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Impact of Increased Accountability Measures in Education


Schools and districts claim that accountability has resulted positively on assessment practices, instruction and curriculum. Both interviews and surveys reveal that schools and districts express a watchful optimism concerning the positive effects of accountability. Greater accountability is seen as a cause of student achievement and to raise test scores. Additionally, most of the districts, more than eighty percent consider accountability as a major factor in improving instruction and curriculum practices, and making the practices tied to assessments. More than seventy percent of the surveyed district reported that accountability improved classroom assessments. On the other hand, schools and districts proved that accountability lowered teacher morale. The surveys proved that there was a positive impact of accountability on educational areas but the teachers’ morale was negatively affected. In over forty districts, teachers reported the increased pressure to raise the test scores, anxiety due to the changing state directions, powerlessness and frustration. Most of the districts have applied accountability systems for less than two years. Therefore, it becomes hard to give the real effects the systems have on student achievement. Additionally, there has been a simultaneous change in the districts where improvement or decline has been proved. This makes it hard to conclude whether the effects are as a result of the accountability systems or not. This proposal research seeks to determine whether student achievement is the main goal of the accountability systems and, whether impacts such as teachers; morale is significant because they influence student achievements.

Research Question

For the sake of this study, the predominant research question is based on the on the topic of early effects of standards-based accountability systems is:

What features or practices of a district’s accountability and standards system are linked with educational consequences?

Literature Review

Effects of Accountability

Generally, accountability has positive effects on students’ achievement. It is possible to understand what the teacher and the student are working towards; provide checks or assessments to determine the achievement. This increases achievement and creates success among the staff. This brings the possibility of such kind of continuity will prevail. Most school and district personnel expect to receive positive feedback after implementing the accountability system. The personnel believe accountability is favorable. They believe that if the system is done correctly, it is improves students education (Nguyai, 2006). School and district staff has positive remarks on how the accountability system has done to their students. Survey comments indicate that the staff is confident of the impacts of the system. Staffs pointed out that accountability system make everyone to work towards student outcome. It has given upgrade of several district curriculum and motivated change. Accountability has raised achievement and expectations.  It has impacted how teachers teach and assess students. It raises concern levels for all stake holders, making everyone to focus on improvement and discussion efforts. Principals at school level do not object to the accountability system (Alderman et al., 2000). They believe the systems have already shown positive impacts to students’ performance or will show positive impacts in future. Therefore, the principals are ready to be accountable of the systems. Most principles believe that the systems make the teaching and non-teaching staff are working towards similar goals. This shifts concentration to student performance making students to participate in their achievement willingly (Chiang, 2009).

Effects on Achievement, Policy, and Practice,

According to Cullen and Randall (2006), districts stated that culpability had implemented a positive influence on curriculum as well as instruction, although not hither to as extensively on student attainment. The survey questioned districts concerning particular of the explicit results of the answerability system. Generally, respondents prudently were optimistic regarding most of the effects. According to 43 percent of assessment respondents, the district answerability system or specific accountability mechanisms had implemented a positive influence on harmonized test scores. Much more powerfully, 64 percent of their districts hypothesized a positive result on student attainment on additional instruments of academic accomplishment, possibly since of their handier affiliation with curriculum. Intriguingly, 8 percent of regions stated a negative influence on harmonized test scores. Contrary, not a solitary district recorded a negative result on student attainment on additional instruments of academic accomplishment (Cullen & Randall, 2006).

Effects on Teachers’ Morale

Feng et al., (2009), pointed out that, every one of the doyennes is feeling it [answerability]; the educators are beginning to understand it. The assessment scores are in print and on the Internet. There is a lot intrinsic in raising assessment scores, it is bound to raising expectancies. The base line is, doing an original thing (Feng et al., 2009). Nevertheless, now that individuals are watching, it is alright if it is expected to mean noble things. Being afraid although, that the dread will result to paralysis (Figlio, 2005).

Teachers’ morale is usually a fatality of increased answerability, in the opinion of many regions as well as school staff.

Contrary to the optimistic tone for most educational areas, the only part for which most respondents stated a negative result was teachers’ morale. More than 40 percent of assessment respondents reported that the answerability system or specific accountability mechanisms had implemented a negative influence on teachers’ morale (Gronberg & Dennis, 2008).  

Answerability will not necessarily influence teachers negatively.

