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Student Success Academy (SSA) is a free public charter school with the main campus
located in Waipahu on the island of Oahu and satellite campuses located on the islands of
Kauai and Maui. Virtual programs run statewide with every island represented excluding
Ni’ihau. SSA was founded in 2008 with an enrollment of 237 students, mainly from Oahu. In
its second year of operation, the school grew to an enrolment of 500 students with over 800
on the waiting list and expanded its virtual program statewide. Subsequently in year three, the
school again doubled in size to 1,000 students statewide with over 380 students on the
waiting list. This year, enrollment was limited by the Local School Board to equalize the
grades and assure that every child receives the same high quality education. Student
demographics include 30% of students with parents in the military, 31% of Hawaiian or part-
Hawaiian descent, and the remainder being of a mixed demographic, including 44% White,
24% Asian, 9% Japanese, 5% African American, 5% Chinese, and 2% Hispanic. The school
benefits from a diverse and blended population as it focuses on being a collaborative learning
The core program is provided in a blended environment; the students take classes
online and face-to-face with the curriculum directly related to their needs and based upon
formal, informal, and anecdotal assessments. The school provides a vast array of electives
including hula, ukulele, Hawaiian language, 2D and 3D Video Game Design. The staff has
grown from six full-time teachers and four part-time teachers in year one to currently over 45
full and part-time staff. The staff is very diverse in their background as well as in their
expertise. All teachers are highly qualified in their content areas with no teachers teaching out
of their license area. This is contrary to reports about this happening nationally with our
curriculum provider and other curriculum providers.
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One of the contributing factors to student success in any school is parental
involvement. It has been proven that parental involvement and engagement is crucial to the
success of any child. Because Student Success Academy is a hybrid school, the curriculum is
delivered online and the students work primarily from home on the Online School (OLS). At
the K-8 level, parents are responsible for helping the students learn the content, complete
their assessments, and mark progress. Students at the Student Success Academy are expected
to come to the school at least once a week for the four core classes: Math, Science, English,
and History, with each class 50 minutes long.
Education as an investment for our society’s future has become a matter of priority
nationwide and globally. With online education, parents are responsible to fulfill the
“learning coach” responsibility; yet, teachers find that many parents do more than simply
assist. SSA struggles with accountability in regards to the “learning coach” roles. In order for
students to complete the assessments, parents (referred as “learning coaches”) must enter a
password for their children and monitor them. This was designed to keep both the parent and
student accountable every step of the way. SSA struggles, however, with the tendency that
parents give the child their passwords and many complete their lessons and assessments
without any parent involvement. Having the password also allows the student to see answer
keys for various assignments and assessments. Progress checks and report cards are based
solely on the progress being made by the Online School (OLS) and teachers are also finding
huge discrepancies between gains made in class versus what they demonstrate online.
Students come to class not knowing the content they should have learned online at home,
with progress being checked off as “mastered” by their parent. Students end up being
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overworked because either their parents are doing too much of the work for them and/or
marking progress too quickly.
Levels of Accountability
The primary purpose of education is to provide students with the knowledge, skills,
and tools they need to be successful in life. Since standards are the basis for measuring how
well students have learned what they need to know and be able to do well at various grade
levels and academic growth, they are the foundation for the state and local curriculum and
instructional alignment and assessment. Although there are various types of accountability,
professional and community accountability are two key areas in this specific topic.
Standard-based accountability requires collecting student data and reporting
information based on the clear and defined standards for what students must know and be
able to do. Student mastery of the academic content is derived from state-mandated
standards: content and performance. Decisions regarding student learning and achievement,
professional development, curriculum and instruction, and resource allocation should be
based on both content and performance standards. The standards represent the foundation for
determining student achievement (Hamilton et al., 2008). Schools are accountable for
providing students with a curriculum that is aligned with state and national standards
assessing student progress (American Association for Higher Education, 1996).
Educational accountability calls for holding key individuals and groups responsible
for measuring and improving student academic progress in online learning. There is a variety
of ways in which stakeholders are responsible for student performance in online education.
