The Accountability CycleJanuary 10, 2012

Author: Webmaster

What is the Accountability Cycle?

The Accountability Framework creates an annual accountability cycle involving every school, district, and the Ministry of Education. The cycle involves

  • an annual school plan for improving student achievement in the school, developed by the School Planning Council and approved by the school district
  • an annual district accountability contract containing specific targets for improving student achievement in the district. The accountability contract is developed by district staff using all the school plans in the district. It is approved by the school board and critically reviewed by the Ministry of Education. 
  • a district review conducted periodically in each district by a Ministry-appointed District Review Team.

In addition to the district review, the Deputy Minister of Education visits approximately 20 districts each year. The purpose of his visit is to look at how student achievement in the district connects with the accountability contract and recommendations of the District Review Team. The Ministry of Education closely scrutinizes every accountability contract every year.

The District Parent Advisory Council can request a district review or district visit by the Deputy Minister.

Connections in the cycle

Each element of the accountability cycle contributes to the other elements—

  • The district examines and uses school plans in creating the year’s accountability contract.
  • School Planning Councils use the district’s accountability contract as an important source of information in creating the school plan.
  • The District Review Team uses school plans and the accountability contract as the basis for its review of student achievement in the district.
  • Both School Planning Councils and the district use the recommendations of the District Review Team in subsequent planning.

The framework is structured so as to give parents and school communities the opportunity to participate effectively in decision-making aimed at improving student achievement.

The School Plan

The School Planning Council (SPC)
The school plan is the responsibility of the School Planning Council (SPC) in every school. The School Act is specific in defining the job of the SPC—

By a date set by the board, a school planning council must prepare and submit to the board a school plan for the school in respect of improving student achievement and other matters contained in the board’s accountability contract relating to the school. [School Act, s. 8.3(2)]

The SPC may advise the school board—and the board must consult with the SPC—in respect of certain matters:

  • allocation of staff and resources in the school
  • matters contained in the school board’s accountability contract relating to the school
  • education services and programs in the school [School Act, s. 8.2]

By comparison, PACs and DPACs have a much broader role than SPCs under the School Act


  • may advise the board, principal, and staff of the school on any matter relating to the school, other than matters assigned to the SPC
  • at the request of the SPC, may assist the SPC in carrying out its functions under the Act [School Act, section 8(4)]


  • may advise the school board on any matter relating to education in the school district [School Act, section 8.5(1)]

Your school plan is a public document. Your school board is required to make it available to all parents of students attending your school. It may be posted on your school or district website. Ask your principal or school district office.

The SPC must consult with the PAC during preparation of the school plan. [School Act, s. 8.3(3)]

This requirement, in combination with the make-up of the SPC (three parent representatives elected by secret ballot by the PAC), is intended to ensure effective parent participation in preparing the school plan.

Many school districts have developed policies on SPCs setting out the process for consultation to be used in the district. Ask your PAC or DPAC chair, principal, or school board office for the policy in your district. Many of these policies are available on the website of the BC School Trustees' Association.

Your school district policy on SPCs may set out annual timelines for establishing the SPC in each school and submitting the school plan to the district.

Because the district must submit its accountability contract to the Minister of Education on or before October 31st each year, the timeline for SPCs is important to ensure the district can take all school plans into account in preparing its accountability contract. [School Act, s. 79.2(2)]

Once the school plan is approved by the board, it must be made available to every parent of a student attending the school [School Act, s. 8.3(7)]. Many schools post the school plan on their website.

The Accountability Contract

Accountability contracts are the Ministry’s way of ensuring school boards remain focused on improving student achievement in their districts.

Every school board must

  • prepare an annual accountability contract with respect to improving student achievement in the district and other matters ordered by the Minister of Education
  • submit its accountability contract to the Minister by October 31st each year
  • make its accountability contract available to residents of the school district and parents of students attending schools in the district. [School Act, section 79.2]

Your school district's accountability contract is available on the Ministry of Education's website

Guidelines for accountability contracts
The Ministry has created guidelines for district accountability contracts to ensure they reflect the characteristics, values, and needs of the community. Contracts must include:

  • a description of the characteristics, strengths, and values of the district
  • a description of the connections between the district accountability contract and school plans
  • clearly stated goals for improving student learning
  • clearly stated objectives focused on specific areas
  • a data-based rationale for the goals and objectives
  • the measures that will be used to indicate progress towards the goals and objectives
  • specific targets for improvement in student performance, both annual and long-term
  • a summary of the progress made and the data used to determine that progress
  • strategies used to achieve the goals and objectives, based on research, best practice, and innovative thinking
  • structural changes made to support student learning (for example, class size, timetabling, personnel).

The Ministry of Education District Accountability Guidelines.

Further reading – The Accountability Framework


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