Under test-based accountability, side-effects-including practices to inflate test results, often seen as cheating-are usually associated to so-called high-stakes policies. However, the influence of different types of stakes in the generation of this type of practices has been overlooked in education research. Based on a survey experiment, our results indicate that the type and level of stakes of accountability systems (e.g., high-vs. low-stakes, material vs. symbolic) do not differ in triggering side-effects. Counterintuitively, individual symbolic consequences trigger similar reactions among teachers than material incentives. In-depth interviews give insights into the social mechanisms that lead to symbolic effects having such an influence in understanding teachers' reactivity to accountability.
The global popularity of test‐based accountability appears to signal political trust in standardised assessments as valid and relevant measures of education quality. Nonetheless, research shows that educators' perceptions of standardised testing and test‐based accountability can vary significantly, as do their responses to accountability demands. Considering the key influence of teachers' beliefs on the way in which they respond to education reforms, in this article we examine teachers' beliefs and opinions about standardised tests and test‐based accountability. We analyse a comparative study on interpretations and experiences of standardised testing and test‐based accountability demands of compulsory education teachers in Chile and Norway. These cases were selected following a most‐different‐systems design approach. The data was derived from an electronic survey (n = 2,531) and in‐depth interviews (n = 41). The analysis shows how in both contexts, teachers are relatively critical about the validity, usefulness and fairness of standardised tests. This indicates lacking teacher trust in standardised testing and test‐based accountability. Still, despite similar trends, some key differences in the beliefs of Chilean and Norwegian teachers are found, which highlight the influence of the sociocultural context in shaping teachers' beliefs. By illuminating how teachers in different contexts make sense of test‐based accountability, our analysis contributes to the understanding of why the often‐reported mismatch between policy expectations and policy outcomes might occur.
In recent decades, the governance of educational systems has experienced dramatic changes in many countries. Schools have been given more autonomy whilst being held increasingly accountable at the central level through standardized testing and other forms of external evaluation. The mechanisms of performance-based accountability (PBA) and the consequences attached to test results vary. In high-stakes systems, teachers’ careers are more directly connected to students’ performance, and low performing schools might risk closure, whereas in lower-stakes systems, the official administrative consequences of accountability for school actors are more symbolic than material. The main aim of this paper is to understand the impact of different forms of PBA on teachers’ work from a comparative perspective. Most research on this topic is based on single-context case studies, which makes it difficult to understand the impact of policy factors and professional contexts in teachers’ decisions and autonomy. To address this challenge, we review recent investigations (2017-2020) on the topic and compare their findings in different teachers' regulatory contexts. The review includes 101 articles from the SCOPUS and Web of Science databases. We find that evidence on the impact of PBA on teachers’ perceptions and beliefs are variegated, and that the implications of PBA on teachers’ autonomy does not only depend on the level of accountability stakes, but on teachers’ professional regulation.
This paper seeks to better understand the influence of international organizations within the national policy domain by examining the OECD’s use of peer reviews. Focusing on one such review in the Netherlands, it asks: why are these reviews commissioned, who is involved, how are ideas about educational governance promoted, and how do they impact national policy. Data comes from interviews with OECD and ministry of education members who were central to the review process. Findings show that policy influence is exercised through subtle mechanisms including socialization, networking and negotiation. Both parties sought to benefit from the review, particularly from the OECD’s perceived reputation as an ‘external expert,’ able to redirect politicized issues into more technical channels. Further, the Netherlands’ status as a ‘good student’ and the partially restricted voice of the OECD in the Dutch context appear significant factors impacting the nature of the review process and national policy outcomes.
