“An education system needs both school accountability and school autonomy to raise attainment.” Do you agree? Explain your reasons.
The state of the school system has increasingly become a concern for societies. The questioning on which systems work more efficiently to advance the cognitive and non-cognitive skills of students has installed the endeavour to seek reforms that increase attainment. Thus, Institutional measures have taken a centre stage: accountability and autonomy. The tenor of findings of the impact of autonomy has differed over time, and the introduction of reforms that favour accountability; like the No Child left behind act (NCLB) and 1988 UK reforms, has posed an intrinsic debate of which system is the right one. Whether there should a clear favour to a particular system or an interplay of both. Therefore, the presented paper evaluates the current evidence to determine whether accountability and autonomy are mutually inclusive factors in a school system to raise attainment. This essay will….
The process of evaluation of school performance on the basis of student performance measure, is known as school accountability. Centralized reporting in school-wide examination has been occurring, and measured, in the United Kingdom for decades (Burgess et al., 2005) and in Chile (Mizala et al. 2007). Likewise, accountability measures have been a distinctive feature of educational policy for both Democratic and Federal administrations since the 1990s (REF). School accountability operates on a set of principles and under various implementation strategies. There are three main types of accountability: 1) compliance with regulation, in which educators were accountable for adherence to rules and accountable to bureaucracy; 2) adherence to professional norms, in this system, educators are accountable for adherence to standards and accountable to their peers; 3) result driven, within this system, educators are accountable for student learning and accountable to the general public. Educators often ought to work on these systems of accountability simultaneously, attempting to balance the requirement of each. However, at present accountability systems focus less on compliance and more on showable results. The rewards and sanctions that stem from accountability can be straight forward, like bonuses for educators in high performing schools and punishment for low performance, such as closure of schools or restructuring. Accountability can also occur subjectively by community pressure on schools to improve. Thus, school accountability incentives can work through direct government action or through the provision of information.
One of the most notable accountability system is the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which requires states to test students in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight, as well as one in high school grade. NCLB also requires science testing in at least one grade per traditional school level and states to determine what it means to be proficient on the state assessment. Then schools are evaluated based on whether students are progressing adequately toward the goal of 100% proficiency. The aim of these type of reform is the idea that making available detailed school-specific information on test performance, and linking performance to direct consequences can improve productivity in schools. Evidence suggest that NCLB had a positive effect in mathematics on elementary student performance, particularly at lower grades and typically disadvantaged population. However, this effect was not observed in other subjects. The impact of NCLB was also visible on educators, as it appears it led schools to devote more time to maths and reading, there was a particular increase in exam preparation activities. Lastly, there’s compelling evidence that NCLB increased per-pupil school district expenditure on direct instruction, a mediation mechanism that may explain the corresponding achievement gains. The relative gains of NCLB can be attributed to the direct consequences it imposes on low performing schools, as the pre-NCLB literature suggested accountability policies that simply reporting accountability measure that were unconnected to exomplicit consequences did not drive improvements on student achievement (Hanushek and Raymond, 2005).
Furthermore, much like the American system accountability in the UK relies on publicising information to hold schools accountable and thus penalise direct or indirectly that don’t perform according to standard. This occurred after the 1988 introduction of greater accountability, were schools have to publish information on their performance. However, this information was only partial. Schools report the proportion of students that achieve above a certain level in national test taken at age 16. This information is then used by the government to rank schools in a nationally published school ‘league table’ This information used by the government to sanction poorly performing school and by parents choosing a school for their child. A key issue of accountability systems is that of fairness as when measuring the impact of accountability, the distribution of pupil ability and so the proportion of marginal pupils may be endogenous. The pupil level analysis denotes that the lowest ability are the losers of this type of system. In most schools as the number of marginal pupils increases, the pupil gets less value added and have a lower chance of getting the needed qualification to continue in academia or to access reasonable school leaver jobs. The marginal pupils don’t appear to gain either except when their schools are in competition. Reback (2004) finds similar findings in a study of the US were it was examined the distributional effect of accountability at pupil level, it was found that the relative importance of a student’s performance within a school has only a very small, positive, effect on that students performance relation to his or her peers. The same study, however, discusses how the distributional effect is larger when schools have strong incentive to improve their performance. The incentives in the United Kingdom are weaker if compared to the studies carried on in the US.
A meaningful ranking of school could improve education service delivery, from transmitting incentives to educators to enhancing parental school choice. However, it ought to be recognised that it appears to be more complex to produce the right accountability system than originally thought. This is true for Chile, that has focused its education reforms on the provision of education choice, incentives and publicized school information in the form of ‘league table’. On a time, series study of the standard measure of relative performance in Chile from 1997-2004. Using several cross section to calculate commonly-used school performance measure, it was found that there is a clear trade off in the extent to which ranking generated using these measure: 1) can be shown to be very similar to ranking based purely on students socioeconomic status and 2) are very volatile from year to year. Thus, there is the possibility that while using information improve education in certain aspects of the structural system, it might not improve educational quality more broadly.
Alternatively, in recent years educational systems have moved to a more autonomous organisation and become accountable to students, parents and the public for their outcomes.
School autonomy is broadly defined as the authority of school communities to improve student learning outcomes through formal governance structures. Although there is a strong literature surrounding policies to assign more autonomy to schools, and the number of education embracing school autonomy is growing (Arcia et al. 2011; Eurydice European Unit 2007; OECD 2013; OECD 2015; The World Bank 2007), its value continues to be debated both in ideological terms and empirically. The idea that school improvement is linked to autonomy stems from the school-based decision making and restructuring reforms of the 1980’s (David & Shields, 1991; Elmore, 1990; Newman, 1991).
The literature surrounding autonomy tends be more favourable in the post-2000 era, although one pre-2000 study was particularly optimistic regarding the impact of autonomy. The Australian longitudinal study of principals’ attitude to the major Victoria reform (Department of Education 1998) laid the foundations for school autonomy in that state for the subsequent decades. Previous to the 2000 era, student performance data were limited. The pattern of results on school’s autonomy from student’s achievement test is that students perform significantly better in schools that have autonomy in process and personnel decision. This decision often involves hiring and rewarding of teachers, purchase of supplies and budget allocation within schools and curricula content.
The OECD’s current analytical framework for assessing the impact of school autonomy on performance compromises two composite indices development from survey that accompany the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. Firstly, there is an index of school responsibility for resource allocation and secondly and index of school responsibility for the curriculum and assessment. Correlation analysis with the OECS’s 2012 PISA performance allows the comparison among education systems and within country. The first analysis shows that where schools in systems that are more autonomous for decision over curricula and assessment, they tend to yield better outcomes in student performance than in systems that have less autonomy for deciding on curricula. This is also true for when considering national income – showcasing a correlation of 0.58. The later, within-country relationships between schools’ autonomy In resources are far more complex and the differences are slight. Moreover, the relationship is influenced by other factors as socioeconomic level, status as a public or private school and the systems management environment – in particular its accountability framework. On the other hand, greater responsibility in managing resources appears unrelated to a systems performance.
Furthermore, the existing cross-country evidence indicates that there is an important interaction between school autonomy and the accountability introduced by external exams (cf. Wöbmann, 2007b). The evidence shows that school autonomy is beneficial in system with external exit exams (Wöbmann 2005; Fuchs and Wöbmann, 2007). Across decision-making areas, external exams turn an initially negative autonomy effect into a positive effect, for example, in TIMSS and in PISA 2000. Thus, it can be argued that in order for autonomy to serve its purpose in a school system certain level accountability ought to be introduced, as results suggests that school autonomy is better for students’ achievement when external exits exams are introduced.