Accountability Requirements and Professional Development in the US Adult Basic and Literacy Education System

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Even before the 2001 enactment of the No Child Left Behind legislation, the education bill that holds schools in the US accountable for student achievement, ‘adult education [had] become part and parcel of the new federal trend to encourage the setting of national education goals and standards and holding programs accountable for demonstrating achievements’ (Sticht 1998). Now, almost ten years after enacting the Workforce Investment Act (1998), the legislation that required states to report how adult students were making progress towards educational and work goals, the field is just beginning to take stock of whether accountability has helped or hurt our adult education system.
In the US school system (kindergarten to 12th grade for children five to 18), several researchers have investigated the effect of stronger accountability requirements on professional development systems. Berry et al. (2003), in a study of 250 teachers and principals in schools across six Southeastern US states found that results were mixed:
Although high-stakes accountability systems help focus professional development efforts on the curricular needs of students, little evidence exists to support the claim that such systems help teachers change their practice to enhance student learning...A tendency exists…to narrow the focus of professional development activities to tested subjects or provide general support that is disconnected from curricular needs. (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development 2004:3)

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Author Biography

CRISTINE SMITH, University of Massachusetts

Cristine Smith is an assistant professor at the Center for International Education, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, 285 Hills House South, 111 Thatcher Way, Amherst, MA  01003, USA.  Her e-mail address is  Her research interests include professional development for adult literacy teachers, girls’ and women’s education in developing countries, and transition to college for adult students.