“Accountability that Sticks” v. “Accountability with Sticks”

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Michael Fullan, Professor Emeritus from the University of Toronto and former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), gave a presentation he titled “Accountability that Sticks.” Which is “a preposition away from accountability with sticks.”

In his speech he said: “Firing teachers and closing schools if student test scores and graduation rates do not meet a certain bar is not an effective way to raise achievement across a district or a state…Linking student achievement to teacher appraisal, as sensible as it might seem on the surface, is a non-starter…It’s a wrong policy [emphasis added]…[and] Its days are numbered.”

He noted that teacher evaluation is “the biggest factor that most policies get wrong…Teacher appraisal, even if you get it right – which the federal government doesn’t do – is the wrong driver. It will never be intensive enough.”

He then spoke about how, at least in the state of California, things look more promising than they have in the past, from his view working with local districts throughout the state. He noted noticing that “Growing numbers of superintendents, teachers and parents…are rejecting punitive measures…in favor of what he called more collaborative, humane and effective approaches to supporting teachers and improving student achievement.”

If the goal is to improve teaching, then, what’s the best way to do this according to Fullan? “[A] culture of collaboration is the most powerful tool for improving what happens in classrooms and across districts…This is the foundation. You reinforce it with selective professional development and teacher appraisal.”

In addition, “[c]ollaboration requires a positive school climate – teachers need to feel respected and listened to, school principals need to step back, and the tone has to be one of growth and improvement, not degradation.” Accordingly, “New Local Control and Accountability Plans [emphasis added], created individually by districts, could be used by teachers and parents to push for ways to create collaborative cultures” and cultures of community-based and community-respected accountability.

This will help allow “talented schools” to improve “weak teachers” and further prevent the attrition of “talented teachers” from “weak schools.”

To read more about his speech, as highlighted by Jane Meredith Adams on EdSource, click here.

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