School Autonomy and accountability can lead to improvement in student learning

I recently had the pleasure to listen to Michael Davidson a senior statistician from the OECD. I was particularly fascinated to hear that the 2009 PISA results suggest that some features of school autonomy and accountability are associated with better performance.

In countries where schools enjoy autonomy over their curricula and assessments, students tend to perform better, after accounting for national income. School autonomy over these matters accounts for around 25% of the performance differences among countries that participated in PISA.

While other relationships between a single feature of school governance and student performance are harder to discern, analyses of PISA results have concluded that:

In countries where schools have greater autonomy over what is taught and how students are assessed, students tend to perform better.

Within those countries where schools post achievement data publicly and, in so doing, are held accountable for performance results, those schools that enjoy greater autonomy over resource allocation tend to perform better than those granted less autonomy over their curricula.

However, in countries where there are no such accountability arrangements, the reverse is true.