School Accountability Toolset
for equity and learning
Academic accountability and social justice
In performing academic accountability, two different academic outcome measures may be used:
the first is the school's average academic performance as this is indicated by pupils'
marks in exams and
the second is the proportion of pupils in a school that score
above a minimum level of performance (e.g. get a "pass", or "leaving certificate" etc) in curriculum subjects.
A proficient school can have a high average academic performance but at the same time a high share of low attaining pupils.
On the other side, a less proficient school can be one where all pupils perform above a minimum acceptable level in all subjects, but their marks are quite low on average.
If the vision for a good school is that both targets should be met (i.e. high marks on average at school level and in parallel all pupils performing above a minimum academic standard),
none of these schools can be considered to be socially just.
One can find schools that are focused more on pupils with good chances to get high marks, failing to cater for the needs of low attainers.
Other schools are focused more on helping all pupils perform above a minimum academic standard and choose to give priority to low attainers.
One consequence is that the pupils with high academic ambitions don’t get the support they would expect.
Keeping a balance between pupils' average marks and the share of pupils with "pass" marks or above
Academic accountability requires that schools emphasise on improving the academic performance of all pupils irrespective of their prior attainment levels.
This means that schools should strive to help weak students perform above a minimum academic standard set by educational authorities and in parallel support better attaining
pupils perform even higher.
In the chart on the right, the average pupils' marks for School A and School B in Sweden are similar (around 202 points). However, using average school marks as the only measure of
academic accountability would be hugely misleading.
School A is academically much more successful than School B because almost all of its pupils manage to perform above the minimum standard of performance set by the Swedish educational
authorities. In contrast in School B almost half of its pupils are low attainers. This finding suggests that in this school pupils are divided between a high share of low achieving
pupils and a small share of pupils with exceptional performance.
Average marks for all Swedish compulsory schools by share of pupils with "pass" marks or above