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When Does Accountability Work?

When Associate Professor David Deming and the coauthors of the new paper, When Does Accountability Work? — Sarah Cohodes, Ed.M.'11; Jennifer Jennings; and Christopher Jencks — embarked on their study of the accountability practices of the school system in the state of Texas, and how they affect college graduation rates and future earnings potential of students, they were unsure of what they would find. Would the proponents of school accountability policies such as standardized testing come out on top, or would the findings support the opinions of the critics? What Deming and his colleagues discovered was that the reality is closer to the center. On the one hand, says Deming, accountability does seem to work for some kids, just as it doesn't work for others.

"The overall impact," he says, "was neither as largely positive as the proponents of accountability would hope for, nor was it as negative."

So what might this mean?

"It's a win for gradual incrementalization," Deming continues, "rather than the idea that some policy like school accountability is going to be the silver bullet that's going to solve all of our problems."

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Deming discusses his study, accountability policies, and how what he and his colleagues found in Texas can translate to the rest of the country.

For more, visit Education Next.

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The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.


An education podcast that keeps the focus simple: what makes a difference for learners, educators, parents, and communities

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