School Accountability Toolset
for equity and learning

Most schools around the world have two main tasks:
to promote the pupils academic knowledge, and
to develop a civic conscience and the children’s social competences.

How do we know that schools fulfil these tasks?

Academic and Social/Civic accountability
The discussion of the accountability of schools is predominantly focused on the academic objectives and it often neglects the social ones. Effective schools have been seen as those that use resources effectively and deliver high academic results (Samdal et al. 1999; Good & Brophy 1986) while the concept of successful schools often has been used for schools where the development of all sides of a child’s skills and personality dominate.

Effective schools and school leaders
An effective school and an effective school leader are most often understood as an organization and a leader that can achieve results concerning the pupils' cognitive development.

Many countries have introduced tests whose results are analyzed at school, municipality or national level. School authorities and researchers have dealt with the issue of how a school and its leader(s) can be effective in reaching high academic standards.

Comparisons between schools and countries based on assessment results in basic subjects are frequent (PISA, TIMMS, etc.), and it has increased the governments' strive to develop more effective school leaders, schools and school systems. However
The academic achievement is usually measured by the school’s marking system, but a corresponding system for the social and civic objectives does not exist.

However, there are examples on an international level where especially the civic objectives have been assessed, for instance by NEAP and IEA Civic Educational studies. Another example is the pupils' questionnaire introduced by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate which has questions about norms and values and the pupils' situation at school.

very few if anyone have tried to study school effectiveness from the perspective of the pupils' development in the social and civic areas, even though most curricula have something to say about the role of schools in the upbringing of children in these respects. The concept accountability should be broadened and tools for assessing schools and school leaders' work with social and civic objectives should be developed.
Social and Civic Objectives: the case of Sweden
The social task of the Swedish schools under the heading Norms, Values and Personal development can be divided into two main categories:

Social and Civic Objectives shall not be understood as two totally separated objectives and in certain areas they have common subject areas such as the ambition that pupils shall learn tolerance and compassion. The social and civic objectives should act as a moral/social compass that can be a guiding tool for pupils in their participation in private and public relationships (Quigley 2005).

One of the things pointed out in the Swedish curriculum is the understanding that one of the school’s primary tasks is to foster children to be capable to live and participate in society (Lpo94). The students are, in some way, part of a socialization process that is ongoing through their stay at school. This socialization or experience of going to school may change the pupil/individual in a lasting way. Pupils by attending classes, participating in decision-making, interacting with other pupils and teachers, develop their intellectual abilities and shape their social values for life (Kingston et al. 2003). This socialization should make it easier for this pupil to understand his/her role in the school and be a part of the society that he or she is living in.
Social Objectives

Key words for the work with social objectives in Swedish schools are individual freedom, integrity, equality and justice. In the Swedish education act it says that the schools should actively work for gender equality and they should work against bullying, racism and all other forms of insulting behaviour.

Other issues that are pointed out in the curriculum are the pupils' ability to be creative and their critical awareness. Dan W. Butin (2005) points out that educating social foundations has to be based on discussion and challenges.

As is stressed in the curriculum, one of the most important things in social education is to make pupils critically aware and ready to take part in a discussion. The school shall not be a repressive institution; on the contrary it should strive for an environment where pupils can be part of an open discussion and actively participate (Butin 2005; Selberg 2001).

All forms of harassment, racism and intolerance shall be dealt with by open discussions, knowledge and active efforts Photo by AltCity Media/Tech Collab Space. See

Civic Objectives

All nations have an interest in fostering young individuals so that they can function as citizens in the society in which they are brought up. In this way one can say that the school system is building a culture for citizenship which is beneficial not only for the political system but also for the society as a whole (Torney-Purta et al. 1999).

The school should be a forum where pupils can learn about democratic work in a broad perspective and at different levels Photo by Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People. See

You might think that the Civic Objectives have especially to do with constitutional knowledge: how a country’s democratic system functions, how the political system is constructed and what the political power structure looks like. This is partly the case.

The Civic Objectives are also about the pupils' possibilities to have influence over their work in a structural meaning. Pupils have to learn that they can influence and change the conditions in their own school (Englund 1994).

It is reasonable to think that a pupil who has received a good civic education should not only know the political structure in the country that she or he lives in. It is also reasonable to believe that she or he has developed traits such as tolerance and compassion, which makes the pupils capable of participating in political and civil life (Quigley 2005). Therefore pupils should, on the one hand, learn to work in democratic forms and, on the other, learn the basis of democracy in a society.
How to assess social and civic objectives
In a project entitled "Structure, Culture, Leadership – Prerequisites for Successful Schools" at Umeå University (Höög & Johansson 2011, 2014a, 2014b) a questionnaire for pupils was developed based on the items from the “Norms, Vales and Personal development” part of BRUK. The questionnaire has 52 items and was tested in a pilot study of four schools with 157 students. The final questionnaire was answered by 2128 students in the 9th grade in 24 Swedish schools in 12 different municipalities.

A mean score for each school was calculated indicating how the schools performed in the social and civic area. This measure was then compared to the schools' academic achievement and the following fourfold table for the 24 schools was produced. The questionnaire has also been used in Stockholm schools and is now developed to be used in the ISSPP project on underperforming schools.

The variable approach to accountability – the focus on academic or social objectives or both - could be expressed in the following table (Höög & Johansson 2011, 2014a, 2014b).

Four school types in relation to academic or social/civic focus

An accountable school is the one to the upper right that is successful in relation to both academic and social/civic objectives. Below this school you find those schools that only are accountable concerning the academic objectives. To the upper left schools that are successful in the social/civic areas are placed and below you find schools that are underperforming in both respects. When working with school improvement different strategies have to be developed for these four types of schools.

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© 2014 EPNoSL Project