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Who's  Responsible: A Brief Look At Accountability and Economics In Academics

By Courtney Williams

When children are stagnate academically should the parents or teachers be held accountable?  

Some people including myself would agree that teachers are responsible for the advancement of their students, however parents also play a vital and integral role in the process. Whenever there is a lack of communication or miscommunication the student ultimately suffers.   To help avoid such situations it is imperative that both the parent and teacher follow the same itinerary concerning the student's academic progress.   In addition to the roles of parents and teachers it is also necessary for the government to provide equal opportunities for students to learn.


The rate at which students learn in schools is measured by standardized test results within each school district, and the results are analyzed according to ones cultural background and socio-economic status.   Three years ago the Bush administration implemented the No Child Left Behind Act, (NCLB).   The stated aim of this legislation is to close the achievement gap between races and socio-economic classes.   Holistically the plan appears ideal to some, yet it is not practical in its current state for several reasons.   For instance when a school does not meet state or federal standards for achievement on standardized tests the action plan is to restructure the school.   This entails the demotion and relocation of the schools' teachers and administrators.   Another goal of (NCLB), is to have all students in the U.S. reading, writing, and performing mathematically at the proficient level or above in one decade. While this may also appear attainable to some, if the current best teaching practices are not modified this goal will never be reached.   Ostensibly the current practices that teachers use to share information do not work.   Further, one decade of radical education reform will not negate decades of ineffective teaching and the exclusion of certain cultural groups within the curriculum, and the abandonment of financially distressed schools.


When educating students of color or economically disadvantaged students there are several factors need to be taken into consideration so meaningful learning can take place.   Jawanza Konjufu explains in Black Students Middle Class Teachers that teachers or coaches must speak to students so they will listen.   After capturing student's attention teachers must develop ways to help students channel their energy.   To stimulate the African American students' minds more he suggests that more right-brained lesson plans be used.   Right-brained learners learn by example, and they relate to the information being learned, whereas left-brain learners are more analytical. How can learning take place if the teaching style does not cater to the learning preference of students?


According to Lisa Delpit some of the issues that are countering progress include teachers' questioning and language diversity.   In her work Other Peoples Children," s he concedes that diversity in language can create barriers between teachers and students, especially when the dialect of English is not that of the majority culture. The usage of such language does not affect a child's ability to read; therefore teachers should build on what students already understand, so they can make the transition to using "Proper English."


A students' academic success should always be the goal of both parents and teachers.   If a student is not progressing administrators also look towards the teacher for justification.   When there is poor justification teachers are rendered ineffective and are thus replaced.   Academic success is attainable when the passion to learn is commonplace in both the students' home and classrooms.   An aggressive approach to education must be reciprocated on both ends.   Ways for parents to assist their children include attending parent teacher association meetings, being a presence in the classroom, and to also be seen engaged in learning.   Checking homework and quizzing children can also be helpful. This parental involvement will combat the threshold that entertainment has on children when they are embraced for their efforts.


In her book Black teachers on teaching Michelle Foster captures the testimonies and experiences of elder, veteran, and novice teachers.   Ethel Tanner, a veteran teacher shared with Foster that "part of education is teaching children to take responsibility for themselves." Nevertheless children are not held accountable for their academics, teachers and administrators are.   Throughout the 1990's this has been ever-more increasing. As Pamela Otis Ognu explains "accountability will be measured by an increasing reliance on standardized tests making education more like a business than it already is." Evidently her foresight has surfaced to reality.   Conversely the government, and the entertainment industry should be held accountable given their contradictory standards on success.


Naturally, children excel academically when they are embraced for what they already understand, and how they use new information learned.   When children first enroll in school they are passionate about learning, however after a few years that changes.    In cases where there is a lack of interest or a lack of time an investment must be made.   While it may be an exaggeration to expect all urban schools to perform at extremely high levels given the status quo, if schools invest in superior resources to compete with neighboring districts positive change will occur.   Also there should not be a strong reliance on the public school system to cultivate student's minds.   All parents, teachers and community members should work collectively to achieve this end.  


Concerning economics, in less affluent school districts parents must be actively involved with their children's academics, for some school districts are not provided with sufficient funding to obtain resources.   Konjufu notes that the majority of states allocate $18,000 to the most affluent school district while allocating $5,000 to the least.   In New York one district allocates $38, 572 per pupil, and another allocates $6,100. This disparity between figures should be considered a crime.   The funds allocated by the former exceed the latter by 500%.   This clarifies that the achievement gap will not be reduced at an exponential rate as dictated by the (NCLB).    If actions such as these are perpetuated the achievement gap will never close.


Despite not having access to superior resources financially ruined schools still manage to compete with their counterparts.   If this uphill battle is fought fiercely dedicated parents, teachers, and community members can win it.   By unifying and identifying the common issue of education a radical reform in favor of students, their families, and their communities can manifest.


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