Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Accountability/Flexibility

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How can teachers be flexible in an era of accountability?
Our children ... deserve an education worthy of this great nation. Together we will make sure that every child learns and no child is left behind.

—George W. Bush

Teachers have always felt the need to be accountable for the students they teach. They grow attached to their students and they want them to succeed. According to the Education Commission of the State website, accountability means holding key individuals and groups responsible for student achievement through the systematic collection, analysis, use and reporting of valid and reliable information. Accountability systems assume that educators, policymakers and others know how to act on the information to improve education.” Ever since the federal law, "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB), came into play in 2002 the era in which teachers teach has become more scrutinized than ever before. "No Child Left Behind" reauthorizes a number of federal programs that aim to improve the performances of the United States primary and secondary schools by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts and schools, as well as providing parents more flexibility in choosing which school their child attends. (No Child Left Behind) This act requires that by the end of the 2005-2006 school year that all teachers will be "highly qualified". To be considered a "highly qualified" teacher, new teachers must hold a bachelor's degree and must be able to pass a state test demonstrating their subject knowledge and teaching skills in all core content areas for elementary level, and for middle and higher level, they must pass a state test in each academic subject area they teach, plus have an undergraduate major, graduate degree, or coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major or an advanced certification or credentialing. (No Child Left Behind) These standards become very hard to implement in various places around the country due to small communities with small schools. In an interview with Kathleen Rowe, an instructional aide for the Buchanan County Public Schools, Rowe stated, “In rural areas, we are often times faced with choosing anyone willing to work with the students. We face that problem in this county because we’ve hired all the known qualified people in the area and we are still lacking.” (Rowe)

Becoming Flexible[edit]

Teachers not only have to recertify themselves every now and then, and teachers must always be striving toward making their resume of education better, teachers also take this accountability idea personally. This is where flexibility comes in to play. Teachers need to move into mentorship, coaching, and ongoing professional development in order to stay accountable. Teachers must always be aware of the content they are teaching because ultimately assessment leads back to the content taught. (Jackson)Teachers and administrators must always be checking themselves to make sure that all state standards are being met and carried out in the way they were intended. In order for all of this to be done, teachers must remain flexible. Teachers must be willing to put forth the extra effort to help his/her students in anyway possible. In order to make sure that no child is left behind, teachers need to always be on the look out for new ways to interest students in their studies and to always present the content is a easy manner for all to be able to understand. Teachers can remain flexible by speaking one-on-one with the students and finding out how the child learns best. With a classroom full of children, no one child is the same, so teachers must be flexible in dealing with the opportunity to teach in various ways for the many types of different learners she encounters. Without this flexibility, teachers would be denying their students a quality education. A loving, stress free learning environment is best for children to retain the information needed to be known for standardized testing. Currently, most states are so focused on standardized testing that this way of evaluation and assessment has become the norm. (Zimmerman) Students and teachers alike feel like they must master the art of taking a test in order to pass, but they do not really focus on the material being taught. Teachers should be able to help their students learn how take the tests in the easiest way possible, with the least amount of stress involved. As you can see, students, teachers, and parents all live in an age of accountability. Students are pushed to their breaking points to learn certain standards and teachers are held accountable for the student’s results. (Gusky) In order for students to want to learn, incentives may need to be offered to help students stay motivated.

Getting Help[edit]

In March of 2004, the Department of Education provided three new ways of flexibility for rural school teachers, science school teachers, and those teachers that teach more than one subject. For teachers in rural areas, they are often faced with the task of teaching a subject that they may not be certified in. The Department gave those teachers 3 years to become highly qualified in the additional subject they teach. They were also to be provided with professional development and supervision to becoming highly qualified in these subjects. Science teachers are a lot like rural teachers. They are often called upon to teach more than one area of science. The Department provided flexibility by leaving it up to the state to determine, based upon their qualifications, if they are highly qualified in a “broad” field of science or in just one particular subject. For teachers who are current and are teaching more than one subject, there were required to go through the HOUSSE (High, Objective, Uniform State Standard of Evaluation) program to become highly qualified in each subject taught. This process often times became very repetitive. In the new guidelines, states may bring these evaluations together for current, multi-subject teachers to be able to show that they are highly qualified in all subjects at one time. (ECS)

New teachers are also given the flexibility to have “alternative ways of certification”. This could be one of two ways, such as allowing a candidate to teach while they are obtaining their state certification or the state itself can adopt new routes to certification, like have an all around assessment for candidates instead of relying on their course work in education school courses. (ECS)


We’ve seen that there are many requirements that the “No Child Left Behind Act” states for current and future educators, but there is room to be flexible. The Department of Education has been flexible in allowing educators many ways to become highly qualified, while teachers have personally become flexible in making sure that all of their students can learn the material in their own way for the standardized assessments

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

In 2004, the Department of Education gave three groups of teachers the flexibility to become "highly qualified". Which three groups were they?
A. Math teachers, inner-city school teachers, and rural school teachers.
B. Science teachers, math teachers, and social studies teachers.
C. Science teachers, rural school teachers, and multi-subject teachers.
D. Rural school teachers, bilingual teachers, and science teachers.

C. Science teachers, rural school teachers, and multi-subject teachers.

Emily is a brand new teacher in the 2nd grade. She knows that she will be accountable for what her children are learning. Which one is NOT a way Emily can stay accountable?
A. Mentorship
B. Professional development
C. Coaching
D. Writing a report

D. Writing a report

In order for each teacher to make sure no child is left behind, what can a teacher do?
A. Find new ways to interest the students.
B. Teach the material in easy to understand ways.
C. Assess the student's learning abilities.
D. All of the above.

D. All of the above.

What is one downfall mentioned in the article about HOUSSE (High, Objective, Uniform State Standards of Evaluation)?
A. Repetition.
B. Takes too much time.
C. It is boring.
D. None of the above.

A. Repetition.

Laura is a brand new teacher this year. What did she NOT have to have in order to be "highly qualified"?
A. Master's degree
B. Bachelor's degree
C. High school diploma
D. None of the above

A. Master's degree

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

How will you be flexible in your classroom?

In my classroom, I will implement flexibility by addressing the needs of the students on an individual basis. In order to do this, I will assess each student on what they learned and how they learned the material. To help all students in their own way, I will show different ways one can learn the same topic. I will motivate my students by making the material interesting and easy to comprehend. In order to keep my students motivated, I will offer incentives for work well done. To be flexible, I will continue to participate in professional development activities by attending meetings and seminars to learn more about the latest information on the state standards, I will continue to recertify myself when needed and always use the criticism of others to help me provide the best quality of education I can to my students, so no child will be left behind.