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Improving accountability through expanded measures of performance

Laura S. Hamilton (RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Heather L. Schwartz (RAND Corporation, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA)
Brian M. Stecher (RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, USA)
Jennifer L. Steele (RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 28 June 2013



The purpose of this paper is to examine how test‐based accountability has influenced school and district practices and explore how states and districts might consider creating expanded systems of measures to address the shortcomings of traditional accountability. It provides research‐based guidance for entities that are developing or adopting new measures of school performance.


The study relies on literature review, consultation with expert advisers, review of state and district documentation, and semi‐structured interviews with staff at state and local education agencies and research institutions.


The research shows mixed effects of test‐based accountability on student achievement and demonstrates that teachers and administrators change their practices in ways that respond to the incentives provided by the system. The review of state and district measurement systems shows widespread use of additional measures of constructs, such as school climate and college readiness.

Research limitations/implications

There is a clear need for additional research on the short‐ and long‐term effects of expanded systems of measures. In particular, currently little is known about how the inclusion of input and process measures influences educators’ practices or student outcomes.

Practical implications

The research suggests several practical steps that can be taken to promote effective systems of measurement, including providing supports for high‐quality teaching to accompany new measures, offering flexibility to respond to local needs, and conducting validity studies that address the various purposes of the measures.


The paper provides new information about how states and districts are expanding their systems of measures for various purposes, and informs accountability policy by highlighting the benefits and limitations of current outcomes‐based approaches to accountability and by clarifying the trade‐offs and decisions that should be considered.



Hamilton, L.S., Schwartz, H.L., Stecher, B.M. and Steele, J.L. (2013), "Improving accountability through expanded measures of performance", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 51 No. 4, pp. 453-475.



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