Trumpeting Local Accountability Idea for 5 years!

Sometimes we can feel a little discouraged about our impact in the world. But one person can spark change! Together we can help create a new political reality for communities and their schools!

I’d like to tell you a true story about an idea born on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean. Back in 2012, I went to an APPAM accountability conference in Rome entitled “Improving Education through Accountability and Evaluation” What surprised me at that international conference was that high-level representatives from countries around the world were considering copying No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This was despite the fact that there was a growing notion in the United States that NCLB had been a failure. What also stunned me at the conference was that my study was the only presentation that actually included community voices (students, educators etc) about their experience with Texas-style NCLB high-stakes testing and accountability.

Steve Jobs once said, “Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

On the plane back from the Rome conference I formed the idea of community-based accountability from several existing ideas. First, the idea that reform should be community driven and empower stakeholders. Second, that communities should have a say in metrics to understand the success and failures of their schools.  Third, that multiple quantitative and qualitative variables should be used in accountability formulas.

As a result, since 2012 I have been writing and lecturing about community-based accountability. In 2013, California became the first state to adopt a local approach to accountability. In July 2017, Texas finally followed California’s lead and now offers local accountability options— it’s been a long time in coming for the Lone Star State— birth place of No Child Left Behind!

Below is a brief discussion about the timeline of Community-Based Accountability events. See my clickable community-based accountability timeline here. Each of the blurbs below provides more information for you to dig into if you so choose.

  • Community-Based Accountability idea origin after APAAM Improving Education through Accountability and Evaluation

Back in 2012, I blogged about the Rome conference in the post From Rome with Love: International Perspectives and Experiences with Accountability As discussed above, the community-based accountability idea was born on the return trans-Atlantic flight. When I arrived back in Austin, I conducted a Google search for Community-Based Accountability and Local Accountability and was fairly certain it was a new direction for thinking about accountability.

  • Cloaking Inequity blog post: Accountability— Are you ready for a new idea?

Are you ready for a new idea?” was the post in 2012 where I first publicly introduced the idea of multiple-measure, community-based accountability plans. In the post, I first talked about an NEPC report entitled Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Education Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Education. I then included excerpts from our upcoming chapter in the Handbook of Urban Education that was published in November 2013 where we first talked about the idea in print.

  • Texas High Performance Schools Consortium asks TEA for “Community-Based Accountability”

Once the idea was out on the blog, it started to gain momentum. In January 2013, The Dallas Morning News reported that “waivers are being sought by the 23 districts of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium, which was created by the state Legislature in 2011 to develop new strategies for Texas public schools…” and that “members plan to move forward on developing a community-based assessment and accountability system” that could be implemented by the 2016-17 school year, according to the report.”

  • University of Texas Austin workgroup releases “Community-Based Accountability Key Features” document

After some of my students that I taught in the University of Texas at Austin Cooperative Superintendency Program (CSP) expressed interest in the approach and they started sharing the idea with their districts and CSP alums in the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium, I decided to put together a community-based accountability workgroup. We met and designed a community-based accountability Executive Summary and Key Features documents.

For years I presented the ideas to anyone in power or influential circles who would listen. I even emailed drafts and papers to Carmel Martin at the Center For American Progress after I met her at an accountability conference in Washington DC. (If you click the links above you can see the Powerpoint and Prezi slides)

  • Filmed PBS Blackademics Community-Based Accountability Ted-style lecture

We filmed the PBS Blackademics show on the old Austin City Limits stage. You can watch the 2013 Ted-style presentation on KLRU that I gave about community-based accountability here.

  • California Local Accountability in AB 97

California passed Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) in AB 97. Linda Darling-Hammond told me during a private dinner at AERA in Philadelphia that the idea for the California LCAP plans was inspired by the community-based accountability ideas that we developed at UT-Austin.

  • Presented research from journal articles about LCAPs at AERA conferences and UCEA conferences.

I believe the first peer reviewed work about the California LCAPs was our journal article in Urban Education entitled  “Community-based school finance and accountability: A new era for local control in education policy?” We published a second peer reviewed article examining the LCAPs approach for English Learners entitled Coign of vantage and action: Considering California’ local accountability and school finance plans for English learners. We’ll have a third soon— stay tuned.

  • Texas Local Accountability HB 22

Finally, one of my former UT-Austin CSP students texted me last week with photos of the Texas regional center training she was receiving about Local Accountability that was included in 2017’s HB 22!!

I am not going to tell you that all of the conversations went well or were appreciated. I particularly remember giving a talk about community-based accountability at NYU where a few faculty members roasted the idea. Some of my colleagues at UT-Austin were also quite skeptical. But nevertheless I persisted. So YES! One person can spark change. Together we can can change the world. So please consider pressing stakeholders and legislators in your state for a community-based accountability approaches under the new flexibility afforded by ESSA.

To learn even more about community-based accountability click here.

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