A few months ago I was asked to give my opinion after reading a parent's call to institute a Yelp type of app, but for teachers in the name of accountability. Here was my response.
It’s true that “accountability and metrics are infiltrating public education whether you like it, or not.” Unfortunately, just like many things in our country, there are negative connotations that undermine the true purpose of certain declarations and in fact convinces many of us of the total opposite of our interest. I’ll show as an example one of most significance and debate; accountability. With NCLB and RTTT (Race to the Top) this verbiage has set the tone for letting all of education’s conflicting issues rest on the least common denominator, the teacher (not least important). Accountability implies that it should be passed down to the most important link (again the teacher), therefore it is imperative that their performance must be sound, for the children are our future. No one argues the importance of the role they play. The less a word is used, it ceases to be a significant aspect of our daily lives, hence nutrition. The more the word is used, the more is expected. The overuse of the word “accountability” leads into the inevitable collective belief that teachers are not doing their job.
Why not promote responsibility? It’s because it implies equal distribution of work to be done from the top down or bottom up. Very few people mention this unique concept. It transcends the school into the local and global community. Responsibility implies that no matter how hard the task, we must all get it done, together. Accountability may imply a directive with laid out consequences.
The article suggests a consumer based model (which is probably its underlying interest) for evaluating performances of teachers. This is a view of those that are proponents of school choice. This model is based off a business premise. It says that if parents choose what school their children attend, then they have the option to shop around for the best school they see fit. In the schools, the ineffective teachers will be replaced by others. And if such school is deemed ineffective, it too will shut down. In theory parents can see the effectiveness of a school and enroll their child. Who would not want the best for their child?
However, schools are not markets to exploit. So far, little to no evidence has suggested this model of "choice" works. Contrary to beliefs, there are no consumers, buyers, or salesmen. Yet there are profiteers. There is not a tangible object we can possess and critique its effectiveness on Yelp. Education is not a business, it is civic duty that its surrounding community is responsible for. When a business produces goods and services, it is taking a risk in the name of profit. We cannot take risks with our future generations. When a business acquires a defective product, it cuts their loss and moves on. Current public education cannot and should not close the door to any child that walks through it. The model of choice promotes competition and segregation in an arena which begs collaboration and justice. Public education provides an equal opportunity for all students to succeed. Diane Ravitch says it best “the need to cut costs and generate a profit for shareholders is inconsistent with the need to assure a reliable, dependable, and equitable public service.”