My Town Essay Student Responsibility

This week I am facilitating a dialogue with a colleague involved in education philanthropy, who responded critically to my recent post, Competition Can't Beat Collaboration.

My colleague wrote:

So, my question to you would be, how could only 80% agree with that statement? [that teachers share responsibility for student achievement] Everyone knows that the key ingredient in a student's education is the teacher. I would argue that it's the most important ingredient and I know of many studies that would prove this point. Do 20% of teachers really think they don't even "share" responsibility for all students?

My response:
I agree with your thrust here, though commenter Borealis led us to inquire further, and we discovered that actually what we have is 80% who "strongly agree" that teachers share responsibility, and another 16% who "somewhat agree" with this statement. So we are apparently actually only dealing with 4% of teachers who deny responsibility at all, and that changes things a bit. That said, I think 
there are teachers who may not feel effective, for whatever reasons, and for them, it must be difficult to accept that their lack of effectiveness is their responsibility. And as some of the commenters have indicated, when teachers are handed a scripted curriculum and told to teach it with fidelity, this may undermine feelings of accountability as well.

My colleague added:

Unfortunately, one of the biggest issues I see in low-performing schools, especially in low-income areas, is one of low expectations for what students can achieve and a willingness to blame other issues: poverty, drugs, single-parent households, etc. There is no doubt that these issues make learning more challenging for students, but the best schools and the best teachers find ways to help kids learn, despite these challenges. I'm convinced that the only way to solve poverty is through education and we can't blame poverty for poor academic results of children. There are too many examples out there of successful schools working in high-poverty areas and those teachers are the reason I have hope for improved outcomes of disadvantaged kids.

Here is where I have some issues.
First of all, this is actually more complicated than it seems. I think that we have a real issue of fairness here, and I want to draw out these issues, because I think NCLB has taken one reasonable assumption and drawn it out to an absurd degree.

Is the teacher the primary determinant of whether a child advances academically?

I have seen convincing research that shows that a highly effective teacher can make a big difference for children academically. So we clearly should be doing everything we can to make sure every teacher is as effective as possible. But I want to be very careful with the way we assign responsibility. In my years of teaching there were students I was not successful in reaching, for any number of reasons. I consider myself pretty "effective." I was creative and thoughtful in my lessons and assessments. I gave students feedback. I called parents with good news and bad. I took my students on field trips, I spent thousands of my own dollars on materials and equipment for my classroom. But there were classes where I was less effective than others. There were times when I felt a bit overwhelmed by the challenges I faced, by the violence that seeped into the school, by the circumstances of children with parents in prison, repeating sixth grade at age 14, after having repeated second grade a few years earlier. You try calling that parent's home, to find the child is living with an elderly grandmother, or in a group home, or doesn't even have a working phone number.

There are times when this is absolutely overwhelming for the individual teacher, and to be told "you are responsible" for the success or failure of each of these students can be a burden that is simply too great to bear.

I did feel responsible, but there was a limit to what I felt I could do.
I had children of my own waiting for me at home, and a working wife. There are indeed schools that take on some of these responsibilities more systematically, and that is great. There are such schools in Oakland. I would point out, however, that many of these schools struggle to retain teachers, because the 12 hour days that this sort of effort requires of them is difficult to sustain, especially when they want to have families of their own. So we must temper the responsibility of the individual teacher with the collective responsibility of the school and community to respond to these crises, and with our society's responsibility to care for those in poverty.

The fact that a teacher makes a difference cannot be extended to mean teachers alone are responsible for making up the difference between rich and poor in our society - and that is precisely what has happened with NCLB. Those in affluence have huge advantages, and they do not stand still when their privilege is threatened. Their advantages are guarded jealously. Their children are well fed, and get private tutors to help them with their studies. Students in poverty have huge disadvantages, and even effective teachers are not sufficient to bridge this gap - especially when the wealthy schools have excellent teachers, and stable schools, and do not have to rely on untrained interns.