Online schools create assessment systems to evaluate student performance (Frye, 2008).
Students are responsible for achieving mastery in individual and classroom assessments
correlated with state-mandated academic content standards.
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Fuhrman (1999) states that measuring student performance involves choosing a set of
indicators and instruments (Fuhrman, 1999). Upon enrollment at SSA, every student
completes a computer-adaptive test in Reading and Math that pinpoints the proficiency level
of the student, corresponding to the specific standards of the state. The assessment gives a
detailed diagnosis of student instructional needs, including instructional adjustments and
measurement of student gains across the reported periods. Students at SSA are required to
take this test at the start and end of each school year.
Regarding the day-to-day spectrum, at SSA, the OLS is designed to allow students to
progress at their own pace within a mastery/competency-based curriculum. Lessons are
designed to provide core content and assessments of the learning objectives, whereas a
student must achieve 85% or a higher grade point average at the end of the lesson in order to
unlock and move on to the next lesson. Each lesson and assessment totals percentage points
which build throughout the year to total the expected 100%. Teachers at SSA are required to
monitor student percentages weekly, checking to make sure that students are completing their
daily assignments and assessments.
SSA struggles with accountability in regards to the “learning coach” roles. In order
for students to complete the assessments, parents (referred as “learning coaches”) must enter
a password for their children and monitor them. This was designed to keep both the parent
and student accountable every step of the way. SSA struggles, however, with the tendency
that parents give the child their passwords and many complete their lessons and assessments
without any parent involvement. Having the password also allows the student to see answer
keys for various assignments and assessments.
In theory, professional educators in a school can and should hold themselves
accountable for ensuring that all students have opportunities to develop the knowledge and
skills they need to be successful in the world that lies before them. In the context of the word
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accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s
actions”, teachers at SSA feel there are huge flaws with the accountability measures for grade
reporting (Merriam-Webster, 2003). Most do not feel confident with the grades they mark on
student report cards while knowing the large discrepancy of OLS progress and in-class
assessments. Although teachers attempt to intervene when they notice such gaps in the
student’s learning by offering tutoring (online or face-to-face), there is nothing in place that
holds the “learning coach” responsible aside from recommending that the child attend
tutoring or re-do a lesson and assessment online. There is also nothing that holds the teacher
accountable if the students do not perform at the level expected.
Most of the problem here stems from a lack of genuine parent involvement. A large
majority of the student population attending online schools fail to realize the family and
parent commitment needed for student success. Many of these families may be compelled to
sign-up or enroll their child because of the appealing marketing of curriculum companies.
The situation of the parent, who may not be able to provide a computer for their child
otherwise, may be influenced to enroll in an online school regardless of their lack of abilities
to support their child academically. Until states provide guidance for enrollment at these
schools, parents will be an integral part of their child’s success or failure but sadly, no
accountability measures are in place addressing this.
Adjusting Final Student Report
There are the observations that children are performing well online but so poorly in
class. This has the implication that parental involvement has exceeded the required level and
that children rely too much on their parents for their online work but do too little on their
own. As earlier mentioned, this has a very serious side effect, as the children remain inactive
in the learning process, something that just propels them through the education system
without acquiring necessary skill, attitudes and knowledge as required by the future.
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Framework for Diagnosing Problem
Diagnosing a problem simply means providing a solution or rather remedy to a
predicament. Though there are many methods of solving a problem, Clarke and Estes have
come up with an efficient framework to work out problems that are likely to be encountered
in a school setup (Clark & Estes, 2008). As it is the case with many other schooling
institutions, there are many challenges that face such organizations, sometimes to the extent
that they are put in the jeopardy of collapsing.
In order to diagnose performance gaps and hence achieve the set goals, Clarke and
Estes suggest establishing the root cause of the problem before searching for the remedy.
