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Schools Deserve So Much More Than Mediocrity

Educators must look beyond accountability to excellence.

September 04, 2004|Nancy Field | Nancy Field is the director of education and administration at the Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills.

Accountability in education for teachers, parents and students is the buzzword for this election season. As we near the presidential election in November, we face daunting challenges on how to make accountability in our community schools real and measured.

More than ever, children in Los Angeles and across the country must meet higher educational standards of a global marketplace. Today, in the educational environment, we live with a philosophy that suggests that to reach every child requires teaching to the lowest common denominator. We have teachers who look at what they do as a job, rather than having a passion for their profession. Our community schools deserve better.

Administrators are so bogged down by rules and regulations and in trying to be all things to all people that there is little or no energy left to lead. The net result of this kind of educational environment is students who are bored with school, disruptive and disrespectful and who drop out or graduate having been educationally deprived. This is unacceptable.

Today, rather than striving for mediocrity, educators must compassionately set the highest of standards not only for our students but for our boards of directors, administrators, teachers, assistants, support staff and even our students' parents. As educators, we must have a passion for education. We must lead by example, not just words.

The future of our society is in the hands of educators and parents. If any one of us accepts mediocrity, then our future is weakened. Leaving the comfort of a routine or well-understood teaching style to venture into a new education regime can be challenging and exciting, but it is also somewhat scary. Yet, we as educational leaders must be prepared for change and continually put into play "best teaching practices." We must do this to maximize the ability of each student to become a valuable contributor to society.

If we are to create a school environment that continually raises the bar, we can't let our educational verve weaken. If we become sidetracked, it is imperative to rekindle the passion for education that once drove us to excellence.

To accomplish this we need to take on new challenges, such as adapting our approach to teaching; changing the materials that we use to teach; varying the strategies used with students and working on the whole process of teaching rather than simply on memorization skills.

We as education leaders need to have our staffs participate in professional development seminars and workshops. We need continuing education programs that instruct us on new teaching styles, on leadership, on methods of communication, on motivational techniques and psychology, on new constructive discipline, on new ideas to handle student concerns and issues, and even on various aspects of emergency preparedness.

Teachers must also expect a higher level of performance from their colleagues, their students and their administrators. We must challenge students to excel as individuals, being sure that we focus on doing one's best at any level, rather than being the best.

Teaching and learning must be relevant, exciting and self-rewarding. We need to expect each student to be responsible for his or her actions. Parents, students and teachers must work together and stop making and accepting excuses for procrastination, disrespect and failure.

Accountability is the goal, and our mission is educated and well-rounded students. The test of time will validate our mission as educators in helping to shape future generations that can compete in the global marketplace.

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