All that said, I think we can agree that it is better for teachers to accept at least a share of responsibility for how well their students do. And then that brings us to the key question - how do we increase the proportion of teachers that feels strongly that this is true? I think the MetLife survey suggests that we can do this by increasing the amount of time teachers are given to collaborate. And to return to my original question, why is it that the current reform paradigm places so much emphasis on using competitive devices to get this result, when we can see that collaboration may actually be more effective?

What do you think? What does it mean to ask teachers to take responsibility for student achievement? How can we best build this spirit?

Next time: Why do so many oppose charter schools when they actually work?

What is student responsibility?

Student responsibility occurs when students take an active role in their learning by recognizing they are accountable for their academic success. Student responsibility is demonstrated when students make choices and take actions which lead them toward their educational goals.

Responsible students take ownership of their actions by exhibiting the following behaviors. They:

  • demonstrate academic integrity and honesty.
  • attend and participate in classes, labs, and seminars, prepared and on time.
  • complete the assigned work in a timely manner with attention to quality of work.
  • avoid making excuses for their behavior.
  • communicate in a careful and respectful manner with professors, peers, and other members of the college community.
  • are engaged learners who dedicate sufficient time outside of class to college work.
  • act in a civil manner that respects the college learning/social environment and complies with college policies outlined in the student constitution and college catalog.
  • utilize college resources and seek help when needed.
  • respect diverse ideas and opinions.
  • identify, develop, and implement a plan to achieve their educational goals.

Endorsed by the faculty September 2008 and by Student Senate October 2008.

Each student’s ability to learn and gain the best possible rewards from his/her college experience depends upon an environment which is conducive to learning and to activities which are consistent with the objectives of an academic institution. Therefore, JCC places these responsibilities upon students:

