AccountabilityOne of the things that strikes me as very interesting as we move quickly towards greater teacher accountability in so many districts, has anyone seen more push towards accountability...


One of the things that strikes me as very interesting as we move quickly towards greater teacher accountability in so many districts, has anyone seen more push towards accountability and standards for administrations?

One of the things I read recently that I always thought was interesting was the idea that you cannot hold teachers accountable since most of the decisions about what and when and how to teach are made by administrators.  So until they are free to decide how to do what they do, the accountability should rest with the people making the decisions.

So this makes sense but I just wonder if anyone has seen examples of this where they teach or read about in other places.

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several posts I've read here are making my head hurt and my blood boil. Principals and counselors changing grades? Forcing teachers to teach from a script? The first is outrageous, and the second is ignorant beyond comprehension. I had no idea these practices were occurring, anywhere! Call me both lucky and naive. For those of you working under these conditions, I'm angry for you that your professionalism is so violated.

Only teachers, I think, really understand and respect teachers. From my experience, administrators who understand and respect teachers do so because they are still teachers at heart. A current trend in education that disturbs me a lot is the lack of classroom experience among young administrators; those I've encountered recently have no real desire to teach and view time in the classroom as a hoop they must jump through in order to get an administrative position, a temporary rung on the climb up the ladder. Their lack of interest and experience in actually teaching students is disturbing.

But I digress. Accountability for administrators? No, I haven't been hearing that at all. I don't think I've heard one politician on the national or state level use the "A" word when discussing accountability. "Teacher accountability" is the current political football, often thrown about solely to score political points. Personally, I'm sick of hearing about all those inept, lazy teachers out there who are driving American education into the ground. Most likely we've all known a few over the years, but the public perception seems to be that our schools are inundated with hoards of bad teachers. If that is the case--which it isn't--then how about some accountability for schools of education? My point is that the accountability issue is directed nowhere other than to a discussion of teachers.

I'm angry about this because it is unfair and unproductive; it does nothing to solve problems and who gets hurt the most? Kids who deserve more than they are getting, despite their teachers' best efforts. Teachers have become political scapegoats. Why, I'm not sure. But this I do know for sure. Until everyone involved in educating children is held accountable, real problem solving will elude us.

In the meantime, for all of you who are working under such stress and enduring such frustration because you are not allowed to do what you know should be done, I salute your dedication and your courage. You, too, deserve better.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great topic, and no, I absolutely have not seen a push towards administrative accountability, particularly nowhere near on the level of teacher accountability. Those of you have never been mandated and told what to teach, when to teach, how to teach, and thus having all your professional judgment stripped and your educational training rendered useless then consider yourself lucky.

My short time in the classroom, and I have no true desire to go back because of the "reform movement", I felt completely stripped of my creativity, ideas, professional judgement, and respect as a trained "professional" to do what was best for my students. I was able to motivate my tough inner city students and they began responding well, they were motivated and they were excited to learn. But, if the principal or district or whomever comes into your classroom and disagrees with anything going on in your classroom (even if it is an effective, positive teaching method), then you can be blacklisted for speaking up for yourself.

Basically, if you are not teaching to the test every minute of the day, you can be in serious trouble in many places. There are scripts to follow that tell you what to say, word for word.

Everything from what was on my desk, to my bulletin boards to my classroom walls was regulated and checked by the district. I did not have the authority to construct my own tests, or determine how much each test weighted. The district determined everything: How many tests you gave, how many points everything was worth, the questions on the tests, and so on.

In short: You end up teaching to the district's test and teaching the way the district and administrators demand you teach (and usually they have no consensus or very little experience regarding what is effective for your unique students).

As teachers, millions have no voice. You do not have a voice in determining so many important things that contribute to the success of your students. Thus, this accountability movement surely should include those administrators, superintendents, school board members, state officials etc who really hold the power. Instead, all blame (accountability) falls on the backs of teachers who traditionally have the least input and lowest voice in decision making.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I work in a very large suburban district that, frankly, doesn't have enough administration in "middle management" positions.  We have the principal and assistant and then two deans who deal with student discipline.  There is only a "lead" teacher at the department level -- a position with no power or supervisory responsibility, only a paper-work person for schedules, book orders, and minutes to meetings.  When it comes to teacher accountability, what would they use and how would they use it?  The administrators are a LONG way from the classroom.  We all know that the one-day state mandated test (we use the ACT) is a poor snapshot at best.  Grades can be inflated.  What else is there?  We are encouraged to give most common assessments, but we don't do much with the "data" from them.  There is no administrative leadership at the department level to do the research and lead the department in the creation, administration, and evaluation of formative or summative assessments.  I am sure my school's situation is not uncommon, but I think it is a failure of my administration to not address these deficits.

