General Bank Street News

‘Occasional Papers’ Challenges Politics of Accountability

Posted by Nick Gray on February 29, 2012

Occasional Papers contributors“Educators are not the enemy.”

That’s the message of the latest issue of Bank Street’s Occasional Papers, according to guest co-editor Gail Boldt. This issue, the 27th published, and the second to be distributed exclusively online, tackles the subject of teacher accountability. In it, Boldt and her co-editor Bill Ayers hope to show that a tunnel-vision focus on “holding teachers accountable” for students’ ability to meet standardized benchmarks has distinct consequences for schools, students, and the country.

On the Accountability Movement

In Occasional Papers #27, Editor and former Bank Street faculty member Jonathan Silin—an accomplished author in his own right—worked with the guest editors to assemble works from leading educators and advocates who hope to change the prevailing dialogue about teacher accountability in America’s schools.

Together, the current issue’s 14 writers argue in favor of a more complete, enriching learning experience than what is proposed by those who favor privatization, standardized tests, and swift layoffs over professional development and support.

For example, a piece from educator and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch calls out the series of questionable assumptions girding the accountability movement. And Professors Greg Dimitriadis and Marc Lamont Hill, of SUNY Buffalo and Teachers College, respectively, explore how a strand of anti-intellectualism in national discourse works against empowering teachers to truly educate. For them, the remedy is to collectively focus on “a central project—rethinking the nature of intellectual work today for all of us in education.”

Written frankly, admitting frustration, and allowing a sense of humor, the essays in Occasional Papers comprise a unique form of academic journal in higher education. Says Boldt,

We wanted to use language and a form of address that would be useful for teachers, parents, teacher educators, administrators and the media... We wanted to express that our own deep frustrations grow out of our passionate engagement in education. We hoped that others who are intimately and passionately engaged in education would find some expression of their own experiences and feelings in this collection.

Ayers, a Bank Street graduate and recent presenter in the College’s annual Language Series, places the writings in the context of a broader tradition of educational progress:

From its first days Bank Street College has entered the public square and the open debates on the side of the child, promoting education as an enterprise built on the twin pillars of enlightenment and liberation. ‘Occasional Papers’ continues in the tradition, speaking plainly to the widest possible audience.

Steal This Journal

Silin and the issue’s guest editors want you to read, reread, print, share, blog about, “like,” “tweet,” and teach the contents of Occasional Papers #27. “To truly serve as a resource for all the audiences we hoped to address,” says Boldt, “it has to be easily accessible and completely free.” Thus, the entire issue is being published online and unrestricted on the Bank Street website.

To expand the discussion, new essays are being released in three groups over several weeks, and will feature contributors including Deborah Meier, Pedro Noguera, and Bank Street faculty member Gil Schmerler, who directs the Graduate School’s Leadership for Educational Change program.

Follow Bank Street on Facebook and Twitter for announcements of upcoming contributions. You can join the conversation there, or by clicking “Share your thoughts” at the end of each article on the Bank Street website.