  • Activities
    Clubs and organizations are strongly urged to sponsor activities on campus throughout the academic year. Procedures for use of college facilities are available in the campus life office.
  • Activity Hour
    Each week the college sets aside specific activity periods during which few classes are scheduled. These “free” hours are 12 to 1:15 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. During these designated periods, students are encouraged to participate in the many activities available, including Student Senate meetings, student club meetings, intramurals, and special lectures and programs happening around the campuses.
  • Attendance Policy
    Every student is expected to attend all lecture and laboratory sessions for which he or she is registered. Absences will be recorded by instructors, and the student will be held responsible for making up all work missed. Attendance requirements for each course will be established by the instructor and announced, published, and distributed with the course outline at the first class meeting.
  • Bias Crimes
    Hate crimes, also called bias crimes or bias-related crimes, are criminal activity motivated by the perpetrator’s bias or attitude against an individual victim or group based on perceived or actual personal characteristics, such as their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Hate/bias crimes have received renewed attention in recent years, particularly since the passage of the federal Hate/Bias Crime Reporting Act of 1990 and the New York State Hate Crimes Act of 2000 (Penal Law Article 485). Copies of the New York Law are available from the director of campus-wide safety in the human resources office or by calling 716.338.1015 or visiting our page on safety or
    If you are a victim of, or witness to, a hate/bias crime on campus report it to the director of campus-wide safety or call 911 in an emergency. The director of campus wide-safety will investigate, bringing local police in where required.
  • Cafeteria Use
    All students using the cafeteria are expected to return trays and dishes to the tray receptacle units and to deposit trash appropriately.
  • Change of Address
    Each student is responsible for notifying the registrar’s office, 716.338.1018, of any change in his/her home or temporary address.
  • Crime Awareness and Campus Security: The Jeanne Clery Act
    A copy of the JCC campus crime statistics as reported annually to the U.S. Department of Education will be provided upon request by the campus health, safety, and security committee. Please direct all such requests to the coordinator of Campus Safety and Security at 716.338.1015. Information can also be obtained at or
    Students and employees should report any crime or potential criminal action immediately to the appropriate police agency directly or to the coordinator of Campus Safety and Security. These police agencies will notify immediately the coordinator of Campus Safety and Security of any occurrences of violent crimes for which timely notice to the campus community is necessary. Other crimes will be reported on a regular basis to the coordinator of Campus Safety and Security for compilation in the annual report. JCC encourages accurate and prompt reporting of all crimes or suspected criminal activity. Reports may be made anonymously via the web by going to the Silent Witness page or contacting the coordinator of Campus Safety and Security.
  • Diversity
    College should be a place which encourages dialogue and even differences, and teaches people how to live in a world where everyone is not alike and everyone does not agree. JCC is a place where it is okay to have strong opinions on an issue and to express them, yet we must remember that others whose opinions differ from ours have the same rights. For healthy dialogue to occur, the college must be a safe place for people to express their ideas. Thus, JCC will not tolerate verbal or physical harassment of those whose beliefs or behaviors differ from others. Students violating the college’s conduct code will be subject to the sanctions outlined in the student constitution, and to public laws, where appropriate. Our aim as adults should be to understand and accept others, as we wish to be understood and accepted ourselves, but at the very least, we must be willing to respect people’s rights to be different. Perhaps the most productive thing we can do is listen - truly listen - to each other and treat each other with respect. Throughout the academic year, students are expected to display maturity and use good judgment in their words and actions. Working together, we can create a positive atmosphere in which all can learn and grow.
  • Drugs and Alcohol
    JCC prohibits the unlawful manufacture, distribution, possession, and/or use of illicit drugs and alcohol by employees and students on any college owned or controlled property or as part of its activities. This includes reckless or intentional action which threatens the mental or physical health of another for the purpose of initiation into or affiliation with any organization. Students violating this policy shall be subject to the judicial procedures and sanctions, up to and including expulsion, which are outlined in the student constitution. Copies of the constitution are available in the campus life office.
  • Ethical Standards in the Use of Computing Systems
    All students, faculty, and staff are provided with access to computing resources at JCC. The hardware, software, and files that reside on JCC computing systems are the property of the college. JCC has a computer use policy which outlines the regulations that are in force for all network users. This policy is available in all labs and in the instructional computing department offices in Hultquist Library. By signing on to his or her account, a student agrees to abide by the regulations outlined in the computer use policy. Violations of the policy are handled through the college’s procedures for academic integrity and/or student misconduct.
  • Gambling
    Gambling is not permitted in any college building or on the premises of JCC.
  • Legal Use of Alcoholic Beverages
    The sale of alcoholic beverages on campus is prohibited. However, liquor may be served on campus for events such as dinners, parties, and receptions if a preponderance of individuals 21 years of age or older are expected at the event. Only those over age 21 will be served alcohol. Prior approval to serve alcohol must be obtained from the dean of administration. Student clubs or organizations seeking such approval should apply through faculty advisors at least 30 days before the event. When alcoholic beverages are provided at student activities, strict guidelines will be enforced including proof of age requirements, chaperones, and the availability of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Specific regulations for the use of alcohol on campus are available in the campus life office.
  • Lounge Use
    The purpose of the student lounges is to provide a place for relaxation, discussion, and quiet participation in activities. Students using the lounges are responsible for the maintenance of order and proper use of facilities.
  • Personal Communications
    Students should keep informed of committee meetings, elections, and special events by consulting the bulletin boards located in each building, by reading campus publications, or by accessing
