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February 1, 2004
Vol. 61
No. 5

ASCD Community in Action

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Having Your Say... On the Challenges of Accountability

Is the current accountability movement helping or hurting? Here's what some EL readers told us.

Failure? Says Who?

It was with great interest that I read the recent articles in Educational Leadership (Nov. 2003) regarding the effects of accountability. The articles highlighted the distinct yet thoughtful viewpoints regarding NCLB and focused my attention on the need for educators to effectively communicate with our stakeholders on the realities of educating all children.
Based on NCLB-guided state criteria, many schools are identified as failures. This is distasteful to most educators primarily because we are excluded from the process. My experience has taught me that teachers and school administrators are already dedicated to leaving no child behind. Our challenge is to assume responsibility for ensuring that our schools provide high-quality teaching and documented student learning and to demand the right to define failure and success.
—MaryEllen Gorodetzer, Colonial School District, Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania

A House Built on Sand

Richard F. Elmore (Educational Leadership, Nov. 2003) uses the term “design flaw” to describe NCLB; I would use the analogy of a house built on sand. The flaw in NCLB is that it is built on the wrong assumption: that schools are the only factor in the education of a child and, therefore, accountable. One only has to look at the research—on students who overcome at-risk conditions, on summer achievement loss, on parent involvement—to realize that to ignore these factors is to ignore a huge portion of the development of a child. How much? A quick math problem gives us a clue: 24 hours per day × 365 days per year = 8,760 hours. In the state of Michigan, we provide 1,100 hours of instruction. That means that 7,660 hours—or 87 percent—of a child's time is spent out of school.
In The Learning Gap, Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler compared Japanese and U.S. education. One of the differences they noted was that people in the United States assume that the responsibility for education lies with the schools. In Japan, people assume that the responsibility for education lies with the family. At checkout counters in Japan, one will often find quality educational materials for sale. Compare this to checkout counters in the United States, and you begin to grasp some of the contextual factors that create uncontrollable challenges for teachers.
If you were to build an accountability system based on all the factors of learning, you would have a solid and realistic program. Not one that is flawed, as Elmore points out.
—Steve Anderson, Amerman Elementary School, Northville, Michigan

An Educator's Wish

  • A classroom that provides the structure and discipline needed for effective learning.
  • Knowing my subject and teaching effectively.
  • My personal commitment to work hard, to be caring, to be a learner, and to be enthusiastic.
  • Paying attention to each child and treating each child fairly.
  • Working with my students' families to help children learn.
  • Kids coming to school adequately fed, rested, and in good medical condition.
  • Kids coming to school ready to learn, with the attitudes and behaviors suitable for success in school.
  • Kids coming to school from homes, rich or poor, that encourage learning and respect for learning.
Help me, and I can become more accountable!
—Dorothy Rich, Home and School Institute, Washington, D.C.

Your Turn

The articles in this issue explore different viewpoints on math and science literacy. Now it's your turn. What is your response to William H. Schmidt, who argues for a unified and challenging curriculum? Or to James W. Stigler and James Hiebert, who point out that U.S. teaching practice needs to change? Or to Tom Loveless and John Coughlan, who argue that U.S. students lack solid computation skills? On the basis of your experience in schools, what do you think schools should do to improve achievement in math and science? Send a brief statement (100–300 words) to el@ascd.org. Selected responses will appear in an upcoming issue.

Resources for “Improving Achievement in Math and Science”

  • The Lesson Collection: Math Strategies. (2001). Eight 10- to 20-minute videotapes. Stock No. 401044. Price: $395 (member); $475 (nonmember).
  • The Lesson Collection: Science Strategies. (2000). Eight 10- to 20-minute videotapes. Stock No. 400060. Price: $395 (member); $475 (nonmember).
  • Math Wonders to Inspire Teachers and Students, by Alfred S. Posamentier. (2003). Stock No. 103010. Price: $22.95 (member); $27.95 (nonmember).
  • Administrator's Guide: How to Support and Improve Mathematics Education in Your School, by Amy Mirra. (2003). Copublished with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Stock No. 303398. Price: $11.95 (member); $14.95 (nonmember).
  • Teaching Reading in Mathematics (2nd ed.), by Mary Lee Barton and Clare Heidema. (2002). Copublished with McREL. Stock No. 302053. Price: $20.95 (member); $22.95 (nonmember).
  • Teaching Reading in Science, by Mary Lee Barton and Deborah L. Jordan. (2001). Copublished with McREL. Stock No. 302269. Price: $20.95 (member); $22.95 (nonmember).
  • Environmental Education Network. Contact Bora Simmons: (815) 753-9069; Fax: (815) 753-8594;<LINK URL="mailto:boras@niu.edu">boras@niu.edu</LINK>;<LINK URL="http://eelink.net/environmentaleducationnetwork.html">http://eelink.net/environmentaleducationnetwork.html</LINK>

Fostering Environmental Literacy

Integrating environmental themes into the curriculum motivates student learning, teaches citizenship, and supports standards. To help educators realize the potential of environmental literacy, ASCD, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency's agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, has produced Advancing Education Through Environmental Literacy. The booklet includes a CD-ROM of suggestions for classroom activities. The full content of the booklet is available online; go towww.ascd.org and type the title in the Search box, or order a free copy fromenviroedtrainingpartnership@uwsp.edu.

ASCD—A Responsive Employer

ASCD has received its second award for being a great place to work. In addition to its recognition by Washingtonian magazine, ASCD has received the CARE (Companies As Responsive Employers) Award in the small organization category from Northern Virginia Family Service, an organization that promotes family-friendly workplaces. The award recognizes ASCD's philosophy, benefits, and positive work environment.

No Name-Calling Week

ASCD has joined with more than 30 other organizations to address verbal bullying in U.S. schools. In conjunction with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and Simon &amp; Schuster's Children's Publishing, ASCD will support the first-ever No Name-Calling Week March 1–5, 2004. Visitwww.nonamecallingweek.org for more information.

Write a Book for ASCD

Through ASCD publications, educators discuss the most significant ideas in the field of education. If you would like ASCD to consider publishing a book that you have written or plan to write, send a book proposal and sample chapters to Scott Willis, Director of Book Acquisitions, ASCD, 1703 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria, VA 22311-1714 USA. For more detailed information, visitwww.ascd.org/readingroom/books/authorguide.html.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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Improving Achievement in Math and Science
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