School Accountability Toolset
for equity and learning

This toolset proposes a broadened definition of accountability and presents ways for school leaders to develop their work in this direction.
All recommended tools are aimed to enhance the capacity of school leaders to create a school environment that promotes both equity and learning.
This toolset covers four main ways through which school leaders may address the demand for accountability for equity and learning.

What do we mean by accountability?
A general definition could be:
The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.

The background
The concept accountability has a long history. "Accountability" stems from late Latin accomptare (to account), a prefixed form of computare (to calculate), which in turn derived from putare (to reckon). While the word itself does not appear in English until its use in 13th century Norman England, the concept of account-giving has ancient roots in record keeping activities related to governance and money-lending systems that first developed in Ancient Egypt, Israel, Babylon, Greece, and later, Rome.

Forms of accountabilities

There are many forms of accountabilities. Jabbra and Dwivedi (1989) report 8 different kinds.

Supporting Document
Indicators on school accountability

The accountability concept was introduced in the educational systems worldwide when comparisons between school results became common. Accountability has been the dominant feature of school reforms in schools in North America, England, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands since the late 1980’s. Characteristic is the 'No Child Left Behind' act (NCLB) of 2001 which placed considerable emphasis on testing:
... the law’s requirements for testing, accountability, and school improvement receive the most attention. NCLB requires states to test students in reading and mathematics annually in grades 3-8 and once in grades 10-12. States must test students in science once in grades 3-5, 6-8, and 10-12.

International pupil assessment tests such as PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS represent the growing benchmarking trend between countries worldwide and the reform pressure in many school systems goes under the headline 'Accountability'. Inspired by the “literacy and numeracy” slogan, the hunt for accountability aims at a narrow interpretation of what successful schooling should be. The problem embedded in these endeavours to measure the quality of schooling is that it does not cover important aspects of the concept.

The suggested tools
The four suggested tools for accountability improvements are:
Accountability concerning social and civic objectives

Accountability concerning social and civic objectives

The need for schools not only to display their academic results but also the way schools are accountable concerning the social and civic objectives.
Pupil achievement. Photo by  Bogdan Suditu (

Pupil achievement

Schools must develop a focus both on high marks for student and a pass in all subjects for all students.
Social background

Social background

Especially the parents' background has a strong impact on the pupils learning and the school results.
Inflated school marks. Photo by  Lori Ann (

Inflated school marks

In some schools marks are inflated. Systems must be developed to calibrate mark levels in relation to national tests or other sources.