I was wondering how long it would take for me to write about the upcoming (if you can call 2008 upcoming) Presidential election here on The Tempered Radical. The answer: A painfully long three and a half weeks.
The drought was broken today when my colleague Scott Emerick at the Center for Teaching Quality drew my attention to this article in the Des Moines Register the other day highlighting a recent speech given by Presidential candidate Barack Obama. In it, Obama made the following comments about teacher salaries:
"I have to say though, there’s got to be a bargain with teachers in terms of more pay. They’ve got to get more pay, but there’s also going to be more accountability. Now, the accountability can’t just be based on standardized test performance only, but that has to be part of the mix, and there has to be assessment tools that are developed in concert with teachers.
"If teachers are under performing, we’re going to get them the help they need. But we’re not going to pretend they are not under performing, and that is something we’re going to have to make happen."
Obama’s comments are long overdue and a refreshing change from the "light on the carrot, heavy on the stick" approach taken towards schools in the past several years. Acknowledging that "accountability" for teachers is far more complex than a number generated by standardized test is a crucial first step towards reintroducing reason into conversations about teaching and learning.
Teachers aren’t opposed to accountability. We know how important our successful performance is in the lives of millions. We’re just opposed to accountability that overlooks the reality of the classroom—and of the children that we teach. Recognizing that accountability measures need to be developed in concert with accomplished teachers respects the often-overlooked knowledge that practitioners possess.
If Obama is sincere about redefining accountability, then he’ll redefine schooling in America.