There's a lot of talk about accountability and why we can't seem to be able to hold anyone accountable in culture of public K-12 education. I think the lack of accountability is built into the system - at every level.
Take, for example, the new charter school law, I-1240. It's full of requirements. For example, the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house have until March 6, 2013 to appoint members of the charter school commission. Yeah? What if they don't? What if they don't make the appointments? Then what? There are no penalties prescribed, no back-up plan, no process to address that contingency. I suppose someone could initiate some kind of legal action against any of them for failure to fulfill the duties of their office, but that won't force a quick appointment, and who would have standing to bring the action?
I'm not saying this to encourage these public officials to refuse to take an action required by law, although I guess it would be a pretty effective means of negating the law. I'm calling attention to this to show how the writers of this law did not consider a contingency - one that isn't hard to imagine - and it isn't just this one.
This requirement isn't unique in this regard. Look through I-1240 and you'll see dozens of similar failures to provide for contingencies. Read all of the parts that say that people will take some action, and ask yourself "Yeah? What if they don't?". You will quickly see that there is almost no provision for such a contingency and certainly no penalties.
I-1240 isn't unique in this regard. Look through all of the state laws for public schools and you'll see hundreds of similar failure to provide for contingencies. Read all of the parts that say that people will take some action, and ask yourself "Yeah? What if they don't?". You will quickly see that there is almost no provision for such a contingency and certainly no penalties. Want to know something funny? Even when there is a provision for some sort of consequence, there is no requirement that the consequence be imposed. Deadlines are regularly missed for grant applications and the applications are routinely accepted late and funded anyway. The folks who are supposed to provide enforcement don't actually provide any. The State Board and the OSPI refuse to do any enforcement work at all. They accept statements from school districts as true even when they are plainly false. Consider, for example, the applications for conditional teacher certification. Consider the claims that schools in Level 5 of sanctions under No Child Left Behind have been "transformed" in lieu of closure. Consider the "School Improvement Plans" that districts are required to create. There is no oversight or enforcement whatsoever.
State law isn't unique in this regard. Look through our School Board Policies and you'll see dozens more failures to provide for contingencies. Read all of the parts that say that people will take some action, and ask yourself "Yeah? What if they don't?". You will quickly see that there is never any provision for such a contingency and certainly no penalties. Moreover, there is, as we know, no policy enforcement. It is a Board duty because it's clearly a governance function. It is also a Board duty because most of the policies regulate the superintendent and there is no one else with the authority to police the superintendent. But the Board, as we know, not only refuses to ever enforce any policies they have no process for enforcing policy, and no appetite for enforcing policy.
That brings us to the next step. Even if there is a prescribed punishment or consequence, there's a person who is charged with enforcing that rule. Now ask yourself "Yeah? What if they don't?". That's typically the case. The people who are charged with enforcing the rules almost never actually do it. And they are not shy or the least bit ashamed to tell you so.
Anyone who has sought to have a rule enforced knows about this. Ask anyone with a child with an IEP.
So, when people say that there's no accountability in the culture of public K-12 education and that culture of no accountability is pervasive from the top of the system at the federal Department of Education, the OSPI, and the governor's office, all the way down through the State Board, the school boards, the district administration, the school administration, the teachers, and the students. There usually isn't any prescribed consequence for violating the rules and even when there is, that enforcement is almost never applied. That's the way that institutional culture works - it flows down from the top. If the people at the top are not held accountable, if they can violate the rules at will without consequence, without enforcement, and without alarm, that disregard for the rules, that culture of lawlessness, will extend to every person in the system.
Read the rules - federal law, state law, school board policy, or class rule - and ask yourself "Yeah? What if they don't?" So long as there's no clear answer, there's no accountability.
Given this context, I suggest that all of the people and agencies charged with duties under I-1240 simply refuse to fulfill them. There will be no consequences. Don't appoint members to the state charter school commission. Don't make rules for authorizers. Just don't do it.