Accountability should go both ways. Students and teachers shouldn't be held accountable to high-stakes test scores and grades unless they have the resources they need meet those standards. Which means that state governments should be held to account for providing high-quality resources and opportunities for all children, regardless of where they live.
That's the premise of "An Arkansas Student Bill of Rights: Using Opportunity to Learn Standards to Ensure Every Student Has a Chance to Succeed," just released by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. Endorsed by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, the Arkansas Citizens First congress, and the Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign, the report and student bill of rights draws from a 2002 proposal in the California legislature and the National OTL Campaign to define what students and parents should be able to expect from their school districts:
- a clear statement of the academic standards that define what students are expected to know and the basic conditions for learning that students can expect from the educational system;
- adequate materials and resources;
- suitable learning facilities;
- high-quality teachers and counselors;
- a course of study that will enable all students who wish to attend a public university to do so;
- a safe school environment;
- fair and authentic assessment that is used to measure and improve the quality of education the students receive;
- instruction which incorporates students’ home language (which research shows to be a worthwhile investment of time and resources);
- easily understood information on the performance of the school in delivering these things;
- regular public forums to allow students and parents to communicate about their experience;
- and increased access to high-quality early childhood education.
We can't hope to close persistent achievement gaps between students of color and their White peers and between low-income and wealthier students without first closing the gaps in access to educational resources and opportunities. A student bill of rights likes this one would ensure that all students everywhere are entitled to a quality and substantive opportunity to learn.
You can download the full report and student bill of rights here!