Performance-based accountability (PBA) policies are increasingly adopted in a wide range of education systems in order to reform school governance and to improve students’ results and schools’ performance. Countries around the world have been implementing national large-scale assessments to make school actors more accountable and responsible for students’ results. This policy model has been generalized in countries with different administrative traditions, including those with a short tradition in New Public Management. This is the case in Spain, where PBA has been adopted unevenly in different regions, with Madrid being one of the earliest adopters. In recent decades, Madrid has developed a model that combines administrative test-based accountability with a system of broad parental school choice, which also facilitates the activation of market forms of accountability. However, the combination and interaction between market and administrative forms of accountability is understudied. This paper adopts a policy enactment perspective to analyze, through a case study approach, the interaction of administrative and market forms of accountability and its enactment at the school level. The case study is based on a set of 41 semi-structured interviews with teachers, principals, and school inspectors in a sample of eight schools in Madrid, combined with document analysis of school educational projects and improvement plans. The evidence suggests that administrative and market forms of accountability tend to generate dynamics of interdependence, resulting in increasing external pressures which schools tend to address with superficial responses, including teaching to the test, or second-order competition between schools.
In the education sector, media outlets have been increasingly active in reporting on standardized testing. The purpose of this paper is to identify the most recurrent discursive frames used by the Norwegian regional and local press when informing their readers about national standardized testing, and to explore whether differences over time and across geographical localities exist in the pervasiveness of frames. Our analysis is guided by framing theory, and builds on a corpus of 3,046 articles that focus on national testing, published by 155 Norwegian regional and local newspapers between 2004 and 2018. The analysis identifies four different discursive frames within Norwegian press coverage, namely the frame of ‘performance’, ‘transparency and empowerment’, ‘misinterpretation and misuse’, and ‘criticism’. The four frames convey highly distinct causal and normative beliefs and realities about national standardized testing. While the dominance of the frames varies over time and across Norwegian counties, the frame of ‘performance’ is increasingly pervasive, something that potentially contributes to naturalize performative-oriented reporting and competition in education. The study highlights the importance of systematic media analyses to identify circulating principle beliefs on education, and of not limiting research to national newspapers in order to grasp geographical variation in media coverage.
In recent decades, performance-based accountability (PBA) has become an increasingly popular policy instrument to ensure educational actors are responsive to and assume responsibility for achieving centrally defined learning goals. Nonetheless, studies report mixed results with regard to the impact of PBA on schools' internal affairs and instructional practices. With the aim of contributing to the understanding of the social mechanisms and processes that induce particular school responses, this paper reports on a study that examines how Norwegian principals perceive, interpret, and translate accountability demands. The analysis is guided by the policy enactment perspective and the sociological concept of "reactivity", and relies on 23 in-depth interviews with primary school principals in nine urban municipalities in Norway. The findings highlight three distinct response patterns in how principals perceive, interpret, and translate PBA demands: alignment, balancing multiple purposes, and symbolic responses. The study simultaneously shows how different manifestations of two social mechanisms form important explanatory factors to understand principals' varying responses, while it is highlighted how the mechanisms are more likely to operate under particular conditions, which relate both to principals' trajectories and views on education, and to school-specific characteristics and the local accountability regime. The study contributes to the accountability literature by showing how, even in the relative absence of material consequences and low levels of marketization, standardized testing and PBA can drive behavioral change, by reframing norms of good educational practice and by affecting how educators make sense of core aspects of their work.
