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Agents of Accountability

by Lorna Collier

Literacy specialists Betsy Gilliland and Shannon Pella offer a variety of insights on how teachers can provide a more equitable education for English language learners in Beyond “Teaching to the Test”: Rethinking Accountability and Assessment for English Language Learners, their new book from NCTE.

The progress ELLs make can go unrecognized in the face of low standardized test scores, so Pella and Gilliland recommend bringing these achievements to the attention of administrators and others within the school system, as well as to parents and community members.

“What I’m hoping is that teachers see themselves as the agents of accountability,” says Pella.

“When we take accountability into our own hands, we’re collecting and analyzing a variety of types of classroom assessment data in order to track and understand how well our English learners are growing.”

These data can help teachers explain to parents and the school community how well English learners are progressing, she says, which is “a totally different narrative than what the school may be able to show in one isolated test score.”

Some of the ways teachers can spread news about ELL student progress to parents and the community include:

  • Keeping parents updated through websites and monthly newsletters, translated if needed;

  • Calling parents, using an interpreter if needed (but not the child, in case there are matters you want to discuss confidentially);

  • Inviting the families to bilingual family nights, where parents, siblings and other relatives can see what the students are doing and participate in activities that show off the child’s abilities, such as creating a bilingual book in English and the student’s home language; and

  • Encouraging the school to host online or in-person events open to the community to share student work and achievements.

Read more in the article “Flipping Accountability on Its Head” in the September 2017 Council Chronicle. 

Read a sample chapter or order the book. 

Lorna Collier is a writer and editor based in northern Illinois.