Redefining Accountability to Treat Educators like the Professionals they Are

The Behavioral Science and Policy Association recently published
Reimagining Accountability in K–12 Education. This paper reviews the extensive behavioral science literature that shows outcome-based accountability, commonly used in education, is only one of multiple forms of accountability that should be considered for new accountability structures. Author Brian Gill recently commented on the paper in the Brookings blog. Excerpts appear below:

Behavioral science has identified four discrete accountability mechanisms: evaluation, identifiability, reason-giving, and the mere presence of another. Good professional accountability practices will employ all four behavioral mechanisms, though in various ways. Consider the practice of medicine: Doctors must pass a series of exams to be certified for practice (evaluation); board certifications for specializations are publicly reported (identifiability); medical rounds require doctors to explain cases and treatment plans to their colleagues (reason-giving); and surgery is conducted with other hospital staff attending (mere presence of another). These professional accountability systems not only maintain standards of practice but also help professionals improve their practice.

Outcome-based accountability in education, on the other hand, fails to use all forms of accountability. High-stakes testing uses two mechanisms to create accountability—identifying schools and evaluating them—but does not employ reason-giving or the presence of another. And by itself, it provides no tools to help educators improve their practice.

It is time for accountability in education to be liberated from its narrow association with high-stakes testing. A single-minded focus on one form of accountability overlooks opportunities to create a rich system of incentives and supports that employs multiple accountability tools to promote improved practice. Initiatives that increase the transparency of educational practice, redefine instructional positions to extend the influence of the most effective teachers, and incorporate input from clients would enhance educator accountability.

In concert with outcome-based and market-based accountability, these forms of professional accountability could create a system of continuous improvement in schools. Over time, they might also raise the status and esteem of the teaching profession.


For more commentary, see:

For the original paper, see