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Citation:Robinson, V., & Timperly, H. (2000). The link between accountability and improvement: The case of reporting to parents. Peabody Journal of Education, 75(4), 66-89.

This qualitative study explores the conditions under which reporting to parents as a form of educational accountability to families can support improvement in student achievement. The study was conducted in Auckland, New Zealand at twelve schoolsÐten primary, one middle, and one high school, all of which were considered low achieving. The researchers found that teachersÕ reporting practices to parents generally included inflation of the studentÕs actual achievement, especially as compared to national standards and benchmarks. TeachersÕ desire to be positive, motivated by their concern about studentsÕ and familiesÕ self-esteem, was cited as a reason for the inflated reports. Teachers were also motivated by their desire to build the familiesÕ and communityÕs confidence in the schools, because of fierce competition between schools for students under a school choice program. The researchers suggest that this kind of accountability and reporting is unlikely to motivate teachers or parents to improve their practices, Òbecause it obscured rather than clarified any need for improvement.Ó They also suggest that in these schools, reporting to parents was largely symbolic, to reassure and promote positive relations, rather than to share information and encourage change. The researchers recommend that reporting should include comparisons of student performance both within the school and the district, as well as with national standards. Data were collected by reviewing schoolsÕ policies on reporting to parents and samples of recent reports to parents about student achievement. Interviews were conducted with teachers and administrators from the schools. Parent report evenings were attended at two schools. This article provides a thoughtful discussion of accountability theory and practice. It can build practitionersÕ understanding of the conditions in which accountability is likely or unlikely to support changes that can lead to increased student achievement.

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