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ERIC Number: ED556313
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 57
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Fixing Our National Accountability System
Tucker, Marc S.
National Center on Education and the Economy
No Child Left Behind radically shifted the balance of power in American education policy-making from the states to the federal government, not because a new consensus had emerged to make such a shift, but because both Democrats and Republicans were angry with the nation's teachers, holding them responsible for a massive increase in the costs of schools, while failing to deliver much in the way of improved student performance in return. The President and the Congress were united in their determination to hold the teachers accountable for that failure and to get value for their money. In this paper, Marc Tucker argues that one cannot divorce the design of the accountability system for education from the gestalt of the entire education system, and, in particular, the way in which the system treats its teachers overall. No nation is likely to get the kind of results now demanded in the leading industrial nations unless it is successful at attracting to teaching young people who have the option of entering the high status professions, and it will not succeed in doing that unless it provides professional conditions of work to its teachers. One of the most important among those conditions is the design of the accountability system. He goes on to note that the test-based accountability system now universally mandated in the United States--a system that reflects in every way the blue-collar conception of teaching as an occupation--has had ten years to prove itself. The result is very low teacher morale, plummeting applications to schools of education, the need to recruit too many of our teachers from the lowest levels of high school graduates, a testing regime that has narrowed the curriculum for millions of students to a handful of subjects and a very low level of aspiration. He argues that the system proposed in this paper would replace the current system of test-based accountability with a system that would continue to provide data on overall school performance, on the performance of vulnerable groups of students within the school, and on all students at key points in a student's career. But it would do so in a way designed to improve the curriculum, better serve students from all backgrounds, and make it far more likely that the schools will be able to attract high quality teachers and allocate those teachers fairly among students of all backgrounds. Most important, it would replace a blue-collar system of accountability with a professional system of accountability, in the process creating very strong incentives for all teachers to work hard and constantly to improve their professional competence or get out of teaching. The mechanism for that would be a system in which teachers' main line of accountability would be not to their supervisor but to other highly motivated teachers.
National Center on Education and the Economy. 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Suite 5300, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-379-1800; Fax: 202-293-1560; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Center on Education and the Economy
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Elementary and Secondary Education Act; No Child Left Behind Act 2001; Race to the Top
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Program for International Student Assessment