Despite the growing number of researches about performance-based accountability (PBA) in education, there is still scarce evidence on the mediating role of subjective variables (e.g., perceived pressure and alignment to PBA mandates) in the enactment of PBA in socially disadvantaged contexts. This is paradoxical because marginalized schools are usually those that are on probation and have to cope with the threat of sanctions more frequently. Existing investigations on PBA enactment have put increasing attention to the role of situated and material contexts, but there is still limited knowledge on how subjective variables can mediate policy enactment processes and enable the adoption of different school responses. To address these gaps, the article aims to explore how the perceived accountability pressure, the school performative culture and meaning-making processes at the school level are mediating the enactment of PBA policies in disadvantaged schools. At the theoretical level, the study is informed by sense-making and policy enactment frameworks. Methodologically speaking, the investigation uses a comparative case study approach based on two extreme cases, which have been selected on the basis of a factorial analysis that combines both survey and secondary data. The extreme cases represent two different scenarios, which, despite operating in similar situated contexts, are characterized by having opposite levels of perceived pressure and alignment with the performative culture. The case studies combine survey data (n=39) with documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews with the management team and teachers (n=7). The findings show that subjective variables, in interaction with other contextual factors, can exacerbate or inhibit PBA regulatory pressures, and trigger diverging school responses. Full-text view-only version of the paper: https://rdcu.be/cbdEv
This paper analyses, from the perspective of the political sociology of policy instruments, the adoption and re-contextualisation of School Autonomy with Accountability (SAWA) reforms in Spain, with a particular focus on the region of Madrid. Over the last few decades, Madrid has adopted a wide range of education policies that have contributed to consolidate a market-oriented approach in the governance of the educational system. This paper analyses the instrumentation and complex interaction between standardised tests, test-based accountability, school choice and school autonomy in advancing this governance shift. The main objective of the paper is twofold: first, to trace the policy trajectory of SAWA reforms in Spain and Madrid, and second, to identify the rationale of the reform and its related policy ontology in relation to the selection and articulation of different policy instruments as well as the gov-ernance implications of these choices. Methodologically, we have conducted a policy analysis case study, analysing data from a set of 35 original interviews with education policymakers and key policy actors, combined with document analysis. The results of our research show how the policy preferences of domestic political actors and the legacies of the politico-administrative regimes mediate the final form and uses of the SAWA policy instruments. These policy instruments can be conceptualised as 'life objects' whose development and uses are attached to context specific-and sometimes contradictory-political objectives and rationales. ARTICLE HISTORY
Existing research tends to attribute the varying responses to accountability pressures to variables of a different nature, ranging from school leadership styles to the broader socio-economic contexts in which schools operate. However, to date, research has overlooked the role of subjective variables (such as school actors' perceived and experienced pressures) in the mediation and enactment of PBA. To address this gap, this chapter aims to analyze the production of different patterns of responses to PBA within schools from a policy enactment perspective. On the basis of a mixed-methods study conducted in Chile, we analyze how school actors' interpretations of and dispositions towards PBA, on the one hand, and their experienced levels of pressure, on the other, influence how they respond to the accountability regulatory system. As we will show, the responses to PBA that have been identified go beyond conventional alignment-decoupling dichotomy and include a more varying range of options. Our perspective is premised on the assumption that the way school actors respond to policy prerogatives is contingent on the way these actors make sense of PBA pressures and expectations within their broader social and institutional frameworks. In other words, the responses to PBA that we identify are the result of analyzing how school actors see and live accountability regulations in their reference contexts.
El artículo busca analizar la campaña Alto al SIMCE en Chile, mediante un marco analítico que combina distintas herramientas heurísticas de las teorías de movimientos sociales. Específicamente, el artículo explora los marcos discursivos presentes en las narrativas del movimiento, así como también aspectos vinculados a la formación y trayectoria de la campaña, la identidad colectiva, las alianzas y los repertorios de acción colectiva empleados por los actores para tratar de incidir en las políticas educativas. A nivel metodológico, el artículo se basa en un estudio de caso, con una aproximación cualitativa que combina el análisis documental y de prensa con entrevistas semi-estructuradas a activistas. Los resultados ofrecen reflexiones y conocimiento novedoso sobre los factores externos e internos que pueden favorecer y/o dificultar el éxito de la acción colectiva contra la rendición de cuentas basada en pruebas estandarizadas en el campo educacional.
The OECD has played a key role in the global dissemination of school autonomy with accountability (SAWA) as a global model of education governance. This chapter aims to understand the practices and forms of agency through which the OECD has developed and disseminated SAWA as an instrument model of governing education, despite the modesty of its legal and financial instruments and limited membership. Drawing on the results of a systematic literature review combined with a documentary analysis of OECD publications and working documents, this chapter analyzes three governance mechanisms through which these reforms are being promoted by the organization: data collection, education policy evaluation, and the generation of policy ideas through different knowledge products and policy spaces. This chapter shows that the OECD’s role in policy transfer dynamics far surpasses agenda setting or knowledge brokerage. Rather, the OECD plays a proactive role in the generation of policy solutions, by not only theorizing them, but also matching them to a wide range of problems and framing them so they can accommodate different political agendas. Additionally, the OECD’s reliance on soft governance mechanisms and ideational power enables it to extend its influence beyond its membership. Overall, the potential for OECD governance mechanisms to advance the SAWA agenda appears to lie in the OECD’s capacity to open a political opportunity window to advance policy change.
