I was 14 when I came to this country and entered high school. It wasn’t until my senior year that I learned I had completed all my required course load early. I had no idea I could have participated in dual-enrollment, or even started college one year earlier. In this instance, the system failed me.
Fast forward 20 years and I have kids of my own. For all intents and purposes, my kids go to great schools; “A” schools by Florida’s rating standards. But, to avoid history repeating itself I requested meetings with administrators because, let’s face it, I’m still confused about the system.
To my surprise, well informed educators couldn’t give me what I needed. There was no website, no tool, no one-pager to help me maneuver her academic journey. I was advised, instead, to check out Florida Statutes, which are arduous and change year to year.
How can I hold the school accountable if I don’t have the information I need?
To most legislators, accountability is about a complicated set of metrics to tell how a school is performing for all students. But to parents, it’s about the buying decision for my student. It’s like the guard at the gate to tell us if kids are learning the way they should.
In the past, accountability metrics were handed down by the federal government. But, under new federal guidelines, each state will now be able to build it’s own accountability system in which to measure their schools. Stakeholders, special interest groups and superintendents are chiming in on what should make the cut in assessing the effectiveness of our schools.
Wouldn’t you have loved it if your teachers told you to create your own grading system? Well, that’s what we are being allowed to do. We are building the measurements for our own school report card. Couple this with the fact that our nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has a track record for being soft on school accountability, and we have a perfect storm for laxed measurements.
It is much more logical, instead, that if DeVos is to champion increased school choice, she must also champion arming parents with more information to make their selection, not less. Deregulation and complicated information is not the answer; increased accountability is. Without it, we will only further misguide parents and undermine student achievement.
Treat me Like a Consumer of Educational Services
We implore our legislators to remember that as parents we are consumers with choices, not the other way round. You have been paid in full. Show your respect by protecting us from those who would take advantage of the business of education. We deserve to know the features of our educational services in a way that allows us to make an informed straight-forward buying decision.
Making my child’s learning decisions should not feel like a landmine. It’s that simple.
Furthermore, if parents are the end users of accountability, then marketing should be highly relatable, options easy to peruse, consumer reviews readily available, and satisfaction measured for continuous improvement. Why shouldn’t we be able to select features, preview options, and comparison shop with ease?
Basically, we don’t just need more options, we need good options. And, they need to be radically simple to understand.
So I challenge you Florida state legislators and the new Department of Education. Hold schools of choice to high standards, and find tools that tell me what I need to know about my schools, my teachers and my child’s performance in a way I can digest. I know that’s not easy. No one thinks it will be. But, you are accountable to me for making that happen.