Local Accountability in Vocational Education: A Theoretical Model and its Limitations in Practice

Publication November 1991

How can we best foster accountability in vocational education? What is the nature of existing accountability relationships? Concern about the productivity of the U.S. workforce and the competitiveness of the U.S. economy heightens the importance of these questions. Recent reports from the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Educational Goals Panel focused public attention on the performance of the vocational training system. Legislators at state and federal levels are formulating policies aimed at improving vocational education through increased accountability. These policies will be better informed if they are based on thorough knowledge of existing accountability systems.

Yet we know very little about accountability in vocational programs. At the local level, schools and programs have long-standing relationships with constituents through which their performance is measured and judged. These local accountability systems, although often informal, have many of the same elements that are being incorporated into formal regulations. However, there is no clear picture of the functioning of such local accountability systems.

This study was designed to analyze and describe local accountability systems in vocational education. Such a description can serve as a basis for further study of vocational programs, for developing criteria for evaluating accountability systems, and for monitoring the impact of policy changes. As such, this Note should be of interest to state and local education administrators, state and federal policymakers, and policy researchers interested in vocational education.

The present Note describes a model for local accountability in vocational education and explores shortcomings in accountability systems. A subsequent report will consider the demands that federal legislation places on states and localities and will propose policy alternatives for responding to these demands that are sensitive to local accountability concerns. RAND research on vocational education is conducted within the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, sponsored by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education.

Stecher, B. M., & Hanser, L. M. (1991, November). Local accountability in vocational education: A theoretical model and its limitations in practice. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

Download the report (PDF)