The word accountability exploded onto the educational scene in the early 1980s following the publication of the National Commission on Excellence in Education's A Nation at Risk report. The language of accountability has been ubiquitous ever since. Almost all popular writers on education today use the term. They do so, however, without careful definition of what they mean when they use the language of accountability.

Accountability language may be used as a substitute for serious discussion of the purpose of American education. Early in the twentieth century, the language of “efficiency” and “social efficiency” sometimes served this same role. During the age of industrialization, efficiency became an end in and of itself rather than a means to a greater ideal for American education. This same phenomenon ...

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