As the tide of education accountability ebbs from federal shores and rolls back out to state seas, states are in a position to reboot, retool, and reimagine their current accountability models. This Education Sector paper from independent analyst Craig Jerald offers a novel suggestion: Model new accountability systems after the Brits’s long-running school-inspection program. The specifics of the program have been tinkered with since its inception, but its tenets remain the same. School ratings (given on a five-point scale) are based upon site-visit reports by trained professionals using a multi-dimensional metric. (Next year, those measures will be: student achievement, quality of teaching, students’ behavior and health, and leadership and management of the school.) Schools are told—explicitly—what they’re doing right and wrong, and are given tangible recommendations for improvement. And transparency is key—with all school evaluations made public online within fifteen days of site visit. Jerald is right to call for a more robust, and accessible, accountability system. And this British model (implemented in a union-friendly nation) is worth states’ consideration. But there’s still one anchor holding back large-scale adoption in the U.S.: Britain no longer has the powerful local school boards seen in the U.S.—entities that (along with other systemic issues) tie the hands of school leaders who might want to implement thoughtful improvement recommendations.
Craig D. Jerald, On Her Majesty’s School Inspection Service (Washington, D.C.: Education Sector, January 2012).