Though we use the words interchangeably in society, accountability and responsibility are not the same thing at all. I blogged about this a few months back. It was music to my ears to read Bill Ferriter who teaches 6th grade language arts in Wake County, NC (where he was named Teacher of the Year for 2005-2006) appreciate the distinctions a commenter made about responsibility and accountability. Here's part of what the commenter said:
But I’m not sure a 100% partitioned, zero-sum conception of responsibility is either accurate or helpful. I also think that there is a difference between “responsibility” and “accountability”. Parents, communities, teachers, schools, and (to a certain extent, increasing with age) children are responsible for student learning, both in the sense that there is an obligation on the part of all of those parties to student learning, and in the sense that those parties all contribute to some extent to student learning (so “responsible” both as an obligation and as a contributing factor). But the school system (teachers, administrators, etc.) is accountable for student learning, in the sense that public school systems are created and publicly funded to produce student learning as a specific outcome.
I would say that parents are responsible (but not accountable) for helping their children learn, especially prior to Kindergarten and during off hours (after school, the weekend, holidays, summer, etc.). Once a child enters the public school system, schools are both responsible and accountable for student learning, and I think that this responsibility and accountability can be described irrespective of parents’ responsibility. Take Child A above: did his school do everything possible to head off his failure? Were early intervention systems in place to support him academically, was a guidance counselor or social worker brought in to address attendance issues, was transportation made available so that he could stay after school for tutoring, was a formative assessment system in place in the classroom to specifically identify areas of academic weakness, was the need for special education ruled out, etc.?
The entire blog post is worth reading.
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