Sunday, July 24, 2016

UNFAIR TEACHER ACCOUNTABILITY: driving out the brightest

UNFAIR ACCOUNTABILITY: out with the best and brightest

Gary K. Clabaugh
Emeritus Professor of Education
La Salle University

Why is a teaching career less lustrous than it used to be? In large part because teachers are being blamed for things they cannot control. For instance, some inner city public schools have a daily absentee rate in excess of 50%. That means one half or more of the youngsters are absent on any given day. Nevertheless, their teachers are held to account when these same kids score poorly on high stakes tests. It's plainly ridiculous, even Kafkaesque, to hold educators accountable for failing to teach children who aren't there. Yet this is precisely what is happening.

Now let's consider the tens of thousands of children who are physically present, but emotionally and intellectually absent. Instead of focusing on learning, they are wondering where their next meal is coming from, if there family will be evicted, if Mom is going to disappear again, get falling down drunk, or end up beaten half to death by her abusive boyfriend. Others worry about being assaulted or killed, And there are those who are too depressed or angry to care about school while others are making so much money selling drugs they think  schooling is a joke.

Some schools are so filled with children beset by problems and/or so poorly managed that both learning and teaching are nearly impossible. Plus there is a plentiful supply of cowardly principals who fail to back teachers in matters relating to order and safety. Their schools become scary mad houses. No one, no matter how skilled or determined, can teach in the midst of chaos. Yet teachers still are to be held to account where chaos rules. 

These impediments to learning certainly aren't invisible. In fact, they could not be more obvious. Yet allowances are not made for them when it comes to teacher "accountability." No one should be held accountable for things they can't control. Holding teacher's feet to the fire while ignoring anything and everything that destroys instruction and makes teaching impossible is base foolishness. There is no surer way to demoralize and embitter a caring teacher. Yet that is what is going on in school after school all over this country. 

So as the accountability craze continues to intensify, what sort of teachers and teacher candidates will be left? The very bottom of the barrel, I suspect. 

To examine these and similar issues further, see articles at

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