National Research Council

Accountability is one of the most prominent issues in education policy today. Accountability mechanisms create incentives for educators to focus on important outcomes. They also provide a means for allocating resources, such as instructional assistance, to schools in which performance measures indicate problems.

In designing accountability mechanisms, states and districts must first determine an adequate level of progress for schools. Measures of adequate yearly progress should include a range of indicators, including indicators of instructional quality as well as student outcomes. In addition, the criterion for adequate yearly progress should be based on evidence from the highest-performing schools with significant proportions of disadvantaged students.

Accountability should follow responsibility: teachers and administrators – individually and collectively – should be held accountable for their part in improving student performance. Teachers and administrators should be held accountable for the progress of their students. Districts and states should be held accountable for the professional development and support they provide teachers and schools to enable students to reach high standards.

Accountability provides a way to focus assistance to schools. Assistance should be aimed at strengthening schools’ capacity for educating all students to high standards and to building the internal accountability within schools. Without developing school capacity, accountability leads to inappropriate practices, such as efforts to increase test scores without improving student learning.

Education improvement systems continually change, based on new knowledge and new circumstances. States and districts should continually monitor and review their systems to determine where improvements are needed and make the changes necessary to improve educational opportunities for all children, and particularly for the disadvantaged children Title I was established to support.

Recommendations

  • Accountability should follow responsibility: teachers and administrators – individually and collectively – should be held accountable for their part in improving student performance. Teachers and administrators should be accountable for the progress of their students. Districts and states should be accountable for the professional development and support they provide teachers and schools to enable students to reach high standards.
  • Accountability decisions should be based on multiple indictors.
  • Accountability mechanisms should be based on a range of measures, including indicators of instructional quality, as well as student outcomes.
  • Accountability results should be reported so that the improvements needed are clear to students, teachers, and parents.
  • Accountability mechanisms should encourage schools to improve all students’ performance.
  • Assistance should be aimed at strengthening schools’ capacity for education all students to high standards and to building the internal accountability within schools.

Source: National Research Council. Testing, Teaching, and Learning: A Guide for States and School Districts (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

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[©2001, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]

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