CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

Evolving Approaches to Accountability and School Improvement around the World

Featured research by Thomas Hatch (Teachers College, Columbia University), 

This study explores evolving approaches to accountability and school improvement in both “higher-performing” (Finland, Singapore, and the Netherlands) and “lower-performing countries (Norway and the United States). 

The ongoing study addresses three questions:

  • What are the theories of action of the current approaches to school improvement, accountability and the assessment of schools in different contexts?
  • What capacity do schools and school systems need in order to carry out these theories of action and meet established goals?
  • What challenges are policymakers encountering in carrying out their approaches to school improvement, school assessment and accountability?

This work is part of a larger effort to develop a deeper understanding of an often used but underdefined term – “building capacity” – and provides illustrations of several key implications for large-scale school improvement:

  • Although many US educational policies focus on individual educators and schools, building capacity for improving instruction depends on the relationship between improvements at the classroom, school, district, and local/regional level
  • Policies that focus on developing human capital – knowledge, skills, and dispositions – often underestimate the extent to which large-scale improvement also depends on technical capital – money, materials, facilities, technologies, and other tangible resources – and social capital – relationships, trust and social networks
  • While building capacity in general is assumed to be a positive development, developing technical, human, and social capital for one goal may limit the chances of reaching other valued goals and purposes
  • Even as many reform efforts assume that education drives the economy, social, cultural, political, geographic, and economic factors and conditions drive education and the efforts to improve it. 

The next phase of this research will include work in Finland looking particularly at the role of assessment and a culture of collective responsibility in building capacity for improving instruction for all students.

For further information see articles linked below.

In related work, Hatch has also established the Twitter profile @intl_ed_news and corresponding blog to provide access to news, research, and reports that discuss what’s new, what’s good, and what’s effective in education and school improvement around the world.