When Students Aren't Proficient in Reading or Math, It Isn't a Shame, It's Violence

Jul 30, 2018 12:00:00 AM


I’ve written about teacher accountability before, but I recently read a few things that got me thinking. The first was a report out of Los Angeles that showed that nearly half the teachers in Los Angeles’ lowest-performing schools hadn’t been evaluated for three years and that almost all of those who had been had received favorable ratings. The second was from a recent piece by Chris Stewart. Speaking to the education system in general, Stewart made his truth plain, “You demand my kids, I require your receipts. Any other arrangement is war.” Damn right. Teachers, I am one of you, and I say this with all the love, honor and respect I can muster: Stop moaning about accountability standards. Stop griping about the unfairness of performance metrics. Stop sounding like the very students we, at our worst moments, deride as hopeless and impossible to educate. We, all of us, as a profession, ought to stand up and say, “Hell yes my students will sit for that assessment. And guess what? They’re gonna crush it. They’re gonna demonstrate growth that is astounding.” [pullquote]We ought to stand up and say, “Hell yes I would be honored for my students to complete my performance review. I serve them!”[/pullquote] To quake in fear at being held accountable for one’s teaching invites the hackneyed anti-educator diatribes about summer vacations and glorified babysitting. But it’s more than that. When a teacher speaks out against accountability, the truth is, at their core, whether they admit it or not, they care more about themselves than their students. Full stop. I can hear the voices now, the righteous indignation about teaching to tests, narrowing curriculums, etc. There’s a time for those conversations. But not now. Now is about justice and oppression. For a school system like L.A.’s, which is certainly not anomalous, to have the vast majority of teachers be marked favorably or not evaluated at all, and then have more than 70 percent of students attending the lowest performing schools fail to meet proficiency in math or reading is not a shame; it’s violence. This week, I will teach my first class of higher education after more than a decade in Philadelphia classrooms—private, traditional public and charter. And I’ll be damned if I’m not held accountable for my work. https://educationpost.org/ive-taught-in-a-school-with-zero-accountability-its-terrible/

Zachary Wright 

Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating classes. Wright was a national finalist for the 2018 U.S. Department of Education's School Ambassador Fellowship, and he was named Philadelphia's Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2013. During his more than 10 years in Philadelphia classrooms, Wright created a relationship between Philadelphia's Mastery Schools and the University of Vermont that led to the granting of near-full-ride college scholarships for underrepresented students. And he participated in the fight for equitable education funding by testifying before Philadelphia's Board of Education and in the Pennsylvania State Capitol rotunda. Wright has been recruited by Facebook and Edutopia to speak on digital education. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he organized demonstrations to close the digital divide. His writing has been published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Citizen, Chalkbeat, Education Leadership, and numerous education blogs. Wright lives in Collingswood, New Jersey, with his wife and two sons. Read more about Wright's work and pick up a copy of his new book, " Dismantling A Broken System; Actions to Close the Equity, Justice, and Opportunity Gaps in American Education"—now available for pre-order!

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