Voices From the Field

Educators Respond to Accountability
Elisabeth L. Woody
Policy Analysis for California Education
Judith Kafka
The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York
Sandra Park
Improvement Collective
Jennifer Lin Russell
University of Pittsburgh


Across the nation, and in California in particular, it is impossible to ignore the increased emphasis on accountability and its impact on public school policies and practices. Accountability policy has gained wide support among state policymakers, in response to concerns that public schools were failing to meet the needs of all students. California’s Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) holds schools and the educators within them accountable for meeting and sustaining high levels of student achievement. A system of standardized testing, curriculum standards, and rewards and sanctions provides the tools and motivation in an effort to improve school performance.

State and federal policymakers continue to support accountability as an effective means to improve schools, encouraged by early indications of increased test scores. Surprisingly, there has been little research on local educators’ experiences with and responses to such reforms. This lack of research is striking, since teachers, principals, and superintendents are directly responsible for the implementation of accountability mandates, including administering tests, teaching to the state standards, and implementing state-approved curriculum packages.

In an effort to understand teachers’ and administrators’ experiences with public school accountability, PACE, with the support of the Noyce Foundation, established the Educator Responses to Accountability Project (ERAP). During the 2002–03 school year, we conducted in-depth interviews with educators in eight elementary schools across California. We spoke with teachers, principals, and district leaders, exploring such topics as their knowledge and understanding of recent accountability mandates; the impact of accountability on their classroom practices and their sense of professionalism; and their efforts to address inequities in student achievement within the context of accountability.

Suggested citationWoody, E. L., Buttles, M., Kafka, J., Park, S., & Russell, J. L. (2004, February). Voices from the field: Educators respond to accountability [Report].  Policy Analysis for California Education.