Although educators and school boards sometimes resist the idea, accountability is sorely needed in America's schools. Our students are falling behind those in other countries, yet compared to their foreign counterparts, our schools remain subject to little accountability. The U.S. school system lacks the marketplace accountability of schools competing with one another and the further accountability of large-scale examination systems, both of which are associated with high achievement. It is clear that after a quarter century of poor progress in educational productivity, the time has come for high academic standards and accountability.
This book brings together a group of expert authors from a wide range of perspectives—history, economics, political science, and psychology—to reveal what is known about accountability, what still needs to be learned, what should be done right now, and what should be avoided in devising accountability systems. The authors dispel common myths about accountability and show that it indeed offers the best hope for improving our public schools. Their contributions include the history behind the ongoing conflict between educators and policymakers over testing and accountability, a review of various combinations of accountability schemes that work best together and those that do not, and an analysis of the costs of accountability, which shows that it is one of the most cost-effective of all school reforms. They offer a comparison of accountability in three states with relatively strong systems—California, Texas, and Florida—revealing how it works in practice. And they examine the specific features needed in effective accountability systems, providing examples of consumer-friendly reporting of results from actual accountability systems.