This brief utilizes case study methodology to illustrate the role of governance in educational accountability systems. Most research on the effectiveness of such systems has focused on technical components, such as standards-setting, assessments, rewards and sanctions, and data collection and reporting. This brief seeks to demonstrate that this focus may miss the importance of the institutional set-up. We argue that effective accountability systems are largely dependent on associated government structures, rules, and procedures, and the individuals responsible for implementing them. We use an illustrative case from the state of Oklahoma, where a lack of independent oversight, few checks and balances, and little in-state technical capacity combine to call into question the effectiveness of this state's accountability system. We urge researchers and policy makers to focus more attention on the “messy” governance and politics of educational accountability, and conclude the brief with specific policy proposals to strengthen state education accountability systems.

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