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Assessment and Accountability: Accountability K-12

Resource on K-16 assessment and accountability practices.

National and State Resources - Accountability


Cullen, Julie Berry, Steven D. Levitt, Erin Robertson, and Sally Sadoff. 2013. "What Can Be Done to Improve Struggling High Schools?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27(2): 133-52. DOI: 10.1257/jep.27.2.133

Hochbein, C., Mitchell, A. M. , & Pollio, M. (2013). Gamed by the system: Adequate yearly progress as an indicator of persistently low-achieving school performance. NASSP Bulletin, 97(3): 270-289. doi: 10.1177/0192636513479139

Complexity of Accountability

Accountability in education requires three elements: “(1) explicit, publicized standards, (2) regular testing against those standards, and  (3) consequences linked to performance” (Kress, Zechman, & Schmitten, 2011, p. 185). Accountability is complex, and the literature offers both benefits and complaints.

Advocates of accountability argue, “If you can’t show us results on our terms, then you are failing and should suffer consequences“ (Senechal, 2013, p. 49).


  • Provides additional funding (Klein, 2012);
  • Provides data and research that inform legislation and policies (Kress, Zechmann, & Schmitten, 2011);
  • Enables improved student achievement (Kress, Zechmann, & Schmitten, 2011);
  • Increases graduation rates (Duncan, 2012);


  • Accountability increased drop out rates (Madaus & Russell, 2011).
  • Federally mandated assessments may not be equal across states because each state sets its own bar or standards of measuring student achievement (Kress, Zechmann, & Schmitten, 2011);
  • Accontability devalues teachers’ abilities to assess students, mistrusts teachers’ abilities to assess fairly, and makes students and teachers “passive beneficiaries” (Madaus & Russell, 2011, p. 22);
  • All children do not learn at the same pace or in the same way (Madaus & Russell, 2011).