  • Political Activity
    Students at JCC are encouraged to exercise their rights as voters and to participate in political campaigns. The policy of the State University of New York, of which JCC is a part, restricts the college from altering its academic calendar or its teaching responsibilities to accommodate any political activity of the students or faculty. The SUNY statement says that “withdrawal from academic work by a student is an individual and not an institutional decision.” Each student remains responsible for meeting the academic requirements of the courses for which he/she is registered. The college believes that, like most other citizens, students can participate fully in the political process without conflict with their normal occupations and responsibilities.
  • Sexual Assault
    In compliance with Section 6450 of the New York State Education Law, JCC affirms its commitment to the prevention of sexual assault, as defined in Article 130 of the New York State Penal Code. Sexual assault committed by a student or employee of the college on college owned or controlled property or at college sponsored activities shall be grounds for disciplinary actions. JCC is committed to providing prompt and compassionate support services to any victims of such assaults. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a sexual offense on the JCC campus, you are urged to report the incident to campus authorities. If you are a survivor of a sexual assault, you have the right to: report the incident to the director of campus-wide safety for internal reporting and/or to pursue criminal charges; access the wide range of support services, including free and confidential counseling, provided by the college and/or the community. Safety
  • Sexual Harassment
    Sexual harassment is against the law and is a violation of the non-discriminatory policy of JCC. Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of federal law, including Section 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It is also a violation of New York’s human rights law. Sexual harassment, like harassment based on race, color, national origin, or religion, will not be condoned by JCC, whether it occurs in its educational programs or among its non-teaching staff. Students can obtain a complete statement of the college’s policy from the campus life office. Safety
  • Services for Students With Disabilities
    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 state that qualified students with disabilities have the right to reasonable modifications in all on and off-campus academic programs and services, as well as in student services in order to make a college education truly accessible. The philosophy of JCC is to do its utmost to maximize the educational opportunities of all its students. Thus, our policy regarding students with disabilities is a manifestation of our general approach to all students. We believe in treating students as individuals and in doing our best to meet individual needs. To plan for necessary modifications and support services, students must contact Accessibility Support Services office coordinator and provide documentation that verifies the existence of a student disability and supports the need for accommodation. We can best meet the needs of students if requests for accommodations are made as soon as possible after each semester’s master schedule is published. For those students who have a disability requiring services and/or equipment from outside the college, such as taped texts or sign language interpreters, we strongly urge three months’ advance notice. All disability-related information will be treated confidentially. When a student requests a modification which is beyond the scope of authority of the Accessibility Services coordinator to decide, the request will be decided upon by a committee appointed by the dean of academic affairs. The procedure for filing such requests and the criteria considered in deciding on them is available in Accessibility Services and in the office of the dean of Academic Affairs. Accessibility Services
  • Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products
    Tobacco Free at JCC - As of August 1, 2014, Jamestown Community College joins the growing list of colleges and universities across the U.S. which have adopted a tobacco-free campus policy. Tobacco use in all areas of the college, including inside of campus-owned vehicles, is prohibited. For more information, please visit our Tobacco Free website.
  • Student Constitution
    Students who enroll at JCC do so with the understanding that they have accepted responsibility for proper conduct both in and out of the classroom. The student constitution addresses two key areas in which students have important responsibilities:
    • Academic Integrity
      Providing an atmosphere that promotes honesty and the free exchange of ideas is the essence of academic obligation to uphold high intellectual and ethical standards. Academic integrity includes adherence to codes of ethical behavior associated with all areas of study including specialized environments such as internships, fieldwork, and cooperative and clinical experiences. Students who violate the college’s policies on academic integrity will be subject to discipline by members of the college community.
    • Student Conduct
      When the actions of students hinder the academic life of students or the ability of the college to achieve its educational purposes, students will be subject to disciplinary or legal action, or both, for misconduct on the campus or at college sponsored activities or when there is a significant relation to or effect on the college or the student population. It is every student’s responsibility to be familiar with the complete list of students’ rights and responsibilities as outlined in the Constitution of the Student Body. Copies are available in the Student Senate office, campus life office, and the dean of student development’s office. In addition, students are responsible for compliance with other college policies and with meeting the requirements which may be imposed by local, state, or federal laws.
  • Student Release
    The use of student releases has proven to be an extremely effective risk management tool for institutions of higher education across the country, particularly in the areas of field placement, student travel, and athletics. In recognition of this fact, the JCC administration has determined that it is in the interest of the college to formalize a procedure whereby student release forms are secured in a prerequisite for participation in certain classes and/or outside activities. Such activities shall include nursing practicum, human service field placements, criminal justice programs, organized student travel, college sponsored team athletics, internships, field trips, other college sponsored off-campus activities, and FSA sponsored activities. Each student who desires to participate in these courses of study or activities shall be permitted to do so only after a completed and full executed release and acknowledgement of assumption of risk form is received by college personnel supervising the class or activity in question. For further information, contact the campus life office or human resources office.
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