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The Accountability Dilemma

October 18, 2013

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Robert Evans, a psychologist and school consultant, writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Independent School Magazine that schools are facing an “Accountability Dilemma.” Evans defines this as “the challenge of assessing and conveying the performance of the school and its teachers.” I was inspired to take on that challenge, in my own way, after sitting in Emily Pressman’s remarkable U.S. History 3/4 class on Tuesday.

Emily’s group of III Formers had spent the previous two weeks analyzing the Constitution and the last several days preparing for a debate on the resolution that the Constitution “was a work of genius put together by wise, humane founding fathers, who created a legal framework for democracy and equality.” The debate focused on issues of slavery, the Electoral College, Congressional powers, and several other topics that students handled beautifully. Science teacher John Burk was in attendance taking notes, eager to watch the students perform and learn from Emily. Emily also included senior Lucy Slack, now a seasoned veteran of these sorts of intellectual exercises, to judge and offer her own insight on student performances.

Emily expected the students to stand when speaking, listen when not, and respond thoughtfully when the opportunity presented itself. They complimented their adversaries on strong points before deftly offering equally strong replies. There were several metamorphoses when calm confidence emerged from nervous energy. It was an inspiring session conducted by a passionate master teacher. I left feeling like I had watched students earn a 5-0 victory over a conference foe after weeks of practice.

There will be many opportunities for families to assess (or enjoy) the work of the School this weekend during events and conferences, and the many moments in between. Evans is right. It is a challenge to fully convey the large and small moments that make up the St. Andrew’s experience, but it is one we take on with joy and appreciation.

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