National Push for Accountability in Schools

The pace of change dictates that schools should provide high quality learning standards to students. It requires that the school system should improve their learning approaches to enhance academic achievements of students. In this connection policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels have worked to increase accountability of the school system on the premise that the same plays a vital role in improving learning standards of students and society as well. This then pave the way to the recognition of evaluation of school performance to improve standards of learning and achievements of students.
The system of accountability requires schools to define what students should know and be able to do and to measure progress and gaps in students’ achievement. It facilitates the attainment of the desired education standards anchored on quality content and high learning standards. Developing appropriate content and student achievement standards are accordingly important part of showing policymakers and the public a return on their educational investment. However, accountability of schools for students learning and achievement is impossible without a clear, focused road map on the achievement standards and what and how well students are to learn from kindergarten through graduation.
Many states have developed content and achievement standards without involving stakeholders and teachers. They also have not considered how their standards are to be implemented, measured and tied to accountability. Developing content and student achievement standards without considerable contribution and input from a variety of sources is fatal as there is no sense of ownership as well as responsibility from the stakeholders and agencies not represented. The standards set are then viewed as bias and one-sided thereby defeating its purpose and rendering weak implementation of the system.

Accountability system utilizes results from standardized tests to evaluate performance of students and schools, and provide sanctions, rewards or interventions for schools, educators or students. This system involves consistent monitoring and evaluation of the students’ and schools’ performance that it requires active participation of the educators, parents, stakeholders, and policy makers. The ripple effect of the system requires that these concerned people and stakeholders should be consistently committed to the purpose, implementation, and evaluation in order to keep track of students and schools’ performance and eventually facilitate desired continuous improvement of schools’ performance standards.
According to Kate Nolan (2002), “it is not enough to believe that all children can learn. All elements of the system must be held accountable for the success of all children”.  The effect of the accountability system in school is all encompassing that Kate Nolan further noted that, “the improvement in school performance requires improvement in all stakeholders’ performance”. Thus change in the system should not be an isolated case for the school sector but also on the part of the stakeholders as accountability requires their active participation and commitment for the system to work.
It is noted that the accountability system is designed to be a tool for instituting changes in schools that would positively benefit the students, parents, community and the country in general. This system provides opportunities and avenues for joint effort of all people and agencies concerned to raise the standards of the education system thereby improving school performance and learning of the students. The intention of the program is indeed noble and reflects an effort to bring education system to respond to the fast changing demands of the learning community, yet a lot of areas need thorough consideration and re-evaluation.
According to Chuch Poochigian, “the education system reforms undertaken in the past years have greatly enhanced the ability of the parents to monitor the performance of their children as well as of the school where they are enrolled, however, the only way that the drive for accountability in education will be truly successful is if parents utilize the new tools offered to them to ensure that their children receive quality education.” This statement should give one an idea that accountability should not be limited to the school sector only.
According to Douglas B. Reeves (2002), “accountability must be viewed in a different way. It must consider and address the issues in congruence of the objectives and the strategies, specificity, relevance, respect for diversity, continuous improvement, and focus on achievement, not norms.” Accountability system is highly complex and involves a range of interconnected issues and design as well as technical issues on the implementation and evaluation aspect that needs further thorough study and reconsideration.
Also it must be noted that no matter how enlightened or elegant the assessment devices, if the focus is limited to gathering and reporting data rather than skillful use of those data for learning and achievement enhancement of students, little improvement to school performance will result. Thus, the best way to know whether an accountability system is working is to see whether the school system it accounts for is moving from where it was to where it wants to be. From its first implementation, an accountability system requires not only internal implementation but also external monitoring.
Indeed the national push for accountability dignifies the need to improve standards of school performance and would greatly benefit the students but the approach is insufficient and has undesirable side effects. Schools do not per se reject accountability as the same is an intrinsic responsibility, but an authentic approach to accountability must be formulated. A new set of principles must be created to guide the reconstruction of accountability systems to better meet the needs of education and students, and to avoid the dangers often associated with current accountability systems. Further, collaboration and supportive effort of the school, stakeholders and policymakers must be promoted.
Reference List

Nolan, K. (2002). Excerpts from using accountability to build strong schools. Education
Commission of States. Retrieved February 20, 2007 from
Poochigian, C. School accountability reforms. Retrieved February 23, 2007 from
Reeves, D. (2002). Accountability based-reforms should lead to a better teaching and
learning-period. Harvard Education System. Retrieved February 20, 2007 from