Gathigia & Lawrence (2006) stated that, several teachers did, conversely, make positive comments about answerability and also concerning being held answerable. Moreover, 27 percent of region survey respondents showed that answerability has been having a positive influence on teachers’ morale, and some respondents recorded remarks about positive influence for educators or for class instruction: the answerability system has provided the educator a more coordinated plan with which to train and assess student progress. Educators always relish converging to set instructions in their discipline area. Evaluating these fields of instructions gives them response which they have not experienced in the past they adore understanding how their exertions are subornment. The system is known to assist the region’s educators and staff to aim on students’ learning. Educators known the objective and now ensure students are geared up.

Educators are altering their aim in the class. Answerability is a part that the educators as well as administration welcome generating a positive guideline for all parents, students and staff (Gathigia & Lawrence 2006).

Effects on Additional Features

Sentiments of regions concerning the results of answerability on additional features can be mixed. Sentiments on the consequences of answerability on a broad variety of additional factors learner school climate, attendance rates, community satisfaction, drop-out rates and parent participation were mingled. Respondents were dissented on considering if it was excessively early to anticipate an influence on these features, there was not any influence, or a positive influence was recorded. For instance, for parent participation, 30 percent respondents stated “extremely early to suppose effect” in their regions, 35 percent stated “No influence,” while 35 percent stated a positive influence (Chay et al., 2005).

Research Methodology

Research Design

The Research design section discusses the way which the subjects and constituents are organized and observed for the purpose of achieving the earlier listed objectives. Hussey (2006) traditionally categorized them as either Questionnaire or observation.

Purposes of the Study

The researcher will establish the purpose for conducting this research before explaining the mode of collecting data. According to Neuman (2000: 21) and Yin (2003: 3), the purpose of conducting research can either be Exploratory, Descriptive or Explanatory in nature. Exploratory research is conducted when the research issues have very few or no earlier studies from which to infer information. ‘Why’ and ‘How’ questions are more usual within exploratory researches and in most times require the use of case studies, observation and historical data. This type of research formulates questions and opens up access for new phenomena for future researches. Basically, it needs to be undertaken by the researcher in order to understand the problem in detail. It does not confirm or test hypothesis but aims at searching for patterns, ideas and hypotheses and at us, suggest direction for future research (Yin 2003:22; Hussey and Hussey 1997; Neuman 2000). Exploratory researchers often take an investigative stance and are expected to be creative, open-minded and flexible in their sources of information.

Descriptive research is undertaken to describe the related variables of the problem. It aims at finding more information about particular phenomenon and provides accurate representation of an already present phenomenon, events or situation (Collis and Hussy, 2009). Descriptive study goes further than exploratory in investigating the phenomena by using more statistical data to demonstrate and to summarize results. Here, the Researcher is less concerned about exploring new issues or explaining why something happens than describing how things are. This answers mostly the ‘what’ research question. Analytical (hypothesis testing) attempts to understand the phenomena more than descriptive analysis by examining and explaining causal or correlation relationships between the variables of the phenomena. It also tries to examine the causal relationships among the variables of the study.

Explanatory research builds on findings from exploratory and descriptive research to identify the reasons behind the already identified phenomena. Compared to the previous two research purposes, the field of inquiry is substantially focused as it goes beyond identifying the phenomena of interest (as in exploratory research) or describing it (as in descriptive research) to looking for detailed causes and reasons. Explanatory Research involves studying, analyzing and explaining the reasons behind an existing why or how phenomenon in order to measure, discover and explain the relationship that exists between them. The earlier stated research problem and objectives of this thesis indicates that this thesis is primarily a descriptive one.

The explanatory research purpose is also not appropriate as it is unclear from extant literatures how these three elements interact much less extend any existing theories on any presumed occupying phenomena in question. However, descriptive research is undertaken to describe the related variables of this work; it aims to find more information about particular phenomenon. The hypotheses formulated will be tested by examining and explaining causal or correlation relationships between the variables of the phenomena; it also tries to examine the causal relationships among the variables of the study

Sample size and sampling procedure

In order to keep the sampling size manageable, a representative of the sample will be selected in the three Prospect, Sunshine and Holiday High secondary schools. A representative sample that will include the study area management, teachers, parents and students will be selected. This forms thirty percent of the population in the sugar belt. Cluster sampling will be adopted to identify teachers, students and parents, to participate. From these clusters, sample random sampling will be done to come up with respondents.

