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Equity, Leadership, Opinion, School Community

“Hello Equity, we’d like to introduce you to Accountability”

If real change and equity are the goal, we must treat education in a similar way to how we treat medicine

When one enters a hospital for cardiac surgery, one expects that the Ministry of Health and the hospital administration has ensured that the surgeon completing the procedure possesses the latest and most successful methods for treatment AND that the surgeon is expected to do the BEST for ALL patients.  No one would ever expect that the surgeon would not be held accountable to the highest standard.

In the education system today, how are we all being held accountable?  As far as many practitioners see accountability at this time, it is only around the results of standardized tests. It is time to move to accountability around the truly important issues in education.

In the education system today, how are we all being held accountable?  As far as many practitioners see accountability at this time, it is only around the results of standardized tests. It is time to move to accountability around the truly important issues in education.

As we work with educators, mostly across the Greater Toronto Area, the question of accountability in the work of equity often comes up.  We are aware of wonderful, award-winning equity policies and Ministry frameworks that speak to the many complex and intersecting components that make up this work, they are but one step in making the day-to-day experiences and outcomes better for all students.

As part of the Centre for Urban Schooling’s work in the field, one frustration we often hear from teachers is that they feel isolated in trying to raise, initiate, program around, or push issues of equity.  They recognize the importance of this work, but do not feel that they are operating within a system that truly values it or wants to really make systemic change.

As practitioners, one step removed from schools, we see this as well.  We too ask: “Where is the accountability?” In terms of opportunity gaps, where are the intentional, specifically detailed action plans to close them?  Where is this focus broadly, intentionally and specifically stated?  Who is following up on the plans to see that they are being implemented and that changes are occurring?  Who is providing support in terms of money, professional learning, and visioning?  Why is it that institutions, which discuss these gaps regularly, have relatively few people whose job it is to ensure change?  Where are the discussions on power and privilege that intimately tie to all concerns regarding equity?

As practitioners, one step removed from schools, we see this as well.  We too ask: “Where is the accountability?” In terms of opportunity gaps, where are the intentional, specifically detailed action plans to close them?  Where is this focus broadly, intentionally and specifically stated?  Who is following up on the plans to see that they are being implemented and that changes are occurring?  Who is providing support in terms of money, professional learning, and visioning?  Why is it that institutions, which discuss these gaps regularly, have relatively few people whose job it is to ensure change?  Where are the discussions on power and privilege that intimately tie to all concerns regarding equity? 

Demographic data that disaggregates based on components of social identity is a step in the right direction.  We know that how one views this data is based on personal beliefs about the capabilities of all students.  We believe this data clearly illuminates an inequitable system. Based on aspects of social identity, this data tells us that due to systemic issues, not all students will have the same opportunity to achieve academically; to be engaged in their learning; to be given appropriate support for post-secondary options; and to graduate and be afforded the chance to determine their own futures.

One thing that we believe helps move this discussion and practice forward are tools that system and school leaders can use to encourage and promote a forward progression in terms of equity.  Our experience also tells us that even when administrators are very supportive, they are not always sure of what the particular equity practices might look like.

Based on this, we offer one tool that might be helpful in this work: The Centre for Urban Schooling Equity Continuum: Action for Critical Transformation in Schools and Classrooms. We encourage school administrators and system leaders to think seriously about the issue of accountability. We believe that real systemic change will require activism at the system, school and classroom levels, in conjunction with strong community pressure, in particular from the voices of those in historically marginalized and racialized communities.

If real change and equity are the goal, we must treat education in a similar way to how we treat medicine.  We have to hold all members of our systems accountable for closing the opportunity gaps and making educational experiences equitable for all.

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