To whom are teachers most accountable?

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Last week, I presented results-only learning to educators in New York. A day or two later, I tweeted about best practices in the classroom. A question came up at both the training and on Twitter about teacher accountability.

To paraphrase the inquiring minds, how can teachers use progressive student-centered practices, which require discarding old-school methods like teaching to a test, and still be accountable to administrators, policymakers and parents?


Although there are ways to put students at the center of learning, while remaining accountable to all stakeholders, I typically answer the question with my own question: “To whom are teachers most accountable?”

After a moment of pause to allow the query to drip tantalizingly, I ultimately answer like this: Teachers are accountable, first and foremost, to students.

Angering a parent who wants worksheets as proof of achievement or scoring poorly on a principal evaluation because a standard wasn’t posted are risks good teachers must take, in order to do what’s best for their students.

In the long run, nothing matters more than the welfare of learners. Everyone else’s opinion is secondary.

Yes, even parents.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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