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The Bush Institute Releases the "A" Word: Accountability -- the Dirty Word of Education Reform

A series of interviews with education leaders who have embraced accountability as a way to change outcomes for the students and families they serve

November 2, 2017

DALLAS— The George W. Bush Institute has released a series of interviews with education leaders on accountability titled, The “A” Word: Accountability—The Dirty Word of Education Reform. By speaking with recognized education leaders who have embraced accountability as essential to their work to improve outcomes for students and families, The “A” Word brings missing voices to today’s accountability debate. Throughout the series, these leaders identify why accountability practices matter and provide an honest analysis of how states, school districts, and schools can improve those practices.

“The meaning of accountability in education has become so twisted and polarizing that it is now the equivalent to a dirty word,” said Anne Wicks, Director of Education Reform at the Bush Institute. “As with all polarizing issues, the truth is nuanced and requires us to look beyond the sounds bites—and The ‘A’ Word seeks to do that through conversations with recognized education leaders.”

Offering a range of perspectives, the education leaders interviewed are a combination of national leaders, state leaders, and district/charter management organization leaders. The first group of interviews was released on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, on the Bush Institute’s website.  Subsequent groups of interviews will be released on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, and Tuesday November 14, 2017, when the series will outline recommendations for accountability’s future. The series will also appear on The 74, a non-partisan news site covering education in America. The release schedule is as follows:

Introduction, released October 31, 2017

National Educational Leaders, released October 31, 2017:

State Leaders, coming November 7, 2017:

  • Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Education Commissioner, 2009-2015
  • Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Secretary of Education, 2010-2017
  • Gerard Robinson, Virginia Secretary of Education, 2010-2011, and Florida Commissioner of Education, 2011-2012
  • Felicia Cumings Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services at Jefferson County (Kentucky) Public Schools

District/Charter Management Organization Leaders, coming November 14, 2017

  • Tom Boasberg, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools
  • Daniel King, Superintendent of Schools, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District
  • Diane Tavenner, Founder and CEO, Summit Public Schools

Looking Forward, coming November 14, 2017

  • Recommendations for accountability’s future, by Anne Wicks and William McKenzie
  • A policy maker’s perspective, by Holly Kuzmich

The interviews were conducted over the telephone, transcribed, and edited for clarity and length. The same questions, or types of questions, were put to each participant to see what they thought independently and collectively about accountability. Their answers will take the reader into the inner workings of schools, the intricacies of the politics of education, and the ways in which campuses can better serve students.

The “A” Word is part of the Bush Institute Education Reform Initiative’s ongoing efforts to increase student achievement and improve the quality of our schools by using data and research-based education practices and policies with a focus on accountability and principal leadership.