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During the 2011 ECS National Forum, state leaders and national experts discussed the pros and cons of performance accountability. The discussion yielded the following takeaways:


Performance systems, if implemented faithfully, could introduce targeted funding incentives and bring innovative practices to scale.

  • Accountability is an effective tool when used to promote certain behaviors, not just to prevent negative outcomes from happening
  • Data collection and strategic goals are necessary but not sufficient. Continuous improvement is essential if states and institutions are serious about learning how and why students do not complete degrees and certificates at higher rates
  • Performance accountability can improve institutional effectiveness by clearly articulating goals, setting performance metrics to reach these goals, and maintaining effective practice through evaluation systems.


Conversely, accountability systems developed without institutional input can cause unintended consequences, such as:

  • Performance measures that treat a symptom, rather than the core problem
  • Data that are hard to collect
  • Systems that meet strong system and institutional opposition
  • Widespread opinion that accountability is punitive and counterproductive to achievement of student success goals.
  • (Source: Matthew Smith, 2011)

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