Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why we have to have a new and better accountability

True Accountability is arguably the most important concept for every public school to embrace if the purpose of schooling is to maximally benefit each and every student. True Accountability represents a significant mind shift from what currently passes for educational accountability, which is anything but a meaningful accountability. True Accountability is far richer, far deeper, and far more robust. It demands real leadership, it places student benefit front and center, and is about moving a school closer to the goal of maximally benefitting each and every student. That goal represents an ideal to strive for that requires constant effort.

A truly accountable leader regularly offers up an objective accounting regarding their area of responsibility and is able to move his or her organization from that point in a desirable direction. In the case of schools, that direction is towards an organization more capable of maximizing student benefit. A truly accountable leader understands that accountability to processesis a compliance function that is unlikely to move the organization in a desirable direction. A truly accountable leader understands as well that slavish attention to metrics risks a corrupt process that will fail to benefit students. Being accountable for maximizing student benefit is the best way to ensure that an accountability is properly placed.

True Accountability is based upon a set of principles derived from organizations capable of delivering on the promise of maximum benefit and need to be internalized by school leaders who want True Accountability for their schools and students. It requires school leaders to develop a set of capacities that can serve as the bedrock for True Accountability. And it requires a set of structures that can provide the discipline to make the accountability work. The most recent (and the most promising) form True Accountability has taken is in the creation of Community-Based Accountability Systems.

The biggest obstacle to True Accountability has long been that the school accountability conversation has been co-opted by state actors with a biased view of public education as a failed institution. Those who criticize then system risk being labeled as unapologetic supporters of that failed institution, especially if they work within those institutions. Those who criticize from within the institution are viewed as upset that their substandard efforts are being brought to light.

The only way to overcome such a system is with an accountability that gets at the truth. And the truth is that schools are complex institutions with daily successes and failures that great leaders manage and work through to the benefit of the students they serve. True Accountability reveals the truth within a school and the quality of a leader’s decisions. In the hands of a thoughtful superintendent it becomes the means for each school to be great and each school leader to be effective. Done properly it becomes the basis for a community and a school board to understand their schools and the work being performed there. Done well it can eclipse the unhelpful policies that currently pass for educational accountability and replace them with something that actually works.

If you or your school system are interested in joining a movement, please get in touch with me.

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