Focus on internal accountability
Researchers of individual accountability in education distinguished between external and internal accountability (e.g., Firestone & Shipps, 2005; Poul- son, 1998). We focus here on internal accountability because we believe it carries some remedies for the ills and pitfalls of school accountability. Moreover, we maintain that the values behind internal accountability should shape future school accountability.
Two factors are at the heart of the distinction between the two accountability dimensions: one, the nature of the audience that receives work reports, and two, the values underlying the relationships between the agent and the audience. In external accountability, the audience is a relevant school stakeholder different from the agent, whereas in internal accountability, the two bodies (agent and audience) are in fact embodied in one person. As for underlying values, external accountability is led by values such as obedience to rules, compliance with the law, and loyalty to management. Internal accountability, on the other hand, is motivated by adherence to professional standards and to individual and shared ethical values. One's external accountability then may be viewed as a mere subjective image (personal response) of the formal accountability regulation system. Internal accountability, on the other hand, is an authentic conviction of one's responsibility to embrace the highest inner standards at work.
Given the abstract nature of internal accountability, and the fact that it is not the formal type by which accountability is commonly known, we believe that studying it is a key contribution of the present study. As defined here, internal accountability corresponds with a call coming from educational scholars (e.g.. Darling-Hammond & Snyder, 2015; Snyder & Bristol, 2015) for a professional, not bureaucracy-based, accountability. Similarly, Sugrue and Sefika (2017) advanced the notion of professional accountability (distinguished from political accountability) that is defined as being responsible for one’s own behavior, providing service for others' benefit. Considering the almost unconditional criticism that confronted accountability policies such as the U.S. No Child Left Behind Act and the British Accountability Policy (Keddie, 2015), internal accountability in the form of professional accountability seems the best hope for the future.
Our study results showed that both teachers and principals rated themselves as significantly more internally than externally accountable. As a self-report score, it is clear that this is the way they saw themselves, or the way they wanted to be seen. It is encouraging to realize educators believed more strongly in the importance of professional than bureaucratic values at work. Policy makers may be interested in these results and design ways to channel teachers' and principals' perception of internal accountability into practices that put an emphasis on professional skills and more collaborative relations with their smdents, management, parents, and other relevant school audiences. Interestingly, teacher internal (and not external) accountability was predicted among teachers in our study by individualistic values. This finding implies that educators' individualistic values may contribute to work quality, provided that individualist teachers' inspiration for success is focused on intrinsic values such as professional achievements and morality.