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New accountability: hidden costs for teachers and students.

Dear Colleagues,

No matter where I travel around the world, I hear teachers talk about "the required testing" and accountability. Often, teachers worry about whether their students will achieve the expected scores that indicate student success and teacher effectiveness. At the same time, many teachers wonder about the impact of the "new accountability" on their ability to plan engaging and child-centered curriculum. They feel the tension between remembering that childhood is a "very special time" that should nurture the mind, body, and spirit of every child and youth worldwide and understanding the impact of testing on their future and the children's future.

Given the mounting pressures of accountability at all levels, what are the hidden and unpredictable costs for teachers and students? Visiting pre-kindergarten through middle level classrooms has been an eye-opener with regard to new discoveries. With each classroom/school visit, I keep asking these questions:

* Will the definition of being an effective and successful teacher mean concentrating on the basics in order for students to achieve high success on the required tests?

* Will the new accountability plans endanger personal and professional happiness for classroom teachers?

* Will students find that school success and potential for success are linked to test scores?

* Will affective development be considered in the school success equation?

* Will preparation for the test create increased stress levels for teachers and their students?

* If I were a student today, how would I feel about my school culture and expectations? Would I place running away from school as a high priority?

Using the aforementioned questions as a guide, please allow me to share the hidden costs of the new accountability for teachers and students. One far-reaching hidden cost of the new accountability has been the time that teachers have to spend talking with and listening to students regarding non-school related topics. However, whenever you ask students, regardless of level, what made a difference in terms of their ability to be successful in school, they loudly indicate the teacher's time and heart offered while talking with, listening to, and caring about them. Chiahui Lin, Indiana University doctoral student from Taiwan, affirms these beliefs when she shares the following perspective:

"The teachers who are able to help students produce good scores ... are considered excellent teachers. However, these teachers may not have good personal relationships with their students. But from my personal perspective, I consider teachers who are able to touch students' hearts [to bel excellent teachers.... These teachers have a lasting impact...."

Knowing, understanding, and accepting the fact that the elementary and middle schools have changed because of the new accountability, I still feel a sense of urgency to highlight the hidden costs to our teachers and students. Another major hidden cost has been the loss of the benefits of recess and outdoor play to the total development of each student. Often, playgrounds are not used before, during, or after school. Some new schools are being built without playgrounds. Oh!! NO!! Furthermore. children are losing opportunities to "REFRESH" their brains and "REBOOT" their bodies in preparation for the next set of intellectual challenges waiting for them as a part of the daily school schedule Like ACEI, the American Association for the Child's Right to Play believes in the importance and value of play as a basic right of everyone. This hidden cost has a lasting impact beyond childhood and raises this important question: Why are recess and outdoor play missing from the daily school schedule?

Now let's turn our attention to the final hidden cost of the new accountability, the journey. From the first meeting, teachers extend their hands and ask their students to join them in a journey that does not have a destination but will offer opportunities for exploration and discovery. Often, neither will know where these journeys will lead. These shared journeys offer the privilege of connecting, reflecting, and pausing with teachers, peers, families, community resources, and the environment. Given the impact of the new accountability driven by testing, the hidden costs of accountability often require that teachers and students eliminate the extras from the curriculum in order to guarantee success. Therefore, I urge my ACEI family and friends to think of ways to: 1) support and restore the twinkles within teachers and their students; 2) advocate for less hurrying and pushing in schools; 3) engage hearts, bodies, and minds as critical to school success; 4) reset the joy and happiness meters to the "on" position; and 5) add recess and outdoor play to the daily master schoolwide schedule.

Warmest regards,

Jacqueline Blackwell

ACEI President
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Title Annotation:President's Message
Author:Blackwell, Jacqueline
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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