States' Continuing Role
Now that states have placed themselves in the center of school reform issues, they are unlikely to step aside anytime soon. Evidence on the importance of the elements in state accountability systems for student achievement became clear in a study of North Carolina and Texas (Grissmer & Flanagan, 1998). The researchers who conducted the study tied achievement gains in these two states directly to the state system of academic standards, assessments linked to standards, consequences for results, and other elements of the state infrastructure.
Given these findings, the role of states in guiding accountability may become even more significant. Sherman Dorn (1998) of the University of South Florida identifies three requirements that are common to meeting the need for accountability:
- Accountability systems should use student performance as a starting point for deeper discussion of educational problems.
- Accountability systems should link student performance with classroom practice.
- Accountability systems should focus on improving education for all children, not encourage schools to isolate and devote fewer resources to children who already have the odds stacked against them.
Accomplishing this new orientation will be an ongoing task. Policymakers will have to continually monitor the effects of their policies and modify them as they learn from their own experiences and those of others. Or, put another way, they will need to take a longer-term and more comprehensive perspective on accountability.
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