A few thoughts about classroom accountability and the current education situation. Currently, public school employees, particularly in Orange County, are subjected to levels of scorn and derision from the media and thence from the public that do not seem to fall upon other classifications of county employees, like attorneys or political staffers. This derision does nothing to either acknowledge the substantial accomplishments of American public education, or to ensure our education system will continue to produce world class leaders in science and other fields.
And much of this scorn and derision currently focuses on an issue called classroom accountability. Broadly defined, it is a two-part notion that:
- our public schools are failing to properly educate their students; and
- classroom teachers alone are responsible for their students’ performance on standardized tests, independent of any variables like family, economics, or the validity of the tests themselves.
Logically, the issue of accountability extends farther up the chain of command than just the classroom. Perhaps it is an inconvenient point to bring up about upper-level education and political persons, but no one dragooned them into taking the job. They competed for it, and in some cases spent money to get the job. And now that they have obtained these leadership positions, one of the requirements is to lead. We need them to do more than wring their hands, rend their garments, and lay off teachers.
It would therefore seem reasonable to require the superintendents of our county’s school districts, many of whom are fiscal and political conservatives, to put pressure on our county’s Superintendent of Schools, a fiscal and political conservative, to collectively put pressure on our county’s state legislators, nearly all of whom are fiscal and political conservatives, to provide adequate funding for our public schools from the pre-K levels through the universities. In the rest of the world, countries in Asia and a resurgent Europe are investing heavily in their education systems in order to play larger parts in the 21st century world.
If the goal is to improve our public education system--and there is no organization or institution that cannot be improved in some way--then the most straightforward way to accomplish this is to give the highly-trained, highly-motivated professionals in the classrooms the resources they need, and let them do the job they were hired for.
Beginning with some respect and recognition for their accomplishments.
by John MacMurray
John MacMurray teaches 7th grade language arts and social studies at Ladera Vista Junior High in Fullerton.