What do we mean when we use the word accountability? When it comes to our nation’s schools, who must be held accountable to whom? What do teachers owe kids and families? What responsibilities should the districts take out of teachers’ hands? What do families owe to the school community?

On the latest #SeekingCommonGround episode, host Zakiya Sankara-Jabar brought on a panel of experts and community activists to discuss a healthier and more effective accountability system in our school communities. 

Watch the full episode below or over at our Facebook page.  

Real Accountability For All

First of all, so much about education takes place on an individual level, said guest Laura Jimenez of the Center for American Progress (CAP). So accountability must take place on individual levels, too.

“Learning is an individual process,” she said. “It’s not linear. It’s a relationship between students and their educators.”

Janet Gomez, who attends high school in Chicago, said she’s lacked clear accountability throughout her student career.

“Accountability for students right now is detached from reality,” she said. “I am anxious and I stress over it.”

So how do we individualize goals and benchmarks for kids to reach? Washington D.C.’s Maurice Cook began that conversation.

“I’ve seen the damage and harm it causes to use broad strokes” to measure kids’ progress, he said. Part of that is simply listening to what students and their families want, rather than silencing their voices as Janet said happened to her classmates.

“Here at a minority-based high school, we have to really fight and use our voices,” she said.

But this isn’t merely a teacher-to-student system. It’s about all adults in a school system actually tackling the responsibilities their positions entail. 

“If the quality of the building and the water is in disrepair, that’s not the school’s fault. It’s the district’s,” said CAP’s Jimenez. Too many districts obscure who controls certain aspects of their actual responsibilities to the community, and that has to be made more transparent. 

Why is this so important? Brightbeam CEO Chris Stewart put it bluntly: 

“If there’s a tracking system that starts kids on the track to prison and others on the track to Harvard, that’s a problem,” he said.  

“As early as middle school, kids and their parents know if they’re gonna get the good education,” Stewart continued.

Constant questioning and reapplying ourselves to our school districts is part of the solution, said CAP’s Jimenez.

“How are we including schools within their broader communities?” she asked aloud. “How should all of our public resources contribute to students and their wellbeing?”

What are your ideas to make school communities more inclusive and accountable to everyone in them? Share them during the next #SeekingCommonGround broadcast Wednesday, October 27, at noon ET. 

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