High-Stakes Reform: The Politics of Educational Accountability

 

High Stakes Accountability coverIn her new book, Kathryn A. McDermott of the
University of Massachusetts tackles the complicated theory and history of
educational accountability. According to McDermott, our increasingly
centralized system has been shaped by the push for educational equality, going
back to desegregation and continuing with performance-based accountability
today. To make her case, McDermott showcases the rise of accountability
structures in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New
Jersey, and the growth in federal involvement. Perhaps most interesting are the
lessons McDermott draws from these case studies—relevant to other public-policy
sectors as well. Notably, to design a smart accountability system, policymakers
must first ensure that they have the capacity to operate it. Else accountability
creates perverse incentives (like cheating on high-stakes testing). As federal policymakers
contemplate handing
accountability back to the states
, it will be smart to remember whence and
why our current model originated. This book shines a light onto that past.

Kathryn A. McDermott, High-Stakes
Reform: The Politics of Educational Accountability
(Georgetown
University Press, Washington, D.C., 2011).

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