When Students Aren’t Proficient in Reading or Math, It Isn’t a Shame, It’s Violence

I’ve written about teacher accountability before, but I recently read a few things that got me thinking.

The first was a report out of Los Angeles that showed that nearly half the teachers in Los Angeles’ lowest-performing schools hadn’t been evaluated for three years and that almost all of those who had been had received favorable ratings.

The second was from a recent piece by Chris Stewart. Speaking to the education system in general, Stewart made his truth plain, “You demand my kids, I require your receipts. Any other arrangement is war.”

Damn right.

Teachers, I am one of you, and I say this with all the love, honor, and respect I can muster: Stop moaning about accountability standards.

Stop griping about the unfairness of performance metrics.

Stop sounding like the very students we, at our worst moments, deride as hopeless and impossible to educate.

We, all of us, as a profession, ought to stand up and say, “Hell yes my students will sit for that assessment. And guess what? They’re gonna crush it. They’re gonna demonstrate growth that is astounding.”

We ought to stand up and say, “Hell yes I would be honored for my students to complete my performance review. I serve them!”

To quake in fear at being held accountable for one’s teaching invites the hackneyed anti-educator diatribes about summer vacations and glorified babysitting.

But it’s more than that.

When a teacher speaks out against accountability, the truth is, at their core, whether they admit it or not, they care more about themselves than their students.

Full stop.

I can hear the voices now, the righteous indignation about teaching to tests, narrowing curriculums, etc.

There’s a time for those conversations.

But not now.

Now is about justice and oppression.

For a school system like L.A.’s, which is certainly not anomalous, to have the vast majority of teachers be marked favorably or not evaluated at all, and then have more than 70 percent of students attending the lowest performing schools fail to meet proficiency in math or reading is not a shame; it’s violence.

This week, I will teach my first class of higher education after more than a decade in Philadelphia classrooms—private, traditional public and charter.

And I’ll be damned if I’m not held accountable for my work.


Zachary’s original post can be found on Education Post’s blog page.

Zachary Wright
Zachary Wright
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, Curriculum Contributor to the Center for Black Educator Development, and general agitator. His writing has been published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Citizen, Chalkbeat, Educational Leadership, and numerous education blogs. His latest book, Dismantling a Broken System; Actions to Bridge the Equity, Justice, and Opportunity Gap in American Education is available now.


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