chapter  10
15 Pages

Accountability and the educational leader: where does fear fit in?

ByMICHÈLE SCHMIDT

Accountability is a seemingly pervasive issue in education affecting almost every aspect of education in the Western world. A myriad of accountability definitions exist in the various professional literatures of different disciplines; however, a widely accepted definition within education seems to remain narrow and bound up with large-scale assessment frameworks that focus primarily, if not uniquely, on testing (Earl and Torrance 2000). This focus has promoted intense scrutiny into the routines of schools, as well as teachers, students, and administrators, riveting our attention to an accountability context that seems to be defined primarily by test scores, raising student achievement ratings, and school rankings that ultimately tend to lead us to either rewards or sanctions, leaving in its aftermath school leaders who experience a wide range of emotional vicissitudes from satisfaction, pride, exhilaration, and debilitating anxiety, shame, blame, and guilt – emotions often exacerbated by fear. Neither novice nor veteran leaders are immune from being publicly identified and/or alternatively humiliated or extolled with the discerning epithet of ‘poor performing’ or a ‘high performing’ school as the media, parents, and the community increasingly reify the power of test data into a valid criterion of judgement. Such public announcements leave school leaders the unexpected victims or heroes of an accountability system they had little say in constructing, and within which emotional involvement is often one of the most difficult aspects with which to deal.