Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Accountability/Teachers

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How should teachers be held accountable?

Accountability is defined as “responsibility to someone or for some activity” (www.thefreedictionary.com). When considering a teacher’s accountability, we relate it to the teacher’s responsibility for their students and his or her learning progress. Teachers should accept ownership over their student’s performance in their classroom.

Today, teachers live in an age of accountability. They are constantly being held responsible for the performance of their students. This leads to teachers constantly feeling pressured since their teaching capabilities are being judged on by how their students perform on, for example, a standardized test. “The No Child Left Behind Act holds schools and school districts accountable for results. Schools are responsible for making sure your child is learning” (ed.gov). This act increases the responsibility of teachers for their student’s performance and learning achievement.

Teachers' Responsibility[edit]

When someone decides to become a teacher, they take on the responsibility to educate our nation's youth. Many people think that within the school system, teachers are ultimately the ones who are accountable for the development and learning progress of students. At one time, principals and teachers could satisfy the demands of accountability simply by working hard and following accepted professional standards. By contrast, the current accountability movement emphasizes results (Lashway). It is the teacher’s responsibility for students to produce good test results.

It is a teacher’s responsibility to educate our youth; therefore it is the teacher’s responsibility to be well educated. Students achieve more and progress faster when instructed by a well-educated and well-trained teacher (Carter). Today in our school systems, we are continually raising the standards for students, but at the same time we are lowering the standards for our teachers. Until we address the problems plaguing teacher education institutions, teacher training, and teacher accountability, we cannot adequately address the problems affecting our students (Carter). The first step of bettering our education system is by holding teachers more accountable for their students. This idea brings up the question on how exactly should teachers be held accountable.

How Should Teachers Be Held Accountable[edit]

First, teachers need to be held accountable through evaluations and observations. At the end of each year, each teacher needs to be evaluated on his/her performance for that year. Although many schools only perform an annual teacher evaluation, it is necessary for a teacher to be evaluated through out the school year. Teachers should be observed and evaluated through out the year by the schools administration. For instance, a principal or an assistant principal will sit in on a teacher’s class and evaluate her performance. Listed are some of the criteria a principal should evaluate while observing a teacher: Instructional skills, classroom management, student discipline and attendance patterns, knowledge of subject matter, interest in teaching pupils, and effort towards improvement when needed (wednet.edu). Students progress should also be evaluated every couple of weeks to see if they are improving and how their performance reflects the teacher.

Another way teachers can be held accountable is by students achieving passing scores on standardized tests. These test are implemented by the government and teachers are expected to prepare their students for the information that is within these test. In Virginia, SOL is a common term that teachers encounter. The Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools describe the commonwealth's expectations for student learning and achievement in grades K-12 in English, mathematics, science, history/social science, technology, the fine arts, foreign language, health and physical education, and driver education (pen.k12.va.us). The SOL’s of Virginia are a prime example of a state required test that students are required to pass. These test reflect both the performance of the students and teachers. Teachers are pressured to teach all of the material that is covered on these standardized test within a limited amount of time. They need to be flexible in their teaching because they need to allow time to cover each required concept and be assured their students have had time to grasp the concept before moving to a new topic. When teachers are evaluated on their students test results a few other factors should be taken into consideration. First, the size of the classroom since there is always a shortage of teachers and second if there are any students with learning disabilities who may perform lower on the test.

A third way teachers are held accountable is by the No Child Left Behind policy. The No Child Left Behind is a critical step toward improving the education of American children.

NCLB sets five performance goals for states:

  1. All students will reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading/language arts and mathematics by 2013-2014.
  2. All limited English proficient students will become proficient in English and reach high academic standards, at minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading/language arts and mathematics.
  3. All students will be taught by highly qualified teachers by 2005-2006.
  4. All students will learn in schools that are safe and drug free.
  5. All students will graduate from high school(pen.k12.va.us).

The NCLB not only holds the schools accountable for a student’s education but also the individual teacher. According to the NCLB, the Administration's proposal for preparing, training and recruiting teachers is based upon the basic principle that teacher excellence is vital to achieving improvement in student achievement (whitehouse.gov). Therefore, all teachers are supposed to be highly qualified in the field that they are teaching. It makes sense that improving teacher quality is important for student’s success. The more qualified a teacher is in his/her field the better he/she can educate American children. The No Child Left Behind act holds the state, schools, and individual teachers accountable for the performance of our nations youth.

There are many new ideas in the area of teacher accountability that have yet to be fully explored. Value-Added Modeling (VAM) is a new concept introduced to develop a better way of establishing guidelines to help create an effect measuring device. VAM offers a way of statistically analyzing students test scores over a period of years to model a teacher's effectiveness and thus offer a means of accountability (McCaffery et al). This becomes important because statistics offer a way of separating family, financial, and opinion biases from the data and offer an effective breakdown of the teacher and school. Also this usage of data allows for a prediction of future effectiveness for teachers and can even show the benefit of development programs and even teaching methods (McCaffery et al). So this is just one of the many issues on the forefront of methods to hold teachers accountable. However this is not an issue that many agree upon, VAM and other methods that use test data are being attacked as lacking truth. While no one disputes the results of standards and tests it is the opinion of many that teachers should also be judged upon other factors. The National Education Association (NEA) on their website states that while it is the right of taxpayers and parents to know that their tax dollars and children are getting the best education possible it does hurt the teacher to base that upon standards (NEA). Even recent polling by the NEA suggests that parents agree with this assumption and states that, “Standardized tests should be used to guide instruction by helping identify gaps in learning and groups of students who need the most help. But test scores alone should never be used to punish students, teachers or schools by cutting funding, closing schools or firing teachers” (NEA). So even still a possible solution is already under criticism.

