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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research:
Assessment & Preparation for Assessment: How Do Teachers Make Sense of Accountability?

My research shows that teachers define accountability as being responsible for completing various teacher tasks and for raising student achievement.  The Accountability Initiative of the New York City Department of Education has had little positive effect on teachers as teachers do not feel held accountable by the Department of Education or by the school's administration in a meaningful way.  Teachers want very much to be held accountable, but feel that current accountability measures do not accurately assess their performance.  Teachers want a system that will evaluate them based on the quality of their lesson plans, the quality of their pedagogical style and on their students' progress as measured through multiple forms of assessment.  Furthermore, teachers believe that accountability systems should not just be about evaluation, but should focus on implementing supports as well. 

The goal of New York City Department of Education’s Accountability Initiative is to make schools places in which there is a continuous cycle of improvement.  This research was motivated by my feeling that the Accountability Initiative was not creating this cycle of improvement.  My school, a place full of bright and hard working teachers, received a failing grade on our middle school progress report.  Although I understood the grade, I did not see the ways in which teachers were being held accountable and thus did not see how we could create positive change to raise our score.  I wondered how other teachers were feeling about it.

Research Question and Tools

Principal research question:  How do teachers make sense of accountability?

Sub Questions:

  1. How do teachers define accountability?
  2. How do teachers feel about current accountability systems?
  3. How would teachers design an accountability system that would lead to a cycle of continuous improvement in schools?

I conducted ten interviews with nine teachers and one administrator.  I interviewed two middle school teachers, five high school teachers and two teachers who had taught middle school and high school.  All but one of the teachers had been teaching at the school for at least two years.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Learning Environment surveys must count for a greater percentage of the progress report grade and the questions to teachers must include feedback on the degree to which they were supported in achieving specific benchmarks and final goals.
  2. The measures of student performance and progress must be broadened to include performance and progress on performance based assessments.
  3. The Quality Review must be revised so that it considers teacher inputs and learning outcomes.


Barbara Condliffe

Research Focus:
Assessment & Preparation for Assessment

TNLI Affiliate:
New York City

School for Democracy and Leadership

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute, please e-mail Kimberly Johnson for more information.



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