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Accountability is About Taking Responsibility for Outcomes -- Including Beyond High School

School accountability is about taking responsibility for outcomes. That includes taking responsibility for outcomes beyond high school.

Article by Anne Wicks March 23, 2017 //   3 minute read

During one of our recent interviews about the modern meaning of school accountability, a superintendent remarked that school accountability simply means taking responsibility for outcomes. That was an honest, refreshing thought given that we often hear complaints that accountability’s only purpose is punitive pressure on educators. 

As this superintendent observed, a school accountability system serves to uncover the strategies that lead to student success. The data that flows from accountability systems are like a good roadmap: They show where schools need to improve and where they are producing positive results. 

This particular district relied on data to find, follow, and scale success in their schools. Following the data in this district, for example, has led to changes in curriculum to better address student needs. Educators in this district – more often than not - do take responsibility for student outcomes and seek to solve problems that inhibit their progress.

What responsibility can we all take for student success? 

Consider these data points from the Bush Institute's State of Our Cities report: 

*National Assessment of Educational Progress results for 12th grade students show that more than 60 percent of students nationally have not scored at college and career ready levels. According to National Public Radio, that percentage has remained largely unchanged since 2013.

*In 2013, according to Education Trust, about 47 percent of high school graduates did not complete a college-ready or a career-ready course sequence before finishing high school.

These findings underscore that students can't suddenly become ready for college or a good career in 12th grade. Preparing for those end-points starts way before then. Graduating ready for college or a good-paying career is a hipbone/legbone phenomenon: the process must start way back in elementary school.

Even in those early years, the goal should be thinking beyond high school. As I wrote in this essay  for The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute, the nature of the modern economy is such that students need skills that will adapt while the economy evolves and creates new fields and new jobs. 

We all probably nod affirmatively when we hear comments like that, but the hard reality is that getting ready for success beyond high school just doesn't happen. It starts when schools take responsibility for their outcomes from the outset. And that gets us back to meaningful accountability systems.  

Embracing high standards, assessing whether students are meeting them, and attaching consequences to the outcomes help students. Those elements are the essence of school accountability, and they are a boon to students when educators, parents, and a community take responsibility for the results they produce.


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