Many politicians and policymakers today link school accountability and school performance. Drawing on evidence from the corporate world, they assume that strong external accountability will impel schools to improve student achievement. In this article, however, Fred Newmann, M. Bruce King, and Mark Rigdon argue that three issues keep this popular theory from working in practice: a) implementation controversies around standards, incentives, and constituencies; b) insufficient efforts to organize the human, technical, and social resources of a school into an effective collective enterprise — what the authors term "organizational capacity" — and c) failure to recognize the importance of internal school accountability. In a study of twenty-four restructuring schools, the authors found that strong accountability was rare; that organizational capacity was not related to accountability; that schools with strong external accountability tended to have low organizational capacity; and the strong internal accountability tended to reinforce a school's organizational capacity. Although the implications of this study for both accountability policy and, more broadly, school restructuring efforts may appear disconcerting, the authors conclude with several practical guidelines to stimulate the kind of internal accountability that they found to be related to enhanced school performance.

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