After the cause has been identified, it should be established how much effort is required to
achieve these changes. The three major causes of performance gaps as explained by Clarke
and Estes are people’s skills and their knowledge, the motivation they have in achieving
those goals, and the barriers that exist within the organization, such as inadequacy or an
absolute lack of the adequate tools and equipment (Clark & Estes, 2008).
Knowledge and Skills
It is the expectation of all the children and parents that, after completion of the
education system, the children shall be ready to complete in a global economy. In order to be
successful, they are expected to show competence by high performance and manifestation of
knowledge and skill, the failure thereof can hurt the companies they are working for (Clark &
Estes, 2008). It is for this reason that parents is dissuaded from performing all tasks for their
children, even those that they are required to perform by themselves. The ability to
effectively measure knowledge and skills is prevalent in the curriculum as many assessments
are lower level, simple memorization types of questions. These questions allow students to
show what they know but do not take them to the higher levels where they need to explain
their learning or understanding of the concept. At SSA, when students take online
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assessments and those scores are gauged with end of unit assessments at school with the
teacher, there are dramatic differences in student performance. This leads the teacher to
question who or how the child is completing the work at home. This could stem for learning
coaches not realizing the detriment they are causing the student by providing answers, or
students not receiving the extra support needed by their teachers.
Motivation refers to both the internal and external factors that propel one towards
achieving a certain goal. Normally, children will tend to be reluctant in searching for
knowledge, as they will rely on their parents to carry out tasks, even the small ones for them
(Clarke & Estes, 2008). This makes them lose the morale for studying and their brains do not
develop as they are put into less exercise of facing challenges. There are three crucial aspects
that motivation is involved in. Firstly, children set goals that they want to achieve at the end
of certain duration. Secondly, they gather efforts that propel them towards the attainment of
those goals. And thirdly, there is the involvement of the mind in the learning process. This
therefore encourages growth in all dimensions, including physical, mental, and psychological.
At SSA, there is the concern of who is actually completing the work at home or how
the work in being validated is an issue. Due to time constraints, issues of availability while
the student has to take an assessment may lead the learning coach to provide their password
to the child. When a child has this password, they can bypass and skip lessons or even
approve the lesson as complete. This common practice is a concern as it challenges the SSA
staff to actually validate the ability of that child until they complete an in-class assessment
with the teacher. If one has the ability to bypass the system, one would commonly be less
motivated to push oneself knowing the “easy route” with the password therefore losing
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Organizational barriers refer to the lacking or inadequate tools within the organization
(Clark & Estes, 2008). It is, however, important to note that this problem does not exist in the
SSA. Learners are provided with appropriate leaning materials, which they are expected to
use in doing their assignments. The reason as to why it is important to use this framework in
analyzing the accountability framework in this particular instance is because the framework
helps establish whether all the parties involved (administrators, teachers, learning coaches)
are receiving adequate support to achieve preset goals. In addition, it assesses whether the
teachers have the necessary knowledge and motivation in carrying out the activities set ahead
by the organizing committee.
Responsibilities of a Learning Coach
Before introducing the responsibilities of a learning coach, it is important to note that
a learning coach is a person who helps learners, especially those who are taking online
lessons. As such, a learning coach is entrusted with certain responsibilities. Each of these
children should also be given a chance to discuss the learning programs or opportunities that
they feel are suiting them. This will give them a better understanding of the requirements for
their learning in the SSA hybrid model. Another responsibility of a learning coach is to help
the child set their goals and targets and to assist them in attaining those targets.
In addition, the learning coach should be willing to seek assistance for their child in
areas of need. A learning coach should design and developing individual action plans with
their child. They should support their child in acquiring and developing portfolio evidence
for their key skills (Jeynes, 2011). Since at SSA teachers are highly qualified and fully
trained, there is feasibility and transparency, which promotes the reputation of the school.
Although it seems apparent to the administration that the majority of new learning
coaches are not fully prepared to accept the responsibilities, many have expressed that they
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have not been given adequate resources or training upon acceptance. As a result, parents are
left to fend for themselves to seek the best practices, techniques and skills to “coach” their
child through their learning. The learning coach mentor program, which was implemented at
SSA the first year it was open, was designed to address this issue but few parents took
advantage of the program.
