For the last two decades, policymakers have understood “accountability” in K-12 education to mean something very specific: formal consequences for schools and/or educators based on student outcomes (typically test scores). Outcome-based accountability in the form of high-stakes testing has been the primary policy lever used to promote school performance. The Every Student Succeeds Act creates opportunities for policymakers to re-imagine accountability in schools—and not only by incorporating additional measures of student success into outcome-based accountability regimes.
Accountability exists in other forms that are common outside of K-12 schooling. Elected officials are accountable through the ballot box. Bureaucrats are accountable through rules and regulations. Doctors and lawyers are accountable through professional standards. Consumer-serving firms are accountable through the market. In fact, school choice initiatives such as those promoted by the new administration can be viewed as efforts to inject more market-based accountability into schooling. As my co-authors and I discuss in a recent paper, these varied forms of accountability reflect the fact that, psychologically, accountability can be created in several different ways.
Read more on the Brookings Chalkboard blog.