Can solidarity crush accountability?

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An honest and forthcoming reader of the Brilliant or Insane blog recently observed that my position as a former classroom teacher empowers me to say and do things that many educators can’t do, out of fear for their teaching lives. In other words, since I’m no longer accountable to school administrators, it’s easy for me to say, “Throw out homework, worksheets, testing and grades,” because I don’t answer to anyone for my opinions.


This topic of accountability recently came up at a workshop I was leading with a unique collection of teachers and administrators from three states, so I’m acutely aware of the argument. “What do we do about testing and colleges who want GPAs?” one participant asked, after I outlined the deleterious effects of traditional teaching methods and grades.

Pausing to contemplate this very important question, I asked the audience to look around and consider the remarkable group of roughly 80 people. Educators from dozens of schools, spanning many miles and three state lines all gathered to discuss student-centered learning and bold education reform.

“If we take the conversation back to our schools and communities,” I answered, “this will become a real movement. Sooner or later, we just have to stand up for our students and say, No, to bad practice. If we act together, the bureaucrats will have to take notice.”

Perhaps I do have a sense of invincibility, but it’s not because I’m no longer being held accountable by school administrators or high stakes testing. Rather, it is because courageous, intelligent teachers across the country are asking these critical questions and sparking discourse here and nationwide.

I believe that if educators stand together with voices stentorian, we can do what’s right without fear of a bad evaluation or a failed standardized test.

What do you think? Can solidarity crush accountability?

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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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