The first performance indicator that will be used to investigate the level of parent
involvement regarding their children and their schoolwork is to conduct a “learning coach
survey.” All families will be given the survey to complete at the end of the school year.
Survey questions would include:
1. Do you attend meetings at school to meet with the teacher to discuss your child’s
2. Do you effectively use the materials offered (tangible and online) to assist your
child with their learning?
3. Do you believe that the teachers are justified to say that children should not be
fully assisted by their learning coach regarding the completion of assignments?
4. Did you receive help in learning how to navigate through the online course as well
as accessing the learning coach resources available? If so, who did you seek help
5. Do you normally follow the teacher’s advice on how to help your child with their
6. Do you communicate with your child’s teacher frequently by reading and
responding to emails and phone calls? If so, how often on average per week?
7. As your child’s learning coach, what do you struggle with the most? Please be
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The survey results will be crucial to determining parent satisfaction in regards to
learning coach training, resources, and overall school-to-parent support. The gesture
of the survey will also allow families to feel a sense of ownership in the direction of
the school and allow for their opinions and suggestions to be heard and considered.
The power of these longitudinal surveys will help to guide the program development
and provide historical data. The problem however, is there is a problem with
transiency in the program and the data becomes less valid as one loses respondents.
The ideal research would be to conduct cross-sectional surveys at the same time to gather
additional data and validate the data (Magnusson & Bergmon, 1990).
Another performance indicator to hold parents accountable would require anyone that
specifies himself responsible for the child’s learning to complete the official SSA Learning
Coach Training Course upon acceptance. This course, developed by the curriculum provider
as well as teachers and administration, would include: an extensive overview of the
curriculum, materials and resources, seat time working with the OLS, marking attendance
and progress, completing learning coach aspects of the student monitored assessments, daily
schedule management, and creating parent cohort support groups based on location. The
training course would be a total of 12 face-to-face hours, working directly with the learning
coach parent trainer.
Currently, new families that enroll with SSA are not given their username and
passwords until the start of school. As a result, they are not given ample time to familiarize
themselves with the OLS and struggle to keep up with the demands of the coursework
throughout the entire first quarter. Most are not completely comfortable until the end of the
second quarter nears. With the training course, parents would set up their accounts prior to
the start of school and have ample time to navigate through the OLS and gain confidence.
Upon completion of the course, the learning coach will need to complete and pass an
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assessment, which would ensure they understand how to fulfill online responsibilities. A
certificate of completion would be presented after achievement is mastered.
Another performance indicator of a school-wide “Family Accountability Plan” (FAP)
would also be adopted and implemented at SSA. This plan would be a point-based system
designed to hold both the student and learning coach accountable for student achievement.
The rubric below would be given to all families that clearly outlined all mandatory
responsibilities throughout the school year, with points assigned to each responsibility.
