Redistributing Power

Abolitionist accountability in teaching and learning communities invites a transcendent mechanism of redistribution, which is committed to redistributing access to power, access to opportunity, and access to access (think about that!) at every level of the community, from teaching to operationalizing to leading. At a base level, the transcendence of redistribution as a form of accountability says that we are accountable because ive believe in a critical examination, deconstruction, reimagination, and construction of equitable distribution in access, power, opportunity, title, decision-making, metric determination, and compensation. In fact, a redistributive accountability approach is committed to asking one's self if every thought, word, and action is rooted in an idea of decentering one's power in order to redistribute that power to oppressed folx.

In most of our teaching and learning communities, accountability is a power hoarding system in a top-down (vertical) power dynamic where those at the top—us, the school leaders— are evaluating and assessing those "on the ground"—teachers, staff, operations. With what you know about abolition, does that sound emancipating? Seldom, do we as leaders invite the ground to evaluate and assess our performance, which reinforces our power hoarding. Instead, an abolitionist redistribution of power yields top-down, bottom-up, and across/diagonal accountability where all stakeholders within the community are evaluating and assessing each other in our communal pursuit of freedom. If you had to answer at this very moment how students evaluate your leadership, would you be able to? Do you have clear and concise feedback from families on how the operations team is embodying an ethic of freedom and justice? These are only two examples of a larger reality, which is that we must know in and through various intersections how folx within the community evaluate our abolitionist pursuits.

The importance of redistributing power in and for accountability is critical when considering an abolitionist approach to education. School leaders (all leaders, and yes I mean all) must agree and clearly express a belief that power hoarding is contra-dictive to abolitionist accountability, and therefore give careful consideration on how to share power in accountability systems and processes. In order to do this, leaders must:

  • 1. Identify the specific and distinctive knowledge within every stakeholder group in the teaching and learning community relative to another stakeholder group (that is—what can students alone tell us about ourselves? What can teachers alone tell families about each other? What can families alone tell teachers about students? What can we alone tell teachers about families? What can teachers alone tell us about ourselves?)
  • 2. Organize an inclusive process and timeline of evaluation at multiple points through the year for joint, multidirectional accountability (that is—a one-time, forty-five-minute, end-of-year evaluation is insufficient to assess the pursuit of freedom for every stakeholder group in a community)
  • 3. Cultivate investment in joint, multidirectional accountability by providing a clear and compelling why behind the expanded process and timeline (that is—inviting stakeholder groups to hold each other accountable will likely be met with hesitance and resistance because let's be honest, who wants to have multiple groups of folx giving them feedback?)