The connection between assessment, accountability, and leadership in a systemic school improvement process

Danita Yolanda Ishibashi, University of Pennsylvania


In 2002, the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was made into law. Its purpose was to establish a national goal to improve the quality of education for all students with a specific focus on closing the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged and minority children and their peers. The legislation supports closing the achievement gap through instituting, at the federal level, the most rigorous accountability system ever seen in public schools. At the root of the system is the expectation that the student assessment data will drive decision-making throughout all levels of a school's organization. Implied in this statement is that district- and building-level administrators have the knowledge base to implement such an accountability system in schools. Sanctions are imposed on schools or districts for not meeting grade-level benchmarks of proficiency on state-administered assessments. The NCLB legislation has inextricably linked assessment, accountability, and consequences. The increased pressure of external accountability has individual schools and districts seeking to implement a systemic improvement practice of using assessment to drive decision-making. This emphasis on assessment and accountability can also be viewed as an opportunity to forge new areas of educational research: a data-driven improvement process. There is a gap in the literature regarding the prerequisite that an organization needs to implement a coherent improvement cycle from a systems perspective. Because this is an emerging area of interest in education, there are limited data and research on the process of implementing a data-driven decision-making model from a systems or district perspective. The overarching interest of this study is the implementation process of using assessment and data as instructional tools for the purpose of increasing student performance. More specifically, I have investigated how administrators implement an improvement process from a systems perspective in a school district. Both qualitative and quantitative tools will be used in this case study to explore the social process of organizational change and professional development to implement a data-driven improvement cycle.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Ishibashi, Danita Yolanda, "The connection between assessment, accountability, and leadership in a systemic school improvement process" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310472.