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Accountability

March 23, 2019 am31 9:03 am

Should every school district be measured with the same ruler? Should they be measured at all? Should the measuring be done by state governments and the US government, none of which (except, I guess, the DoD) actually teach kids?

Monticello, in Sullivan County, has a small school district. Bronxville, in Westchester, has a similarly-sized district. But the circumstances of those living in those districts is dissimilar. Education, which in the abstract might equalize, instead is used to threaten one district, while leaving the other alone. (median family income in Bronxville is almost 10 times greater than in Monticello. The Black and Hispanic population makes up over 40% of Monticello, and about 4% of Bronxville.)

Is each district doing a good job educating its children, given its resources and situation?  What is the state doing to improve resources in Monticello? That’s a question that deserves a QUALITATIVE answer, followed by a challenge to Cuomo. You know what those questions don’t do? They don’t threaten the people who are educating kids, especially those doing so under difficult circumstances.

In the late 90’s, under the cover of developing state “accountability” systems, the Bronx superintendent moved struggling kids into schools he, Gates, and other conspirators had slated for closure. Graduation numbers, test scores, measures of safety – all plummeted, and THOSE SCHOOLS were held accountable for decisions made by THE SUPERINTENDENT. The schools have been closed; the superintendent continued to work as a consultant.

Fifteen years ago the Department of Education started sending our vocational high schools students who were not interested in the careers those schools prepared young people for. The vocational schools were held accountable – and were broken up or shut down – often replaced by schools with no CTE status.

Today the Office of Student Enrollment sends some high schools too many students, or too few, or students without interest in the school’s “special programs.” Who is held accountable? The schools.

We need a real discussion of special education in high schools, where many schools are too small to realistically provide a full range of services, but OSEPO sends them kids who need a wide range of services, and the DoE staff advise them to alter IEPs to match what services they have available. The petty bureaucrats who are cheating the kids, I pity and abhor them – they are trying to cope with an impossible situation. Hang them all, and what would that accomplish? The accountability system still nails the school, the schools large enough to provide the full range of services still don’t get put back together, and those in charge still walk scot free. More on this another day.

At a minimum, those who supervise a group of schools should be held responsible (I refuse to say “accountable”, see above) for their schools. Schools should not be held “accountable” for intentional mismanagement or plain incompetence of their office-based supervisors. We need a way to ask the question “Is this school doing a good job, in its specific circumstances, with its specific resources, and with its actual population?” that does not generate “accountability reports.”

We need real educators in charge. We need to remove the data people and their punitive tests from our system. Asking, “Is this school doing a good job?” should not carry an implicit threat.

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