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The Effects of Accountability System Design on Teachers’ Use of Test Score Data


by Jennifer L. Jennings — 2012

Background/Context: Many studies have concluded that educational accountability policies increase data use, but we know little about how to design accountability systems to encourage productive versus distortive uses of test score data.

Purpose: I propose that five features of accountability systems affect how test score data are used and examine how individual and organizational characteristics interact with system features to influence teachers’ data use. First, systems apply varying amounts of pressure. Second, the locus of pressure varies across systems. Third, systems diverge in the distributional goals they set for student performance. Fourth, the characteristics of assessments vary across systems. Finally, systems differ in scope—that is, whether they incorporate multiple measures or are process- or outcome oriented.

Research Design: I review the literature on the effects of accountability systems on teachers’ data use and propose a research agenda to further our understanding of this area.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Researchers have spent much more time analyzing test score data than investigating how teachers use data in their work. Evolving accountability systems provide new opportunities for scholars to study how the interactions between accountability features, individual characteristics, and organizational contexts affect teachers’ test score data use.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 11, 2012, p. 1-23
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16810, Date Accessed: 9/1/2014 7:15:52 AM

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About the Author
  • Jennifer Jennings
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    JENNIFER JENNINGS is assistant professor of sociology at New York University. Her research interests include the effects of organizational accountability systems on racial, socioeconomic, and gender disparities in educational and health outcomes and the effects of schools and teachers on non–test score outcomes.
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