Accountability is one of those words that means a million different things to a million different people. For many in my state (and even those in my community), it is about a test score—about meeting the delivery target set forth by the Kentucky Department of Education.
For others, it is about doing everything we can to meet the needs of our students. For still others, it is about so much more.
Standing on the brink of major change in Kentucky’s accountability system, we are called upon to reflect on where we’ve been and where we have to go for the sake of all of those tiny faces looking up at us when we enter into our schools.
No longer can we be about compliance and focusing only on those skills that can be assessed with a multiple choice or short answer question. No longer can we sit by and pat ourselves on the back for reaching an overall score that can hide the real issues our schools and our students face.
No longer can we be satisfied with overall scores and not focus on what is happening for individual students. The truth is, we never should have been. Because our accountability doesn’t lie with a number; it lies with our students.
We are accountable for developing in our students the skills they need to succeed in any circumstance, for enabling them to see beyond what is right in front of their faces.
We are accountable for ensuring that every child who walks into our doors has the opportunity to follow their hearts, whether they lead them down the path of the arts, technical careers, college, or any of hundreds of other paths.
Why It’s Important to Get It Right
This type of accountability is that which means everything for my Eastern Kentucky students. When one is born, raised, and educated in one of the poorest counties in the nation—a community devastated by the impact of drug abuse, broken homes, and lack of jobs—it can seem like an insurmountable task to simply “make it” in today’s world.
As both a mom to two daughters and as a curriculum, instruction and assessment coordinator in my local school district, the weight of this accountability and responsibility can feel overwhelming at times.
Looking into the 683 faces staring out the bus windows of my tiny, rural district each afternoon, I am reminded of why it is so important that we get the new system in Kentucky right.
It is primarily (and perhaps only) because of the unwavering resilience of our extended families, our teachers, and our community leaders that we can make a system like the one proposed work for our students.
Our true accountability is to our students, and if the new system in Kentucky equally values knowledge with innovation, and intrapersonal skills with collaboration, if we can focus on growth for each student, and if we can teach children how to become productive adults and not just proficient test takers, then we can create the kinds of schools that truly prepare our students for their futures.
We will have made a difference.