“Will It Be on the Test?”: A Closer Look at How Leaders and Parents Think about Accountability in the Public Schools

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The Kettering Foundation studies the problems that keep our democracy from working as it should. One of these is a lack of trust that has eroded confidence in our major institutions, including the public schools. To remedy this problem, federal, state, and local officials have pursued a broad range of reforms aimed at ensuring that the nation’s public school system is more accountable.

Most Americans applaud the goals of this accountability movement, and they support some of what it has accomplished. However, new research from the Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda suggests that there are important differences between the way most leaders and most parents define and think about accountability in public education.

“Will It Be on the Test?” summarizes this research, which includes focus groups held in Washington, DC; Detroit; New Orleans; Westchester County, NY; Birmingham, AL; and Denver. Divided in three sections, the report lays out areas of agreement, where leaders and parents see eye-to-eye on accountability, and areas of tension, where the perspectives of leaders and parents part company. Finally, it explores whether it is possible to blend the competing views and poses some questions for the field.

This report is an outgrowth of a 2011 Kettering Foundation/Public Agenda report that revealed “a potentially corrosive gap” between the way that leaders and the public define accountability. Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More describes how contrasting visions of accountability can feed public distrust of institutions rather than reducing it.

Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation | 2013 | 27 pages