Using Accountability Results to Guide Improvement

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School performance and the means by which it is measured has become a dominant focus in education today. The collection and careful analysis of data is critical in order to accurately measure performance and to provide reliable feedback for improvement in student outcomes. Various countries use a range of techniques for the evaluation and assessment of students, teachers, schools and education systems. International assessments, such as PISA, provide additional information and useful external comparators.

There seems to be global recognition that accountability frameworks are key to building stronger and fairer school systems with an emphasis on using evaluation and assessment as important tools for promoting continuous improvement in student outcomes. However, people want their schools assessed fairly, as demonstrated by the popularity of the opt-out movement, rather than the historical focus on ‘achievement only’. Those who are accountable for assessing schools’ effectiveness understand that measuring a school’s performance cannot be reduced to a single number. Many factors must be considered. Every school exhibits its own unique set of challenges. Therefore, schools, like students, must be given room to chart their own course in the pursuit of educational equity and success for every learner.

As demonstrated in the evaluation of the school report card, the ethnographic variables can differ widely and represent the roots of some of the most powerful sets of challenges. Although school improvement efforts are primarily focused at the local level, state leaders are expected to provide targeted supports and guidance. Together, these two systems can work to ensure educational equity in the face of ethnographic diversity. Furthermore, an accountability system helps to direct state funded resources and assistance by identifying districts and schools that require support or intervention, as well as those that are demonstrating success.

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The most effective model is built on multiple indicators that can help districts and schools succeed, including: graduation rates; state test scores and student growth data; English learner performance; low chronic absenteeism and out-of-school suspensions; and student readiness upon graduation. The goal of an accountability system is to promote an environment of increased collaboration among educators and to create an environment where all students are expected to perform well academically, thus encouraging better learning outcomes. Accountability has become a word describing a whole host of educational activities meant to demonstrate specific academic performance results, including student assessment, teacher evaluation, school evaluation, and district evaluation. Standards and test scores only identify what students know. Therefore, an effective accountability system specifies performance targets and incorporates a range of indicators used as evidence of performance. It promotes a sustained impact by identifying the factors that lead to success or impede improvement efforts so that successful strategies might be expanded and/or failing approaches be modified or discarded. It is a system that encompasses all aspects of the learning environment and seeks broad measures that go beyond standardized test scores. These data, test scores and outcomes must provide meaningful enough information to guide, support and ensure continuous improvement.

The implementation of an effective accountability system must address all aspects of teaching and learning, resource allocation, school climate and culture, governance and management in order to identify the causes of underperformance, to define the strategies or actions implemented and to evaluate the results they achieve. These findings also provide clear, actionable information to families, teachers, state leaders and the public about district and school performance, the identification of the causes of underperformance, and areas in need of improvement that can be used to make immediate changes and to develop long-and short-term plans that are continuously adjusted. With thoughtful visualization and the highlighting of a limited number of metrics to focus attention on, it can also help school and district officials better inform themselves and their communities about how specific programs and services are working to improve student outcomes while providing a view of how the school is doing holistically.

Once implemented, an effective accountability system identifies areas in need of improvement. A step toward improvement must include evaluation. Evaluation systems are central to determining teachers’ instructional effectiveness and student learning. A meaningful evaluation system benefits both teachers and students. Recent research indicates that instructional coaching is the most effective strategy for improving instructional practice, which can include expanding the ownership of accountability through some sort of distributed leadership model (Moody, 2018). The distributed leadership model establishes Team leads with end-to-end responsibility for all aspects of a teacher’s professional development by setting specific goals, observing and giving feedback, inspiring and motivating, facilitating high-quality collaboration and creating strong alignment with performance evaluation. These teacher leader positions could then be used to retain strong teachers by recognizing them, rewarding them and giving them new opportunities to grow. Debra Lane, Director of Talent Development for Alexandria City Public Schools, has found that it is both helpful for districts to set some expectations around coaching and for schools to “hear from a central lens around curriculum content and best instructional practices”. Each school has its own significant challenges and context but through exemplary practices of advance planning and foundation building, transparency and openness, investing in supporting structures and dedication to the support and development of teachers-leaders, this model can improve the coaching teachers receive and the quality of instruction in the classroom (Jacobson, 2019).

It is clear that school improvement is vital. As administrators, our challenges are: to identify an effective accountability model that takes into account all of the indicators of success and failure unique to our entire school population, including ethnographic variables and academic performance; to implement the model in accordance with the current school culture, state and district guidelines, and available resources; to evaluate the information provided in order to effectively address areas in need of improvement with both a short term and long term perspective; to set realistic goals that will benefit students, teachers, parents, administrators, the school district, as well as the community.

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Using Accountability Results to Guide Improvement. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Using Accountability Results to Guide Improvement.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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