Accountability. What a concept. Who is accountable when a parole board mandates a juvenile felon enroll and attend school? Who is accountable when a student misses more than 10% of the days in a school year? Whose fault is it when a student drops out simply because they see no purpose in taking a fourth year of English or the mandated Consumer Economics course? Who is accountable for the billions of dollars spent every year in this country on testing? We have come to expect so much from schools through mandates that there is hardly any way for a school to be successful on all accounts. Yet we make teachers and administrators accountable for so many things that are out of their control. Our system is such a mixed up mess of conflicting mandates that it is no wonder that so many schools cannot fulfill their mission!
We have to define what it is we want schools to be. Therein lies the problem. We really are not sure what we want them to be. Do we want schools to be pre-college preparation assembly lines? Do we want schools to be places to drop kids off so parents can work? Do we want them to prepare kids for vocations? Should they be engaging environments that encourage our kids to explore their interests and be challenged to find a passion to pursuit? Do want our schools to compete for championships on the gridiron or in the gym? Do we want a school that has the highest test scores in comparison to those in the next community? Should we have an award winning band? Should our Fine Arts Department put on productions worthy of state recognition? What our schools are is a reflection of our communities. Communities define their needs as well as traditions and their schools take on a mission to meet those expectations. The governments of the states as well as the federal government have continually eroded the local control of schools to the point that we are moving to a common curriculum and standardized way of assessing learning despite differing local and regional educational missions. The local school has become the victim of the state and national governments’ need to “fix” identified problems that were more than likely created by government intervention in the first place. Show me the evidence that federal and state interventions in schools have made a measureable, positive difference in our school today. We want to legislate our way to success. Government can solve every problem from a distant seat. We have to get back to empowering local people to solve their own problems!