Distinguishing Good Schools from Bad in Principle and Practice: A Comparison of Four Methods
For over a decade, perhaps no other issue in education has generated the same level of debate and policy activity as school accountability. At their most basic, accountability policies tie school rewards and sanctions to measures of school performance, typically specified as either performance levels (for example, aggregate percentile ranks or the percentage of students meeting specified benchmarks) or changes in performance (for example, increases in aggregate test scores or in the percentage of students meeting benchmarks). While most accountability efforts have been enacted at the state and local level, the peak of this movement may be the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which requires states to demonstrate adequate yearly progress in reading and mathematics performance by school and by subgroups within schools. Common to these reform efforts is the underlying notion that incentives based upon measures of school performance will spur improvements in student performance.