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The "A" Word: Why Accountability Matters and How to Improve It

November 1, 2017 by William McKenzie
The Bush Institute publishes The "A" Word: Accountability-The Dirty Word of Today's School Reform

Throughout this year, the Bush Institute has interviewed education leaders at length about what school accountability means to them. The result is the launch this week of The "A" Word: Accountability--The Dirty Word of Education Reform.

Throughout this interview series, these recognized leaders identify why accountability practices matter and how they have used them. They also provide an honest analysis of how states, school districts, and local campuses can improve those practices.

The "A" Word will run with fresh installments through November 14, and is also being published at The 74, a non-partisan news site covering education in America. The series will conclude with a set of recommendations for accountability’s future.

The timing of this series couldn’t be more important. The accountability movement has a proud parentage, including bipartisan leadership from Republicans George W. Bush and John Boehner to Democrats Robert Kennedy and Edward Kennedy. But the meaning of the term in education has become so twisted and polarizing that it is now the equivalent to a dirty word.

As with all polarizing issues, the truth is nuanced and requires us to look beyond the sounds bites. The "A" Word seeks to do that through conversations with former U.S. education secretaries, state education chiefs, school superintendents, and charter school leaders.

Their answers will take you into the inner workings of schools, the intricacies of the politics of education, and the ways in which campuses can better serve students.


Author

William McKenzie
William McKenzie

William McKenzie is editorial director for the George W. Bush Institute, where he also serves as editor of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.

Active in education issues, he co-teaches an education policy class at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. He also participates in the Bush Institute’s school accountability project.

Before joining the Bush Institute, the Fort Worth native served 22 years as an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News and led the newspaper’s Texas Faith blog. The University of Texas graduate’s columns appeared nationwide and he has won a Pulitzer Prize and commentary awards from the Education Writers Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the Texas Headliners Foundation, among other organizations. He still contributes columns and essays for the Morning News and The Weekly Standard.

Before joining the News in 1991, he earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Texas at Arlington and spent a dozen years in Washington, D.C. During that time, he edited the Ripon Forum.

McKenzie has served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, on the board of a homeless organization, and on governing committees of a Dallas public school. He also is an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, where he lives with his wife and their twin children.

Full Bio