Fix the Problem, Not the Blame: Engaging the Public in School Accountability

Improving “accountability” by merely adopting new and enlightened assessments like portfolios and exhibitions will not go far, Paul LeMahieu contends in a number of recent published articles. Instead, schools and communities must come together in events that promote the honest disclosure and weighing of good evidence, planning, and action. The “accountability events” he urges are a process of continuous and public engagement, he says-a way to “fix the problem, not the blame.” He suggests the following guidelines:

  • The data under discussion must be understandable and intuitively meaningful to all participants.
  • The information must be enriched by descriptions of the context, conditions, and educational practices that gave rise to it.
  • The discussion should include all those who need to understand how schools perform, and whose contributions schools need in order to improve.
  • The effort will depend on developing the capacity for public relations outreach; for data collection, analysis, and use; and for effective communication and group process skills, including conflict resolution.