In schools, intervention and prevention are both important. And in some ways, intervention is necessary but not sufficient to truly promote positive and lasting outcomes for children. Since the Chauvin verdict a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about accountability and how it’s not synonymous with justice.
Accountability is akin to intervention: what happens after a problem has been identified. It’s what we do to address or remediate a specific situation. A guilty verdict is simply holding a single person accountable for their actions.
Prevention, however, would be better. In schools it would be providing effective Tier 1 instruction to all students to prevent underachievement. It would be establishing discipline policies that don’t lead to disproportionate outcomes for students by race/ethnicity, gender, disability status, or any other factor. It would include gifted eligibility criteria that don’t exclude students from racially and ethnically minoritized backgrounds, as well as those living in low-income and economic marginalization (LIEM; poverty) because we’re erroneously conflating a child’s performance with opportunity and access.
Let’s not get distracted by a single successful intervention (accountability) as evidence of true effectiveness. In research terms we need to replicate that effect (do it over and over again), which only happens through comprehensive systems change (justice). Why is this important? Sometimes the system, in order to preserve the system, is willing to sacrifice one of its own.