ac*count*a*ble |əˈkountəbəl|
adjective
1 (of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible : government must be accountable to its citizens | parents could be held accountable for their children's actions

That is the definition from my Apple Dictionary for a word that gets tossed around a lot in education.  My professor, Dean, just posted his thoughts on the word the other day.  And it has been coming up a lot around the light of recent events.  Back in 2010, the Saskatoon Public School Division announced a policy for its high schools that mandated late assignments and plagiarism be "reported in student evaluations, but not reflected in academic assessments" (CBC News, September 2010).  Here is CBC's short video reporting the story:
Needless to say, people had a lot negative opinions about the new policy.  One comment that stood out to me was written by the alias, raceguy:

        "The whole approach to this dumbing down of the system by officials in Sakatoon [sic] is absurd. Should
        we not be looking at opportunities to drive our students to success and excellence by improving the
        education progams [sic]. 
        The fact that there are no provincial or national standards to measure students academic achievements
        is even more of a concern. I personally would have loved to know how my children were stacking up
        against students from other communities in Saskatchewan while they were in high school.
        Oh, sorry that would mean making teachers and the school system accountable to someone. Good grief,
        don't want to pick on the good teachers but isn't it time to hold some of these useless educators
        responsible for their actions?"

This type of attitude is exactly the one that Dean mentioned, that lowers teachers from their role of professional to that of a factory worker, administering tests.  Education is a topic everyone has an opinion about, and rightfully so.  It is something that everyone participates in to some extent.  I just wish that people would gather all of the facts before making a statement like the one above, requesting accountability through standardized testing.  I invite anyone who thinks that ranking teachers by test scores is a good idea, to read about how this worked out for teachers in New York.

Along the same story, in a CBC Radio interview* (September 2010), Saskatchewan's Premier made it very clear that he was opposed to Saskatoon's assessment strategy.  He gave an example of one of his own children losing marks for turning some things in late and how he appreciated the repercussions because he thought it had taught his child a lesson about life in the real world.  I would imagine that Brad Wall provides a stable and supportive home environment, yet if his children struggle to get their homework done sometimes, how about the children who are responsible for providing the care of younger siblings?  Or the students who live on their own and work to support themselves?  I have had many professors extend or negotiate the deadlines on assignments because students had approached them about conflicting schedules.  Life happens and teachers need to be flexible to allow for that.

But maybe instead of the directive coming from the administration that teachers are no longer to hand out zeros for late or plagiarized assignments, that they instead mandate teachers to be flexible with deadlines on a needs basis and use less punitive approaches to punishment when problems do arise; turn a mistake like plagiarism into an opportunity for growth and learning instead of assigning a zero without explanation.  In the radio interview, Mr. Wall agreed that teachers need to make special considerations for students they know are struggling and admitted that teachers are the ones who are working alongside the students and would therefore know what is best for them.  But instead of allowing teachers to make that call, he feels that more standardized approaches are necessary for consistency.

There are no standardized students or standardized classrooms.  Teachers do not come in a standardized package like houses in new subdivisions.  Why would standardized tests be the answer?  This again comes down to what Dean said about teachers being reduced to factory workers instead of the professionals we once were.  I worry that we are headed in the direction of the United States, where schools and their teachers are ranked according to obscure test results.  It will be a sad day for education if that is the case.  Our children deserve better than that.

*I did not have permission to share the radio interview, otherwise I would have posted it here for you all to listen.  If I am able to get permission, I will post it for your listening pleasure!
 





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