who do not engage, teach or provide any benefit whatsoever to our students. Trust me, these teachers are out here. However, that same system may make some teachers who work really hard to engage students work harder to prove their efforts. This is where I see systems like this fail, because they fail the student.

I would like to see a system put in place to hold students more accountable. I recognize that they are kids, but by the time they are in high school, they should start being responsible to manage their time, or notice which grades are dropping.

Parents never play into this equation any more at least on the national discussion level. Many parents do hold their kids accountable, but what do we do with the portion who no longer even have standards or boundaries for their children? This is a tough issue. Thanks for bringing it up.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Teachers should be held accountable for what and how well they teach, of course.  Unfortunately, student test and achievement scores are not an effective way to measure those things.  Grades and scores are a compilation of many elements, some of which are in the teacher's control, most of which are not (i.e., a healthy diet, enough sleep, study time encouraged/enforced at home, a stable home environment).  I'm sorry to say this, but if teacher performance is, indeed, ever linked to student grades, there will be an obvious and marked inflation of student grades.  Teachers are human, and self-preservation is just human nature.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 A major problem for me with all this is that the teachers who take on the most difficult students to teach are the ones who are the least likely to "score" well in these systems As a special educator, this is so obvious. I watch the math teachers I co-teach with, who have taken on the most difficult cases, be afraid for their jobs because of these test score messes. The kids in honors courses are motivated, want to learn, and are experienced with how to effectively learn material. It is easier to teach them, and to have them score well, and the teachers come off looking very good when test scores are the only criteria.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am all for holding teachers more accountable. A teacher in my department shows movies two or three times a week. I think the literature she chooses is based upon whether it has a movie. However, I work very hard to educate my students and differentiate my instruction as well. It makes me very uncomfortable to think my employment rests on student test scores. There are too many factors that affect the scores. Many factors that teachers cannot control.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hugely topical issue, isn't it! I guess I feel that personally there is always something else that I can do as a teacher and I have met and worked with teachers who unfortunately do not give their students a good deal, but at the same time, there has to be some kind of accountability on behalf of students themselves - we can only take a horse to water, we can't make it drink, to quote an old proverb!

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Teachers should attempt to get their students to the highest level possible, but they should not be held accountable for not doing so.  They need to be held accountable for attempting interventions, but not for the success of interventions.  That's what's fair.

no, students should be accountable for their own completion of homework, they should come up to a teacher if they need help in a subject area. its the teachers job to make sure or try their best to make the student understand the subject. 

krishna-agrawala | Student

Every professional must be held accountable for the quality and quantity of outputs or results to be produced by him or her. Teachers are also professionals, and the output to be produced by them is the learning and development of their students. Therefore the teachers must be held accountable for the grades of their students, to the extent it represents the the learning and development of the students.

Some people may argue that the grades is not a satisfactory measure of student learning. This argument for not holding teachers responsible for the grades of their students, makes sense only when a better alternative to this is offered.

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