I agree with the position of the posts above -- the teachers are the ones "taking the heat" on student achievement, but the problems are bigger and more varied than any ONE idea or policy can begin to address.  The school boards and administration need to be accountable and in the trenches with the best of us.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the need for the administration to be held accountable. Teachers' unions may do this, and school boards should not do this. However, I know that in our district, if a teacher is not doing his or her job, everyone always says nothing happens because the union protects everyone. I asked a union rep about this attitude and I learned that the union cringes with every teacher that doesn't work: it makes everyone look bad. And the union does not protect the inept teacher: the administration does. In order for the union to take any steps to deal with a teacher who isn't cutting the mustard, the administration has to document incidents as reported and then try to address the problem.

And I'm sorry to say that most of our administrators belong to the "good ol' boys" club. All jocks that walk around and hang at the lockers. I can't mind them not having to live by the bells, but sure wish they were doing more to help with problem kids, etc. The only administrator that does not hang with the boys is also an athlete, but she isn't a "boy." And she works so hard she makes my head spin. If she was in charge, things would definitely be different.

Should there be accountability for administrators? Yes. Have I heard anyone speak about it other than teachers? Sorry to say, no.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At a City Technology College I worked at in the UK it was agreed with the Principal and the Head of Department what our end-of year pass rates for external examinations would be - with a small margin. If a department met their target, we received a pay bonus (about 1500 pounds if I remember). My department met its target every year - some didn't. The Principal and Deputy Principals worked hard with departments who did not each their targets as they were negotiated. It was not a perfect system - if you were a shining star in a poor department you could lose out, and some departments did not want to 'gamble' on new teachers having too many exam groups, but it was a motivator. The school was consistently rated as the top performing comprehensive in the country.

I have no problem with being accountable when the management understands the parameters of success and failure (some of the work has to rest withthe students!). In fact, I now get frustrated with middle managers being paid more than me AND teaching classes poorly.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with pohnpei, I've never been told what to teach or how to teach it. That being said it is perhaps true that administrator's might need more accountability, but how will that play out--firing and hiring of the teaching staff. I think a lot of it really depends on how much support the teachers get with regard to setting standards for their students in the classroom. For example, while teaching 7th grade at a middle school the 8th grade teacher and I decided to split a spelling text. I would teach the first half to the 7th graders, and she would teach the second half to the 8th graders. She had enough for every student, and I kept enough for a classroom set. My students were always given plenty of time (seriously so much time that I was almost uncomfortable with it) in class to complete the assignments. The students who stayed on task finished; the students who didn't--didn't. I was reprimanded by the administrator for not having enough books.

rskardal eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This discussion of accountability has been discussed at great length in educational blogs. In general, I have not been very satisfied with the mainstream media's response to this debate.

Without endorsing anyone, three blogs that are strongly opposed to accountability: "For the Love of Learning," "Perdido Street School," and Larry Ferlazzo's blog. On the other side of the debate, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, have all expressed and published arguments in favor of accountability.

For those that prefer to see a mainstream media response, the best reporting of this debate is taking place at Valerie Strauss' "Answer Sheet," which is associated with The Washington Post. However, it should be noted that Strauss is opposed to the "accountability" movement.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have seen only both ends of this spectrum. I really enjoy this conversation because I think the middle is maybe the place where accountability should take place in terms of administrators.

One district I worked for immediately removed an administrator when the numbers dipped for a couple of years in a row. The other district I have worked for puts up with very relaxed behavior from all administrators. Of course teachers have a hard time understanding why this behavior is acceptable.

I am wondering how much this has to do with the communities we serve. I notice college educated communities had great demand of their principal, whereas the more rural and less educated community cared less about the scores and more about how gently their children were handled by teachers.

trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems lately that in NYC Dept of Ed. if a school is deemed "failing" the first head on the chopping block belongs to the administrators. Usually, a new team is brought in to the school to try to correct the situation or the school is closed down, restructured and reopened under a new name, with a new focus and a new administration. Also, new principals are under a lot of pressure to perform, and are under close scrutiny. As a teacher who has worked in the same building for over 20 years with 8 different principals, I am getting used to the changes that occur when a new administration is brought in. A teacher needs to be flexible.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

IN reply to Post 1:  Having spent my whole career in tiny school districts, I've never been told what to teach, when, how, etc. so I never thought of it this way.  You make a good point...

The only place I can think of where I've read about administration being held accountable was in DC while Michelle Rhee was there.  I seem to remember that she fired a lot of principals.  Of course, that's not the same as having a system where principals are formally evaluated based on the results that their schools achieve, but it is something.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree.  Administrators also usually do not stick around long.  They either move up or they move on.  If they move up, your school is just a stepping stone to them before they go on to be a principal somewhere else, a district official or superintendent or some other more prestigious post.  If they move on, they move from school to school and are just as ineffective at each one.  These administrators do not create lasting change, they create havoc.  And no one holds them accountable.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree. We have to look at all affecting factors when it comes to merit pay. Teachers can control some aspects of their teaching and its effects, but much of what goes on in a classroom is affected by outside factors.

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