Whoops -- there goes accountability

While many of us were transfixed on the machinations of Congress to undo the Affordable Care Act, the Senate yesterday voted 50-49 to “scrap the Obama administration’s rule for holding schools accountable for student performance” proving once again how much simpler it is to smash stuff than to build stuff. To be sure, these accountability measures, which are as much the product of Bush-NCLB as Obama-RTTT, left much to be desired and C3S often argued, at times to the displeasure of other charter advocates, that the accountability to which we were being held was overly narrow and poorly aligned with the needs of a 21st century democracy drowning in real-world problems.

Still, we felt that the basic paradigm underlying the existence of a charter was correct:

Whoops -- there goes accountability.

Lacking the patience and political will to fix what is wrong, Congress is no longer content to do typically stupid things, such as simultaneous disposal of baby and bathwater. It must now rip out the plumbing.

For those states that continue to cling to the old metrics, perhaps the US DOE will come up with ways to incentivize accountability shredding. Sort of a reverse RTTT.

But, here’s the real rub for those of us who still hold on to quaint notions like that old autonomy-accountability thing: you can’t just mess around with one side of an equation. If accountability erodes, autonomy will not be far behind. The US Senate has pointed the way towards a bottomless pit. It will take a great deal of collective wisdom on the part of states and school districts to stay a more sober course.

And, as it should be, we in the charter world are still quite free to work with our authorizers to come up with something better. Congress may abdicate its responsibilities but we can still get this right.

Steve Zimmerman


By the way, one of the strands of the C3S Independent Charter School Conference is called “A New Accountability.” This would seem to be a very opportune time for some deep thinking on that subject. Come join us in that discussion.

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