It should be obvious from this list that assessment data is already performing a number of critical functions within teaching and learning. It requires great skill and insight to design effective assessment approaches that can inform instruction. It is helpful to think about how it can feed into accountability as well.
The last sections have made it clear that both assessment and accountability are highly specialized activities. In this section, we look at how the two can work together. To help illustrate this discussion, Figure 1 lays out the key elements.
Figure 1: The relationship between assessment and accountability
In this diagram assessment and accountability are presented as two types of evaluation, with different foci and different applications. They overlap because assessment data is often used in accountability systems. One of the most controversial questions about program accountability is how big that overlap should be, or even if they should overlap at all. There is a strong argument that the form and application of assessment data is so different from the form and application of accountability data that they should be completely separate functions with no overlap. In practice, however, the progress of learners can provide important insights into the work of a program.
Some of the differences between the two areas that have been discussed here are laid out in Table 1.
Throughout the rest of this discussion, questions about the appropriate uses of these two types of information, and the form they should take, come up again and again. In British Columbia, Ontario and Scotland the approaches to assessment and accountability are far from identical, but all three jurisdictions struggle with very similar issues around demonstrating that adult literacy programs provide high quality services.