Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Barriers/Accountability

How is accountability a barrier to effective education?

One of the many barriers to education in America is accountability. The ability to show other people that you are capable of doing what they expect you to be able to do is the basic definition of accountability. While some positives may be found in the holding of teachers and schools accountable, it must be done in the right ways. Unfortunately, we spend more time and resources on testing than we ought. We also interrupt the teaching process with testing and test preparation. Teachers are under an increasingly mounting burden and prospective teachers are dropping like flies.

Why Accountability? Why Now?Edit

In the industrialized nation, the trend of business leans heavily on the quantitative measures of productivity. In the United States, it has become something of an obsession. The structuring and organizing of American business is based substantially on efficiency and accountability. In recent years, we have seen not so much a spill over but a flood of these ideas into modern educational practices. The U.S. is a nation in which it is important to be able to show RESULTS, and if those results cannot be seen, then a change is necessary.

So They Have to Take a Test. What's the Problem?Edit

The problem is that Americans care more about the testing and the results of the testing than about whether students have in fact absorbed the knowledge. One major problem with using tests is the that form of the test is prejudiced toward those who have trouble taking tests. The tests do not in any way take into account different learning styles. The test assumes that all people simply learn by rote memorization. Educators have known for years that this is the lowest level of the mental processes that involve learning. The more effective learning styles are completely overlooked by standardized testing. The other learning styles include: verbal-linguistic, mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic (Cooper, 2007). Also, disabled students are required to be accountable for the same information as nondisabled students. (Thurlow, 2005). The accommodations allowed by most states include only situational changes to the process of taking the test, not to the content of said evaluation. This being said, a school with higher a than average special education population could be held to a standard that is unfair due to the discrepancy in the average intelligence of the students in the school. Yet another problem in testing includes the fact that the test takes place in May with a month left to go in most of the schools. Simple mathematics says that you still have one eighth of the school year left when you take the test. In addition to the problems in testing, there are also true barriers to education caused by the testing craze. There isn’t enough money in the school budgets to hire new teachers, but there is plenty of money to hire more proctors for the testing. Because of this, schools have had to cut back on educational expenditures and increase their money spent on testing. It has become about the test and not about the subject. Virginia Beach City Public Schools has had to cut budgetary allowances for everything from technology and telecommunications to books and supplies and bus drivers (Virginia Beach City Public Schools, 2007). However, the amount of money spent on testing has remained relatively constant.

Parents Taking Control But Not ResponsibilityEdit

According to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) web page, parents of students in schools that do not meet the required benchmarks will be allowed to enroll their children in an “alternative school of their choice” (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). The parents have the right to expect their child to be successful in education and the right to the resources to make that happen. The NCLB puts a lot of accountability on the teachers and the schools to do well. What Americans fail at with their talk of accountability is to put it where it belongs: on every single person involved in the education of a child. Start with the student. Work your way up. After the student, you have the parent, then the family, and then the community. Only after all of these other groups, should accountability of the schools and the teachers be taken into account. Without parental involvement, students are much more likely to fail at academics than with even a minimal amount of support from family. Many families believe, as NCLB does, that the responsibility of education lay with those paid to do the job. The teachers. Some law makers are finally starting to realize the importance of parental participation and accountability with a bill designed to make it easier for parents to be involved by giving them time off to do so (Long, 2007).

Accountability and Merit PAYEdit

A gifted teacher is as rare as a gifted doctor, and makes far less money.

—Author unknown

Over the years, the phrase merit pay has become something of a four letter word in many educational circles. Merit pay is the idea that, as an educator, if you are good at your job you should make more money. If you are not good at your job, you should be held accountable for your failures. There are many problems with this idea. What happens to a teacher who works in an inner-city school with students who have no desire to do well and no reason, as they see it, to try? What happens to the teacher in a situation where the students realize the power they have over that teacher's life? The problem is, the system of accountability is too objective to work for something needing so subjective an evaluation.


In conclusion, there are many ways in which accountability can be a barrier to education. When Americans allow bureaucracy to get in the way of education, when testing and evaluation takes precedence over instruction, and when it is placed on too few people and/or organizations, accountability can become a burden instead of a tool. With the right implementation, students, parents, and educators can work together to achieve higher levels of learning. However, with even one of the legs of this table not being strong and able to the task, the whole will fail.

Multiple Choice QuestionsEdit

Click to reveal the answer.

I am a special education teacher within the public schools system what kind of accommodations can my students receive on standardized assessment tests?
A. All appropriate accommodations.
B. Any accommodations provided for in their IEP.
C. IEP and 504 accommodations that do not change the substance of the test.

C. IEP and 504 accommodations that do not change the substance of the test.

Accountability is defined as the ability to show other people that you are capable of doing _______.
A. Your job
B. Everything right
C. What is expected of you

C. What is expected of you

Most standardized tests require what style of learning?
A. Rote memorization
B. Kinesthetic learning
C. Spatial learning

A. Rote memorization

In the industrialized nation the trend of business leans heavily on the ___________ measures of productivity.
A. Standardized
B. Quantitative
C. Simple

B. Quantitative

What is the chain of command in the accountability ladder? (bottom to top)
A. Parent, teacher, student, school
B. Student, teacher, school, parent
C. Student, parent, teacher, school

C. Student, parent, teacher, school

Essay QuestionEdit

Click to reveal a sample response.

Due to the narrow nature of standardized testing there are many ways in which students can feel that they have been cheated by the system. Some students, though they are very intelligent and know the material, have a great deal of difficulty in taking tests. Why is a standardized test part of the educational process?

Outside of academia many people must continue to write essays, solve math problems, and give speeches but very few continue on to complete more standardized test. Many teaching courses involve the latest buzz word for the day: “Differentiation.” They ask all teachers to differentiate by learning styles using the Say, See, and Do. However the testing for these classes are still without any differentiation. The problem with this is that students aren’t fairly evaluated and therefore teachers are not fairly evaluated in turn. Without fair evaluation you can’t have accountability of teachers because you don’t have adequate testing of students. Teachers spend a lot of time because of this attempting to teach how to take tests rather than teaching the subject they are paid to teach. Teachers do not have enough time to spend this much on testing and how to take tests. Teachers need the freedom to teach in exciting and envelope-pushing ways.


Last modified on 17 February 2010, at 01:45