Do-Over or Double Down?
By Paul DiPerna, Michael Q. McShane
What does it mean to hold schools accountable? How do we measure school performance? Why do we care? We convened focus groups of K–12 stakeholders to wrestle with these tough questions and help us better understand the current accountability landscape—where we’ve been as well as where we’re headed. We’ve compiled what those focus group participants told us into this report, which we hope will be a springboard for additional discussions around the issue of K–12 accountability.
To listen to a podcast with the report’s authors, click here.
ADDITIONAL REPORT INFORMATION
In this report, you will learn:
Accountability means different things to different people.We convened two meetings to find out what four groups of stakeholders—engaged outsiders, practitioners, policy advocates and researchers—thought about the past, present and future state of K–12 accountability. Some groups focused on outcomes while others focused on process and implementation. Participants also wrestled with the “accountable to whom?” question.
There’s a lot of common ground when you look backward. There’s very little agreement on where we go from here.All of the focus groups expressed frustration with the current landscape. Participants could agree on some general principles and potential paths forward, but they also showed diverse views on what to prioritize and the more specific details to operationalize those principles and values. There is no clear vision for the future of K–12 accountability.
It’s much harder to have a unified accountability system as parents have more and more choices.In a system where people want reliable information about schools, either to make informed choices or to hold them accountable, metrics become important. But the K–12 environment continues to grow more choice-rich, and finding metrics that can be used across all schooling types was a difficult hurdle for our focus groups to clear.
We’ve dug ourselves into a trust hole, and there may be no escaping.This is perhaps the most important finding of this exercise: the strict accountability systems that are in place today have destroyed public trust, especially among parents and educators. The system has, at times, punished teachers and promoted teaching to a high-stakes test. It also hasn’t aligned its desired outcomes with what families say they want from schools. The result is a trust gap that may, at least for the foreseeable future, be insurmountable. We have to continue the conversation.