This paper investigates how and why test-based accountability (TBA), a global model for education reform, began to dominate educational debates in Norway in the early 2000s, and how this policy has been operationalised and institutionalised over time. In examining the adoption and retention of TBA in Norway, we build on the cultural political economy framework, in combination with a political sociology-driven approach to policy instruments. The analysis draws on two data sources: four White Papers and 37 in-depth interviews with top-level politicians, policy-makers and stakeholders, conducted between September 2017 and February 2018. The findings indicate that ‘scandalisation’ of Norway’s below-expected PISA results and promotion of standardised testing as a neutral device contributed to the relatively abrupt adoption of national testing in the early 2000s. The increasingly dominant policy discourse equalising education quality and learning outcomes led to the institutionalisation of TBA, developed to ensure equity and quality standards in a decentralised education system. Increased visibility, benchmarking and administrative control are identified as key mechanisms in putting pressure on local actors to re-orient their behaviour. The study provides original insights into the drivers, expectations and strategies underlying TBA in a social democratic institutional regime.
O Movimento de Reforma Educacional Global (Global Education Reform Movement –GERM) está se expandindo internacionalmente e alcançando países que aparentavam ser imunes a essa abordagem de reforma educacional até muito recentemente. Assim, os sistemas educacionais do mundo têm sido cada vez mais articulados em torno de três princípios políticos principais, a saber: responsabilização, padrões e descentralização. As avaliações nacionais em larga escala (National large-scale assessments – NLSAs) são um componente central do GERM; essas avaliações têm sido cada vez mais usadas para fins de responsabilização, bem como para garantir que as escolas alcancem e promovam padrões de aprendizado centralmente definidos e avaliáveis. Neste artigo, testamos essas premissas com base em um banco de dados novo e original sobre NLSAs, bem como em dados provenientes dos questionários do Programa de Avaliação Internacional de Estudantes (Programme for International Students Assessment – PISA). Também discutimos como diferentes teorias sobre a disseminação/globalização de políticas explicam a disseminação internacional das NLSAs e da responsabilização baseada em testes em todo o mundo, além de refletirmos sobre o potencial de uma abordagem de sociologia política para analisar esse fenômeno globalizante.
This paper reflects on the main conceptual and theoretical components of global education policy as an emerging field of studies. Global education policy research looks at how global education agendas are being constituted, and by whom, and what are the implications of global dynamics of a different nature in the promotion of education policy change. Globalization produces multiple effects, both direct and indirect, on education policy systems. Globalization has generated new social and educational problems that education policy is expected to address; it has intensified the international flow and exchange of policy ideas on educational reform; it has facilitated the constitution of influential transnational networks of experts and, overall, has contributed to rescale policy-making processes in an unprecedented way. Nonetheless, the influence of these and other global developments in national education systems is not always easy to observe, distinguish or track empirically. Overall, the global education policy field resembles more a messy market of policy ideas that, albeit its hierarchical nature, is not structured according to very well defined centers of diffusion and receptive peripheries, but through more complex multi-scalar dynamics. As a way to address these challenges, the paper also reviews the most prominent theoretical, epistemological and methodological perspectives that scholars are using to study the relationship between globalization and educational change, including world culture theory, international political economy perspectives, policy borrowing and lending, or the policy mobilities approach.
In the last decades, most countries have adopted data-intensive policy instruments aimed at modernizing the governance of education systems, and strengthening their competitiveness. Instruments such as national large-scale assessments and test-based accountabilities have disseminated widely, to the point that they are being enacted in countries with very different administrative traditions and levels of economic development. Nonetheless, comparative research on the trajectories that governance instruments follow in different institutional and socio-economic contexts is still scarce. On the basis of a systematic literature review (n = 158), this paper enquires into the scope and modalities of educational governance change that national large-scale assessments and test-based accountability instruments have triggered in a broad range of institutional settings. The paper shows that, internationally, educational governance reforms advance through path-dependent and contingent processes of policy instrumentation that are markedly conditioned by prevailing politico-administrative regimes. The paper also reflects on the additive and evolving nature of educational governance reforms. © 2019
El artículo analiza los factores y condicionantes que han favorecido la difusión de las práctica de rendición de cuentas en el ámbito educativo a escala global en base a las principales teorías sobre difusión de políticas educativas. Metodológicamente, el artículo se basa en una revisión de la literatura sobre el tema que incluye cincuenta y un artículos académicos que, de forma más directa o indirecta, reflexionan sobre la penetración de la rendición de cuentas en los sistemas educativos de diferentes países y contextos.
