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What About Student Accountability?

If college professors hold students 100 percent accountable for their own learning, shouldn't K-12 teachers ease students into taking responsibility for their own education? That's the question Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor from the University of Virginia, asks in a guest post on the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog.

Willingham notes that among his university colleagues, the professors aren't concerned with whether students show up to class or study. "Most professors figure that their job is to teach well. Whether the student learns or not is up to him or her," he says.

Contrastingly, Willingham believes that "almost nothing is done" in K-12 education to prepare students for this shift in accountability.

I can see telling a first grade teacher: "You can't expect the kids to come to you. You've got to reach them." But if we say the same thing to a high school teacher, we're failing to teach students something important.
Yet all of the formulations of teacher accountability that use student performance data fail to take this factor into account. Student learning is used to evaluate high school teachers and lower elementary teachers in the same way. But if you believe that students should become more responsible for their learning as they age, shouldn't teachers become less responsible?

I doubt we'll find many teachers who will disagree with the idea of holding students more responsible for their own learning. But how would you propose capturing that idea of student accountability in a revamped teacher evaluation process?

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