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May 12, 2004, Extra Credit
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May 12, 2004

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No Education Jargon Required Here. Call It Accountability

The following are excerpts from a recent Hartford Courant article highlighting how a Washington, D.C., principal is closing the achievement gap through increased accountability:

"Walking the noisy, unkempt halls of West Elementary School eight years ago, Richard Dwayne Bachman sized up the dysfunction he inherited and made a quick assessment. 'The climate of the building was not compatible for teaching and learning, or student achievement,' he recalls, sipping a cup of coffee in the cramped principal's office of his urban Northwest neighborhood school."

"Fifty percent of the 270 students were scoring below district standards in reading and math. Parents rarely engaged in school activities. The school's population is overwhelmingly African American, Latino and mostly poor. West had become a reflection of D.C.'s much maligned public schools, one sullied with the labels 'underachievement and incompetence.'"

" 'I didn't feel the accountability and expectations were where they should be,' Bachman said. 'I was upset with the fact that when I looked at the scores and saw how we compared to the other schools in the District of Columbia, we were part of the [low-achieving] group. And I asked myself, 'How can I separate myself from that group, from the standpoint of curriculum, from the standpoint of teacher accountability and the facility?' "

"Fifty years after the seminal Brown vs. Board of Education decision rendered segregated public schools unconstitutional, a segregated school, with mostly minority teachers, is producing test results rivaling its suburban counterparts. … [Bachman] injected technology-based learning throughout the curriculum, starting with first grade. Weekly testing was reviewed to assess students' mastery and deficiencies. Bachman ordered teachers to develop individual student portfolios with a written plan to address shortcomings. Then, he evaluated teachers on their ability to produce results. Almost a decade after Bachman arrived, 80 percent of the West students are at or above the district level in reading and writing. In the standardized Stanford-9 tests, 71 percent of the West kids are at or above proficiency levels in math, 63 percent in reading."

"The U.S. Department of Education recognized West last year as one of its No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon schools, one that exemplifies high achievement and is steadily reducing the academic achievement gap between white students and their African American and Latino peers."

" 'It starts with leadership,' says Janet Myers, the West PTA president. '[Bachman] engages the parents and he truly relies on parents to be partners with the school. ... He's able to make sure these teachers have what they need. He doesn't accept 'can't.' "

" 'The students have to know what's expected of them,' [Bachman] says. 'The teachers have to know what's expected of them and the parents have to know what's expected of them.' "

"No education jargon required here. Call it accountability."

The complete text of this article is available from the Hartford Courant online archive for a fee.

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Last Modified: 07/28/2006