Data collection instruments

To examine accountability grades, every school was positioned in one of the four main types (elementary, K-8, middle or high school) and, within every type, schools obtained scores focused on student attainment tests, evaluations and attendance of the school environments from sets of the annual survey given to learners, teachers and parents. The DOE determined the performance within the three separate element of progresses report: school environments (fifteen percent of the total score), student performances (30 percent), and the student progress (consists 55 percent). The school environments score was examined by responses to surveys of students (in grades six and beyond), teachers and parents, long as student attendances rate.  Student progress and performance scores were focused on achievements level and alteration in achievement as examined by statewide Middle school structure are grades 6–8, 5–8, and 6–12 (not including 9-12 graders), K–7 school structures are K-8, K–12 and K–8 (not including 9-12 graders), and elementary schools structure are all other combinations serving grades and lower than seven.  Different metrics were utilized to gauge secodary schools, and exclude them from the analysis. 5 English and math examinations. 5 Schools could as well receive “supplemental credit” for providing sizeable achievement profits among certain student subgroups:  student with performances in the least third of entire students citywide whom were Black, Hispanic, or entire ethnicities, and the student in the (EEL) English Language Learner (ELL) or Special Education program.

Experts from both content and a research methodology perspective regarding this study

These results suggest that accountability pressure can induce improvements in student achievement over a short period of time, notably without manipulation of the pool of tested students or reductions in course offerings of non-tested subjects.  Moreover, accountability pressure may spur actions by schools that parents support but students do not like, such as greater focus on teaching basic skills covered on standardized exams.  However, many questions remain regarding how variation in the type and severity of accountability incentives impact the behavior of principals and teachers.  For example, is the stigma of an “F” or the possibility of being fired the crucial factor in motivating principals of poor performing schools?  Are financial bonuses more effective if paid to principals, teachers, or the students themselves?  More research is needed on these and other questions regarding behavioral responses to incentives generated by accountability.

Research Ethics

Ethics in research is a very important measure to consider especially in cases where the methodology involves the participation of human beings. This research intends to study the response of human beings concerning impact of increased accountability measures in education process in the three fore mentioned high schools using in-depth interviews as means of primary data collection. Ethics entails appropriate behavior in relation to the rights and freedoms of the participants in the study. Therefore, the researcher will seek ethics approval before the study commences.

The researcher intends to secure informed consent from the participants prior the study. This will be done by first, the researcher carrying out introductions to the participants. The respondents need to know the biographic, as well as the professional background of the researcher. This will aid the respondents to know how to contact the researcher just in case there is need to. Moreover, semi-structured in-depth interviews require that the researcher operates at almost a personal level with the respondents to ensure that the respondents feel free to give information. Secondly, the respondents will be informed about the study. This will include the research topic, the reason for carrying out the research, the respondents’ role in the research, and the significance of the resulting data. Thirdly, in-depth interviews with teachers, students and parents of the given schools can involve sensitive information that the respondents may not be willing to give out. For the purpose of assurance, the confidentiality of the respondent’s feedback is considered. Anonymity will be used in which the respondents’ real names will be replaced by alphabetical letters, for instance teacher A, parent C, student B and so on. Fourth, the respondents’ participation is purely out of willingness and choice.

No respondent will be forced to participate in the study, and only those who have voluntarily agreed will be considered. Moreover, the respondents will be given the choice to quit the participation if it is out of their own interest. Alternatively, they can choose not to answer questions that they are not obliged to. This warrants that the researcher needs to be cautious when probing the respondents for answers. It should not get to uncomfortable levels; neither should the respondents feel that they were force to give out information that they would rather not. Observing ethics is very important as it enhances the credibility and moral value of the research. Additionally, it avoids certain drawbacks like law suits, which can affect the success of the research.

Study Limitations

The publicity that surrounds the accountability grades probable generated extra pressure (e.g., from parents) for the schools receiving minimum grades to upgrade their performances.  News report at the time offers a clear suggestion that, the release of development report grades seized attention of parents and principals alike, although reaction were confused among all low and high rated schools. Principals and parents were worried that, the progress report put great emphasis on the testing and it did not accurately reproduce the qualityof their schools, but underlined school incentives to “keep up” with peer the schools. Although majority found the methodology complicated with the assigning grade complicated, and the status of acquiring a huge grade and attached consequences to receiving of a failing grade proved to be quite obvious.

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