Conclusion[edit]

Evaluation and observation, standardized testing, and the No Child Left Behind policy are three critical ways to hold teachers accountable. A teacher’s responsibility is to educate our nations youth. According to No Child Left Behind all teachers must be highly qualified. This alone will help enrich children’s education. Standardized testing is also another way of holding teachers accountable. They will want to teach their students to the best of their ability in hopes that their students will perform well on the test. Evaluation and observation is also an important way to hold teachers accountable. If they know that they are being evaluated and observed they will perform better and therefore students will be better instructed.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

What are the three ways to hold teachers accountable?
A. Evaluation/Observation, No Child Left Behind, parent surveys
B. Parent surveys, No Child Left Behind, standardized tests
C. Evaluation/Observation, standardized tests, No Child Left Behind
D. Evaluation/Observation, standardized tests, parent surveys

C. Evaluation/Observation, standardized tests, No Child Left Behind

What is the name of the standardized test that Virgina implements?
A. Standards of Learning
B. Standards of Teaching
C. Standards of Testing
D. Standards of Results

A. Standards of Learning

The No Child Left Behind Act requires teachers to be "highly qualified". What does this include?
A. Teachers must be an expert in their field.
B. Teachers must be certified.
C. Teachers must pass state test.
D. All of the above.

D. All of the above.

Which statement is NOT included in the No Child Left Behind?
A. All students will be taught by highly qualified teachers by 2005-2006.
B. All students will be asked to take a drug test.
C. All students will learn in schools that are safe and drug free.
D. All students will reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading/language arts and mathematics by 2013-2014.

B. All students will be asked to take a drug test.

Which is NOT a responsibility of a teacher?
A. To educate America's children.
B. Instructional skills.
C. Be knowledgeable of the subject matter.
D. Play games with the children at recess.

D. Play games with the children at recess.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

After reading this article, how do you believe teachers should be held accountable?

I feel that each of these three forms of accountability are all critical ways of holding teachers accountable. The No Child Left Behind requires that all teachers be highly qualified and I feel that this is necessary for our children to receive the best education. The more educated our teachers are the more successful students will be.

I also think that evaluations are a significant way of holding teachers accountable. I feel that if they performance is constantly being evaluated and critiqued the better they will do their job. Evaluations also provide feedback, so if there is an area that a teacher needs to improve he or she can do so accordingly. Evaluation should be throughout the year and not just once at the end of the year.

I also agree that a percentage of a teacher’s evaluation should be from standardized test scores. How a student performs reflects how a teacher performs. However, I feel that a few other things need to be taken into consideration when viewing test scores. For example, the size of the class the teacher was teaching, if any student had special needs, and other background information of the students.

A teacher's responsibility is to educate students. Therefore teachers should be held accountable for the education that American children are receiving.


I was born in 1956, and when I attended school (first grade through twelfth) teachers were role models and it was believed then that most teachers were "called" to become teachers just like preachers have been "called" upon by the Lord to preach. This was the school of thought in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s This was because teaching salaries were very modest and mostly filled by women who could easily leave teaching for a year or two to get married and have children and then return to teaching when it best suited their families. During these years of teachers being "called" to teach, students were being tested annually through standardized tests which showed to their parents, teachers, and school authorities how much of the subject matter they were learning and retaining. This situation has not evolved that much today, because we are still testing the students, but the kicker (punch-line) in today's world is putting the responsibility (accountability) of the student's test scores on teachers and schools versus students.

This evolving of the accountability has changed because the world has changed, and the teaching profession has changed. The first dramatic change was the need for more and more teachers because of the rising population boom, which in turn lead to a recruitment of teachers. This is when the profession went from being a "calling" to teach, to a job of teaching. This is also about the time when teaching salaries began to increase and more and more men (top-bread winners of the family) came into the field of teaching. I am not saying that there were no men teachers in the 1960s through the 1980s; I am just saying that all of a sudden the increase in salaries was allowing men to enter the profession and provide a nice income for their families.

My point is that when teaching stopped being a "calling," some how the accountability of the professional decreased. With this decrease came the "No Child Left Behind Act" and a need for teachers and schools to prove to the American public that the job of teaching our youth was being accomplished to the best of their abilities. I can not think of a job in the world today where there is no accountability. The real question concerning holding a teacher and a school accountable for the success of their/its students is; Is this the fair and true manner in which to determine the teacher's job performance and the school's credibility?

My answer to the essay question of "How do you believe teachers should be held accountable?" is that there is no easy answer to this question, but all paying jobs in this world we live today, demand accountability. Since at the end of the day or year of teaching, a teacher can not give you a concrete product produced, it will always be a subjective resolution. I personally believe that parents, students, principals, and teachers should be re-evaluating and assessing all of their own responsibilities when it comes to the learning process. It should be all components that are held accountable. —Victoria B. Wilson

References[edit]