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Ode to joy



Our first guest blogger, Tampa teacher and Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform activist John Perry, returns with a commentary about education accountability in this week's Teachers Corner. He doesn't like it. Post a comment of your own after reading. Perry generally tracks this blog and is likely to respond.

"If I asked you what one word you heard most often in recent discussions about education, what would that word be? Perhaps "joy," as in "the joy of learning?" That might be a logical answer, but perversely, it now sounds like bitter sarcasm coming from a teacher in the age of "accountability," the single obsession in education today. Joy isn't even on the radar screen.

I am so over accountability. By even starting with that term, we are letting the corporate agenda  control the debate. At the first meeting last week of the Educator Roundtable, Georgia State University education professor Dr. Deron Boyles said that all we talk about now in education is accountability. We used to talk about responsibility. How did this sudden shift happen? It didn't come from educators. Accountability is a business concept, like competition, also a foreign and destructive concept when applied to education. Public education is being hijacked by Corporate America and in my view, they've already won when we allow them to set the terms of the debate.

Here's my suggestion for accountability: ban that word, and all the other words and phrases used to perpetrate this corporate takeover. Educators, parents, and elected leaders have to stop letting the Business Roundtable  control the debate.

For example, I have two students who only speak a few words of English who were forced to take FCAT this year because they've been in the U.S. for a year. In the three hundred hours of ESOL courses teachers must take to teach such students, we're told it can take seven years for kids to become fluent in academic English. After one year, they're not even fluent in conversational English, yet they are forced to take FCAT with the rest of the students at their grade level.

So while businessmen and politicians pontificate about "accountability," what they really mean is that kids who can't read first grade English are forced to take a test that is challenging to fourth graders who are native speakers of English. Their scores count against the school's grade, and against me, of course. (Kind of hard to get "merit pay" based on those kinds of test scores, or bonuses based on school grades.) That's what they're really talking about when they talk about accountability - abuse of and discrimination against kids, teachers, and schools. Just ask that fourth grader with a mustache in the class next to mine. He spent three years in third grade because he didn't pass FCAT. He should be in sixth grade. What's the likelihood of him finishing school? It's a lot dimmer now, thanks to "accountability."

We shouldn't concede to this push for "accountability." We need to debunk accountability and get back to our responsibilities to our students."

Note: Perry offers a link to the Educator Roundtable's petition to dismantle NCLB. Click here if you are interested. If you'd like to be a guest blogger, submit your writings for consideration to [email protected]

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:15am]


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