One year, we were going to teach everyone how to read. Another year, it was how to get along with one another. Before that, it was how to be safe during an earthquake. Now the hot topic is accountability.
My entire career was spent in junior high and middle school where we lamented that elementary teachers hadn't prepared the hormonally challenged 11- to 14-year-olds we had the pleasure of trying to educate.
Here is my plan to address "accountability": When students enter kindergarten, they are assigned, in groups of 20 or less, to teachers who will keep them every school day for the next six years. During that six years, the teachers will be held accountable for teaching every student three things: how to read (at fifth-grade graduation, everyone will be at least on grade level), mastery of the multiplication tables and computer literacy. If a teacher can't teach these three basic tools over six years, he or she isn't a teacher and should look for other employment. If there is success, he or she will be given a new group of students and a raise.
So what do we do with the students for three years in middle school? Having outgrown their one teacher in elementary school, they will be assigned to a closely working team of three teachers (still 20 to a class). Half the day will be spent expanding their expertise in reading and mathematics, another large portion will be spent with trained teacher/counselors who will work on individual self-esteem and will try to convince them that they need to get along with each other and the rest of society and can function without resorting to violence and other negative behavior. Out-of-doors, organized physical activity will be mandatory every day. Parent volunteers will be encouraged to participate in all of these activities.
Now, with their academic and social tools in place, students will be ready to use their skills to prepare for "real life" during their high school years. The middle school team of teachers will have met their accountability goals when well-adjusted students move on to the next level.
"Real life" suggests, among other things, preparing for work at a paying job. Here is the place and time for business and industry to put its money and resources where its collective mouth is. Every high school senior will have a paying part-time job. Another important part of the curriculum will be the acquisition of other relevant skills such as parental and family responsibility, consumer education and multicultural understanding.
By the time all students have graduated from Utopia High School, they will have the intellectual skills needed to succeed in 21st century society, they will know how to get along with others, they will be physically fit, they will have consumer/living skills, and they will have had work experience. The educational establishment will have truly been held "accountable."