To Avoid Abuse, Accountability Should Come with Autonomy

Published October 1, 1998

The freedom that lawmakers give to charter schools could lead to abuse if accountability is not also part of the equation, according to Stacey Boyd, president of the ACHIEVE Pilot Project and founding director of the Academy of the Pacific Rim, an inner-city charter school in Boston. ACHIEVE is a management information system that allows schools to track student learning against state and local standards.

“You need both pieces,” said Boyd, speaking on an education panel at ALEC’s 25th Anniversary Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, in August. “You need the accountability so that the autonomy isn’t abused, but with both we can revolutionize public education,” she added.

With autonomy comes freedom from bureaucratic rules and the flexibility to conserve resources for reassignment to enhance education. For example, Boyd and the students clean their school each day so that more funds are available for tutoring. Boyd and her board also lengthened the school day by one hour and the school year to 210 days, thus adding more than four years of instructional time between grades six through twelve.

With accountability comes reassurance for both lawmakers and parents, plus incentives for school principals and teachers. Accountability assures that students meet prescribed state standards, that principals will be paid less for poorer results and more for better results, that teachers can pass competency tests, and–in what is unique to Boyd’s school — a learning guarantee.

“There are guarantees for mufflers and for other services, but there are no guarantees for American education,” said Boyd, “so we created one.” If a student fails the tenth-grade state assessment test, the charter school pays for that student to attend another school.