dents. These efforts were designed to ensure that schools carried out the mandates issued by state officials.
The new approaches shift the focus to outcomes—the results of all the inputs—and specifically to student achievement outcomes. These new systems reflect what the National Governors' Association (1986) referred to as a “horse trade”: flexibility in exchange for accountability. Believing that those closest to students—schools and districts—knew best how to meet the needs of their student populations, the governors agreed to the idea of relaxing rules and giving schools maximum flexibility to design appropriate instructional programs. However, they said they would do so only so long as the schools produced results, and the states agreed that they would monitor the results, reward improvement, and impose sanctions for failure.
These new accountability schemes were designed to change the incentive structure for teachers and administrators. By placing consequences on the results, accountability was aimed at encouraging teachers and administrators to innovate and to design effective curricular and instructional programs that will improve student performance.
In addition, the accountability mechanisms were aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of state agencies. By determining which schools are succeeding in their basic mission and which schools are failing, states could direct resources and assistance to the schools and districts that need them the most—the ones in which performance measures indicate problems. Otherwise, resources could be wasted, and needs could remain unmet. Students and taxpayers would both benefit under the new systems.
But designing a means of accountability poses a number of challenges. Chief among them is how schools respond to the accountability pressures. The external accountability structures can set ground rules and design incentives, but these processes will have the desired effect only if the internal accountability matches that from the outside. That is, teachers and administrators must hold themselves accountable for the performance of themselves and their students. If there is a mismatch between the internal and external accountability, when accountability knocks, no one may be home.
Who Is Accountable? One of the key design issues in accountability is determining who is to be held accountable. The Title I statute clearly intends for states to hold institutions—schools and school districts—accountable for student performance. Although the law requires states to collect and report data