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Survey of Accountability Courses


The goal of this investigation was to identify accountability courses within educational measurement and evaluation programs at universities in the United States. 


  • Identifying the sample:

    • The sample was defined as all schools in the NCME 2015 Measurement Programs Information document.

    • Rationale: the syllabus under design is aimed primarily for graduate students in measurement and evaluation field and the schools on the NCME list are universities offering measurement and evaluation programs across U.S.

    • 84 universities were explored


  • Keyword search in university course catalogs

    • Keywords “accountability”, “policy” and “reform” were searched through the course catalogue/descriptions/specification of each university.

    • The search was not limited to the programs listed in NCME list but the full university catalogue was the focus (considering the fact that some other departments might offer similar courses to those searched for)


  • Variables recorded

    • world ranking (QS world ranking- education specific)

      • this variable was recorded for a potential comparison of how top education schools treat accountability differently

    • name of the course

    • department offering the course

    • level offered (graduate/undergraduate/mixed)

    • course description (from course catalog)

    • Categorization as “accountability course” (Y/N/?; subjective interpretation)

    • Whether the course description contains the word “accountability” (0/1)

Descriptive Statistics 

  • Number of Universities searched

    • Original sample contained  81 universities

    • 10 universities did not have a catalog capable of keyword searches


  • Number of Courses identified

    • Total number of courses meeting search criteria:  257

    • Courses were initially categorized subjectively as accountability courses, not accountability courses, or maybe accountability courses by one of three researchers

    • Results of subjective categorization:  44 Yes, 153 Maybe, 60 No

    • Courses with “Accountability” in catalog description:  66

    • Courses either subjectively categorized “yes” OR with “Accountability” in description (“yes” ∪ “accountability):  79

    • All further analyses use these 79 courses


  • Number of Accountability Courses Offered Per School (Table 1)

    • The following table summarizes the number of accountability courses at each school in the sample with searchable catalogs (n=71), based on the 79 courses mentioned previously

    • The courses summarized in Table 1 include course at both the undergraduate and graduate level

    • The most common number of accountability courses at a school was 0 (39%), with the majority of schools offering 0 or 1 course on accountability (77%).

    • One school offers 6 distinct accountability courses (University of Virginia) and another offers 5 (New York University)

Table 1: Number of Accountability Courses Offered Per School

  • Level of Course Offering by Department (Table 2)

    • The following table breaks down the 79 identified accountability courses by both department type and level of offering

    • Concerning department type, one researcher categorized all departments offering accountability courses into one of the following 8 types based on the name of the department:  (1) Leadership, admin, and policy; (2) Teaching and curriculum; (3) Measurement and evaluation; (4) Educational psychology; (5) ESL and TESL; (6) General school of education; (7) Not school of education; (8) Uncategorized.

    • Concerning level of offering, courses were categorized by each researcher during the initial course offerings search as Graduate, Undergraduate, Both (i.e., open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students), or N/A (unable to categorize) based on the course numbering system used at the school in question.

    • The majority of identified accountability courses are offered in Leadership, admin, and policy type departments (40), whereas relatively few such courses are offered in Measurement and evaluation type departments (4)

Table 2: Accountability Courses by Level of Course Offering and Department

Limitations and Next Steps

  • The criteria for categorizing courses as “accountability courses” was relatively rudimentary and subjective

    • Could be improved by agreeing upon more detailed and concrete criteria of inclusion

    • Could create a two-tiered classification of courses that focus primarily on accountability and courses that discuss accountability as one of multiple topics


  • The search, categorization, and descriptive statistics are based solely on the information obtainable from publicly-available university course catalogs

    • Based on this information, it is usually not possible to tell how often the courses are actually offered, or whether the catalog description accurately reflects the actual implementation of the course

    • These issues could be mitigated by obtaining additional information about the courses such as course syllabi.

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