On-Boarding and Training
Point Value Minimum
Initial Learning Coach
1 Point Learning Coach must
attend (and student, if
Attendance, Progress and Behavior
1 Point per day absent
(excused OR unexcused)
On required LC day
*Discretion of teacher
1 point per week for not
Students must attend a
minimum of one
Session per week
Weekly Progress 1 point every two weeks *see progress chart:
Student must be at
expected progress by end
of each week (points
given at 2 week checks)
Homeroom Teacher /
*may not be applicable
for those with IEP’s
High School Academic
1 point per class where
grade average falls below
If student carries average
of 60% or below for more
than three weeks, points
given each week
thereafter and student
must attend F2F and/or
virtual tutoring. Teacher
Homeroom Teacher /
Core Teacher /
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Point value by
Communications and Conferences
Conference (F2F) August
3 points if missed In-Person as scheduled
Homeroom Teacher /
Conference (F2F) January
3 points if missed In-Person as scheduled
Homeroom Teacher /
Conference (F2F) May
3 points if missed In-Person as scheduled
Homeroom Teacher /
Any Additional F2F
1 point if missed In-Person as scheduled
School and State Required Testing
3 points (grades 4-12) Completion of 2 content
areas (reading, and math)
3 points (grades 4-12) Completion of 2 content
areas (reading, and math)
HSA (Session 1) 3 points Completion of the 2/3
content areas (reading,
math, and science) if
At closing of testing
window – testing
schedule arranged by
HSA (Session 2) 3 points *May not be applicable
HSA (Session 3) 3 points *May not be applicable
If a child receives six points, a letter is sent home letting them know that if the child
receives nine points, a parent meeting will be required with the administration. This meeting
will involve closely evaluating the child’s lack of progress as well as the needed areas for
improvement. It will also remind the parent of the learning coach responsibilities. If they are
not met, the child’s progress will be directly affected. Once a child receives twelve points, the
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parents will be given the chance to request a hearing with the administration and the child’s
teacher to review how the points were accumulated or the parents will be asked to reconsider
whether SSA is the right educational placement for their child. The FAP is to emphasize that
without a total commitment from the learning coach, the child and SSA has a less chance to
Solutions to Accountability Problems
In order for real change to occur, effective leadership is most important in any
organization. “Effective [leaders] must lead their school through the goal-setting process in
which student achievement data is analyzed, improvement areas are identified and actions for
change are initiated” (Schmoker, 2003). The “focus of change” needs to be on target as
“leaders can act like effective leaders, but if they fail to guide their schools toward making
the correct changes, these changes are likely to have a diminished or negative impact on
student achievement” (Waters, Marzano & McNulty, 2003). The three performance
indicators including the “learning coach survey”, “learning coach training course” and the
“school wide family accountability plan” are the first steps to allowing administration to
gauge the level of engagement with the families.
Learning Coach Survey
In response to the first performance indicator that families will be asked to complete a
“learning coach survey”, the results will allow administration to gain an honest evaluation
regarding the learning coach trainings and support, parent resources and school structure and
overall support. The survey specifically is designed to find out whether learning coaches feel
supported in guiding their child’s learning, engagement level between teacher and learning
coach, how effective school wide communication is, and their level of commitment regarding
fulfilling the learning coach responsibilities. The results will most likely also establish
whether learning coaches take the greater part in the online work. This data will mean very
ACCOUNTABILITY FLAWS 15
acute constraints as they end up being so reliant on their learning coaches for content they
should have learned independently at home. The school will be tasked with the responsibility
of ensuring that learning coaches and students know their roles and take full ownership of
Depending on the survey results, it will be determined the kind of action to take in
educating the parents on the need to allow children have some work to do individually.
Though there are many advantages associated with parental involvement in school learning,
there should at least be a regulation of what and how the parents should be involved in
helping the children with their assignments. To have a clear picture of the advantages
associated with parental involvement, it is important to briefly pinpoint some of the benefits
associated with it.
To start with, there is the attainment of higher grades as the learning coaches
emphasize to their children the importance of taking their studies seriously as well as helping
them with their homework (Callison, 2004). Another benefit is that children have a perfect
learning environment with learning coaches more likely to provide a more conducive
environment for learning (LaBahn, 2006). With the help of the data that will be acquired
from the learning coach survey, it will be of paramount importance to educate parents and
convince them that though they are required to help their children with their assignments, it is
important for them to allow children to perform learning tasks on their own. This does not
only help children develop diligence in children, but it also improves their competence hence
preparing them for their future life (Hornby, 2000). This is achieved by allowing them to be
self-directed learners. The research will be an eye opener to parents to make them realize that
what matters most in education is not how a child is considered punctual in completing
assignments but how well he or she understands the content of what is being taught by the
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Learning Coach Training Course
The requirement of the learning coach training course would be to ensure that the
learning coaches are fully prepared to take on the responsibilities required to be a successful
learning coach and will improve accountability in multiple ways. First, the learning coaches
will become more versed in the OLS and therefore more comfortable with grading,
procedures and attendance. Secondly, the ability to hold the parents accountable will be
instrumental as one consistent excuse parents used was “I was never informed or knew how
to do it.” Finally, the collaboration between the learning coach and the teachers and
administration will increase, as they will be talking the same language of accountability.
