By Karen Seashore Louis

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Researchers, educators, parents and policy makers alike have asked whether policies that reward and sanction schools and students, based on average school-level test scores and disaggregated by student demographic groups, can improve achievement and the quality of education for all or most students. Also debated is the question of whether accountability and high-stakes testing policies institutionalize other, less helpful, school practices, such as narrowing the curriculum and gaming the system – actions that systematically manipulate student populations to achieve accountability goals (McNeil and Valenzuela, 2001; Valencia and Bernal, 2000).

In their efforts to meet the objectives of accountability policy, have school personnel implemented practices that deemphasize quality education? To answer these questions we interviewed 89 administrators, school staff members and teachers and used risk-management theory to analyze their responses. Our paper begins with a review of research revealing the unintended negative outcomes of high-stakes accountability. This is followed by an overview of riskmanagement literature and a delineation of how this literature is applied in our paper.

Specifically, the press of accountability has at least three unintended and negative consequences. It is putting intense pressures on educators and fostering an environment of fear in many schools, it has resulted in the search for and use of loopholes for navigating accountability, and it has led many educators to view students a liabilities. Each of these consequences is delineated below. The press of accountability The pressure of accountability in Texas high schools was readily apparent in every interview.

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Accountability and school leadership by Karen Seashore Louis

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