Reconceptualizing accountability for education
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The purpose of this conceptual inquiry was to add clarity and substance to the idea of accountability. It was conducted in two parts. First, the conversations surrounding accountability were reviewed to seek answers to such questions as: What are the purposes of accountability and whose purposes is accountability intended to serve? What can be considered an instance of accountability, and why do some consider an instance to be one of accountability while others do not? and What concepts need to be better understood in order to bring accountability into being? The etymology of accountability was reviewed, as well as the historical relationship between accountability and democracy. Particular attention was paid to the essential expectations of the principle of accountability in democratic governance. Manzer's (1994) review of the constituent meanings of educational policy in Canada was used to move the research into the context of public education. His typology illustrated the extent to which interpretations of accountability in education are dependent upon competing liberal visions of the public good. The second part of this research provided a reconceptualization of accountability for education. Having found the contemporary accountability models lacking, it focussed efforts on the development of a framework that would be sufficiently robust to account for the political nature of accountability reforms, yet capable of centering discussions on the essence of the concept itself. Three key principles, originally taken from the Auditor General of Canada's Report (1996), provided the conceptual core of this framework. These principles (disclosure, transparency, redress) trace their historical origin to the idea of accountability in democracy. They provided a place to link accountability procedures back to conceptually, and thus could serve as a way to test their integrity. In addition, four key elements of accountability (planning, evaluation, responsiveness and communication) were identified and discussed in depth with reference to both their legitimacy within the present ideological divide, and their relationship to the concept of accountability itself. This research provided a way to view accountability as a neutral concept. It called for increased research focussed on accountability principles (particularly transparency and redress) and elements to enhance our understanding of how accountability is created and sustained in public education.