Having each learning coach complete 12 hours of direct instruction with the school’s learning
coach trainer would provide the learning coaches ample practice time navigating online
through the curriculum, asking questions and gaining overall familiarity.
Family Accountability Plan
The point-based family accountability plan will allow SSA to hold both learning
coach and students accountable. Upon enrollment, the FAP guidelines and contract given to
all families will be read and signed. The FAP allows SSA to clearly articulate parent and
student expectations. It requires the teacher to keep records and document communication
attempts, testing and class attendance and conference meetings. This will allow SSA
administration to hold families accountable and the student’s status at the school will weigh
heavily on the level of commitment of both parties. Parental interaction with their child’s
schooling with a consistent message as to their significance in the process allow family
attention to learning to increase and gain focus. The FAP holds all parties responsible for
student success accountable: Family, Student, and Teacher/Administration. “As teachers
enlist the support of parents in learning, in different ways at different points in time, they are
ACCOUNTABILITY FLAWS 17
reminded of the advantages of such alliances, and the child’s learning increasingly becomes
the focus of their interactions with parents. The cumulative effects of more frequent and
higher quality interactions among teachers and parents are a great reservoir of trust and
respect, increased social capitol for children, and school community more supportive of each
child’s school success” (Redding, Langdon, Meyer & Sheley, 2004).
Since SSA is a charter school, as a “school of choice”, more flexibility is given
regarding our policies, procedures, and expectations. SSA is able to offer Free and
Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to families that are not willing or cannot abide by
school policies and requirements. Student choice and excellence is at the core of SSA and
with the implementation of the FAP, it will allow for the increased accountability of families
toward excellence. In the case where a parent is not engaged as the learning coach, the FAP
will allow for administration and teachers along with the Local School Board to facilitate
meetings whereas the parent will become accountable for their child’s learning. In the case
where a parent refuses to become accountable and be an active partner in their child’s
education, SSA administration will pursue the educational neglect charges against the family.
In summary, it can be inferred that though parental involvement in education is
important, it is crucial to ensure that parents do not interfere with the intellectual
development of the child by doing too much work for them. With the nature of SSA, parental
involvement is key to student success since so much of the learning requirements falls on the
learning coach. There should be a balance on what the teacher, the child, and the learning
coach, take part in. Indeed, the child should carry out most of the activities while the parent
should only guide the child on what he or she is to do. The parent survey data if valid and
free from bias will gauge the ability to provide a consistent high quality experience for all the
ACCOUNTABILITY FLAWS 18
students at SSA, while in school and at home. It will provide an effective feedback loop and
ultimately allow administration to hold parents accountable for their child’s lack of success at
home. There are needed elements for the success of the child. As the child strives to excel in
his or her studies, both the teacher and the parents should provide an environment that favors
learning efforts of the child.
The SSA administration has built an assessment and accountability system one
student at a time; the rationale was based upon the need for greater accountability and will
allow for teachers to personalize learning opportunities and learning environments, ad the
school to watch each student’s efforts and accomplishments over time. The issue of the
parent/family accountability is one at the crux of the success of SSA and to date has not fully
flushed out how the program can hold parents accountable for their child’s actions, their
actions and ultimately for their child’s success and has to be the expectation of all who work,
attend and are partnered with the school. Because SSA has developed their own
accountability structure, they can decide whom to hire and where to assign the staff within
the scope of the supplemental agreement with the union. Unfortunately, this does not hold
parents accountable. This ideal is why charter schools exist and can be more creative and
innovative than the traditional brick and mortar school. Unfortunately, those who control
budgets decide how to hold schools accountable and ultimately decide the fate of such
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