Cover: Superintendent, Principal, and Teacher Understanding of and Attitudes About Accountability

Superintendent, Principal, and Teacher Understanding of and Attitudes About Accountability

Published Aug 18, 2006

by Jennifer Russell, Jennifer Sloan McCombs

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Since 1989, state policymakers have steadily moved toward standards-based accountability (SBA) systems that emphasize explicit content and performance standards, systematic standardized testing, and consequences for failure to make progress in improving student achievement. Using survey and school site visit data from three states, this study assesses whether educators understand and support the standards-based accountability model that is required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) by asking one broad question: What is the level of perceived validity and reported impact of NCLB policies in districts and schools. Results rely primarily on the superintendent, principal, and teacher survey report from the 2004-05 school year, asking to what extent are these educators familiar with state content standards and find them useful; and for their views on the state assessments and on the state accountability system as a whole, including standards, assessments, adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets, rewards, and sanctions. Results show generally positive responses regarding standards, some concern by administrators in meeting future AYP goals, and both positive and negative perceptions about assessments and the impact of the entire states’ accountability system. Familiarity with standards among principals and teachers tended to be high; most superintendents viewed state test results as a valid indicator of student progress in mastering standards; most superintendents found state test results moderately useful in making decisions about their curriculum and instructional materials; most were confident about meeting current AYP targets, but concerned about meeting future student proficiency targets. Both district and school leaders reported important changes due to the SBA systems, e.g., increased staff focus on student learning, more students learning important skills, improved curriculum changes, especially of mathematics across grades. Principals were more likely to believe that accountability was beneficial to students, while teachers had more negative assessments, such as insufficient time to teach content not on the test, and accountability pressures on students, especially those with special needs.

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