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Report Poorly Argues for the Expansion of Ineffective School Accountability Systems

BOULDER, CO (February 9, 2021) – A recent report from the Hoover Institution’s Education Success Initiative argues that state and federal officials should retain what it calls “results-based” accountability systems that use standardized assessments of students followed by consequences for not meeting performance goals. But it does not provide the evidence needed to support that contention.

Gail L. Sunderman, co-founder of the Maryland Equity Project, reviewed School Accountability—Past, Present, and Future: Findings and Recommendations for State and District Policymakers, authored by Dr. Chester Finn. The report contends that accountability systems can be improved by expanding assessment to more grades, transparently reporting those results, and focusing on intervening in low-performing schools through a combination of intervention-style and market-driven consequences coupled with an inspectorate system to evaluate schools.

Dr. Sunderman found the report unconvincing for a number of reasons. She explains that the report ignores a plethora of literature on the deleterious impact of test-based accountability on outcomes that could provide a more nuanced understanding of these systems. It also fails to explain why these systems should be extended to include more testing at more grades.

Further, she finds, the report provides no evidence on the efficacy of its preferred reform strategies for low-performing schools, which include combining external interventions with market-driven consequences. Rather than evidence, the report relies on unsupported theories of accountability and market-driven reform to provide a rationale for its conclusions and recommendations.

For these reasons, Dr. Sunderman concludes, policymakers, educators, and state education administrators should not rely on this report for guidance as they consider strategies for assisting low-performing schools and districts.

Find the review, by Gail L. Sunderman, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/accountability

Find School Accountability—Past, Present, and Future, written by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and published by the Hoover Institution, at:
https://www.hoover.org/sites/default/files/research/docs/finn_webready.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu