Information Age Education
   Issue Number 211
June 15, 2017   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, six free books based on the newsletters are available: Joy of Learning; Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

Accountability in Education

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

“It takes a whole village to raise [and educate] a child.” (African proverb. Modification by David Moursund is in square brackets.)


We all want our country’s and our world’s children to get a good education. However, people have widely varying opinions on what constitutes a good education. A good education depends on the individual student, the community, the state or province, the country, and the world. We know that no two students are identical—not even “identical” twins. A good education must consider the individual needs, capabilities, and interests of each student. One size does not fit all.

Many people are unhappy with the quality of education that the children in their community, or state, or country are getting. Their unhappiness tends to be focused on their local schools. They believe that these schools should be held accountable for the quality of education their children are obtaining. I believe that our teachers are getting a bum rap.

This IAE Newsletter takes a broader look at accountability in education.


Quoting from Ushomirsky, et al. (October 8, 2014):

School accountability systems have the potential to be a powerful tool to help close the long-standing gaps in achievement that separate low-income students and students of color from their peers. They can do this by:
  • Setting a clear expectation that schools have to serve all of their students—not just some—well;
  • Drawing attention to how schools are performing for all student groups; and
  • Prompting action when schools don’t meet expectations for a group of students.
Closing gaps is critical to our communities and to our nation. Low-income students and students of color now make up the majority of the nation’s public school students. Yet many of these students are not getting the quality education they need and deserve, leaving them unprepared for success in our economy and our democratic society. If we want to live up to the American ideal of equal opportunity for all, we have to turn these patterns around.

This focus on school accountability is not new. For example, quoting from a 2004 article in Education Week (Accountability, August 3, 2004):

Accountability—the idea of holding schools, districts, educators, and students responsible for results—has become the most-recent watchword in education. In more and more states and districts, policymakers are moving to reward achievement and punish failure in schools, in an effort to ensure that children are getting a good education and that tax dollars aren't being wasted. "Accountability for student performance is one of the two or three -if not the most- prominent issues in policy at the state and local levels right now," says Richard F. Elmore, a professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.

Hmm. What is your reaction to these two quotes? Certainly, some schools are better than others and some teachers are better than others. However, many school systems are substantially underfunded. They lack the resources needed for improvement.

Why do people place so much blame on schools and teachers? Might parents/guardians have some accountability in the education of their children? What about neighborhoods, religious institutions, community organizations, academically-oriented professional societies, and a range of local, regional, and national governmental organizations? What about the companies that develop and sell educational materials? What about the makers and sellers of computer games and social networking systems?

And, what about the learners themselves? It seems to me that as a child grows up, the child should be expected to shoulder an increasing amount of the responsibility for his or her own education. Quoting from Keeping Students Accountable (Graham, 2015).

Do you have students who constantly make excuses? Do they try to blame away poor grades and behavioral infractions on their teachers or fellow students without assuming any responsibility for their actions? Do they mischaracterize their mistakes while recounting the day's activities to a parent? Is there anything you can do to change their ways?

Making students accountable for their own success isn't easy, but fortunately your colleagues have some tried and true approaches to help students step up to the plate and become responsible learners.

In summary, it seems wrong to think of accountability in education only in terms of schools and teachers. If we want to improve education, we need to consider the full range of the various aspects of a child’s education and the full range of those who are contributors to this education.

Education Is Complex: One Size Does Not Fit All

Take another look at the quotation at the beginning of this article. Raising and educating a child is a major challenge.

“It takes a whole village to raise [and educate] a child.” (African proverb. Modification by David Moursund is in square brackets.)

In addition to the numerous stakeholders who have an interest in education, there is the fact that no two children are identical. Thus, what constitutes a good education for one student may be inappropriate for another. In the United States, this is recognized in the education of special needs students, where each student is provided with an Individualized Education Program. Quoting from the Wikipedia (2017):

The Individualized Education Program, also called the IEP, is a document that is developed for each public-school child who needs special education. The IEP is created through a team effort, reviewed periodically...

An IEP defines the individualized objectives of a child who has been determined to have a disability, as defined by federal regulations. The IEP is intended to help children reach educational goals more easily than they otherwise would. In all cases the IEP must be tailored to the individual student's needs as identified by the IEP evaluation process, and must especially help teachers and related service providers (such as paraprofessional educators) understand the student's disability and how the disability affects the learning process.

Each time I think about IEPs, I wonder why every student does not have one. This IEP should be designed to serve a student both in and out of school, since learning occurs both inside and outside of school. It should be frequently updated as the student and the student’s world changes.

Is our educational system weak in providing for the individual differences of the majority of our students? For example, consider children with learning and attention issues. Ravipati states that, in the United States, this is about 20% of all students, and most are not served by an IEP (Ravipati, 5/17/2017). Quoting from this article:

One in five children have learning and attention issues, or brain-based challenges in reading, writing, math, organization, focus, listening comprehension, social skills, motor skills or a combination of these, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD, 2017). In a new report, the NCLD examines why students facing these issues are three times more likely to drop out of school. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Here is important information that you might not be aware of, quoted from the NCLD report mentioned in the article by Ravipati referenced above (NCLD, 2017):

This report reveals that children with learning and attention issues are as smart as their peers and can achieve at high levels but too often are misunderstood as lazy or unintelligent. Without the right academic or emotional support, they are much more likely than their peers to repeat a grade, get suspended, and drop out. Individuals with learning and attention issues also struggle in the workplace and have high rates of involvement with the criminal justice system. But this downward spiral can be prevented. [Bold added for emphasis.]

In summary, we have a variety of major groups of students who are not served well by the one size fits all approach. We have a large number of contributors to a student’s education—including the student. We must consider this big and complex situation as we work to improve education.

Computer Technology

In recent years, there has been a steadily increasing emphasis on the type of individualization that Highly Interactive, Intelligent, Computer-assisted Learning (HIICAL) can bring to education. Sometimes these are called Intelligent Computer Tutor Systems (Moursund, 9/11/2011). Currently, most of the computer-assisted learning materials being used in precollege education probably do not deserve to be called HIICAL. However, they are gradually increasing in intelligence, overall quality, and amount of use. The Internet and Web are now available to most students in the U.S., the usability of voice input to and output from computers is steadily improving, and computer systems (aided by Artificial Intelligence) are able to solve and/or to help in solving a steadily increasing number of problems (Moursund, 12/23/2016).

These aspects of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have the potential to greatly aid in improving precollege education. I can envision a time when such technology helps each student to have a personal IEP for use both in and out of school, and students take substantially more responsibility for their own education. I strongly believe that students and human teachers working together in a modern ICT environment will provide us with a substantial improvement in education.

References and Resources

Accountability (August 3, 2004). Education Week. Retrieved 5/19/2017 from

Graham, E. (2015). Keeping students accountable. National Education Association. Retrieved 5/21/2017 from

Moursund, D. (12/23/2016). The Fourth R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from Access the book online at

Moursund, D. (9/11/2011). Intelligent computer tutor systems. IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/19/2017 from

NCLD (2017). The state of learning disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. National Center for Learning Disabilities. Retrieved 5/19/2017 from

Ravipati, S. (5/17/2017). Report: Students with learning and attention issues three times more likely to drop out. THE Journal. Retrieved 5/18/2017 from

Ushomirsky, N., Williams, D., & Hall, D. (October 8, 2014). Making sure all children matter: Getting school accountability signals right. Retrieved 5/19/2017 from http://1k9gl1yevnfp

Wikipedia (2017). Individualized education program. Retrieved 5/21/2017 from

Free Educational Resources from IAE

IAE publishes and makes available four free online resources:


David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and editor of the IAE Newsletter. His professional career includes founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology. He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See

In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and books. See Information Age Education is now fully integrated into the 501(C)(3) non-profit corporation, Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) that was established in 2016. David Moursund is the Chief Executuve Officer of AGATE.


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Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at, a Website containing free books and articles at, a Blog at, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at and all back issues of the Newsletter at