The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is expanding internationally and reaching countries that seemed to be immune to this education reform approach until quite recently. Accordingly, more and more educational systems in the world are articulated around three main policy principles: accountability, standards and decentralisation. National large-scale assessments (NLSAs) are a core component of the GERM; these assessments are increasingly used for accountability purposes as well as to ensure that schools achieve and promote centrally defined and evaluable learning standards. In this paper, we explore these trends on the basis of a new and original database on NLSAs, as well as on data coming from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) questionnaires. In the paper we also discuss how different theories on policy dissemination/globalisation explain the international spread of NLSAs and test-based accountability worldwide, and reflect on the potential of a political sociology approach to analyse this globalising phenomenon.
Recent educational reforms and legislative changes in both Catalonia and Spain have been inspired by New Public Management (NPM). Accordingly, policy ideas such as school autonomy and accountability—including test-based accountability and the evaluation of teachers’ performance—have strongly framed the education policy debate, as well as tangible educational transformations at the school level. The objective of this chapter is two-fold. First, the chapter analyses how NPM and, with it, new forms of education evaluation and accountability have been adopted and tailored within the Spanish context, with a focus on the Catalan region. Second, the chapter analyses how accountability policies are contributing to reconfigure the teaching profession and teachers’ daily work in this region.
An increasing number of countries are adopting accountability systems in education that rely on the external evaluation of students’ learning outcomes through standardized assessments. The international dissemination of this form of accountability, often known as test-based accountability, does not imply that exactly the same policy is adopted everywhere. Accountability reforms, as any other globalizing policy model, are context-specific. The concrete form that accountability reforms adopt is contingent on a range of political, historical and institutional conditions, and to policy-making dynamics and logics that operate at multiple scales. This paper analyzes the trajectory of accountability reforms in two Spanish regions, Madrid and Catalonia, from a comparative and multi-scalar perspective. Based on document analysis of media and official sources, and exploratory interviews with key informants, the paper shows that, although these two regions have pioneered the adoption of test-based accountability reforms in the Spanish context, their accountability systems have evolved quite differently. While accountability reforms in Madrid have been oriented toward the promotion of school choice and competition, Catalonia has adopted an uneven lower-stakes accountability approach with multiple ramifications. In this paper, we explain how and why such diverging trends have been possible within the context of a common general regulatory framework.
The aim of this special issue, “Global Perspectives on High-Stakes Teacher Accountability Policies”, is to provide insights into a diverse set of policies focusing on teachers’ accountability, including the underpinning ideas and cultural and socio-economic contexts of these policies, as well as their effects on teachers’ work, the teaching profession and the broader educational environment. While these articles highlight the influence of the “global testing culture” on education systems world-wide, they also demonstrate the need for understanding accountability systems as context-specific. As such, we urge scholars to consider the social, historical, political and geographical contexts within which their research is situated and to promote a research agenda that looks at the specific responses and effects that accountability policies produce in different regulatory settings. This introductory article, first, clarifies the main focus and conceptual framework of the special issue and, second, presents an overview of the papers included in the issue and their main contents.
Chile is a particularly interesting case to study the introduction of accountability policies. During the 2000s decade, Chile intensified these measures to try to address the failures of a highly deregulated school market system. This article examines the adoption process of accountability policies and the consolidation of the Evaluative State through the construction of the National System of Quality Assurance of Education during the period 2006-2011. Theoretically, the article is based on the “politics and semiotics of policy adoption” approach. Methodologically, it examines documents associated with the policy (official speeches, laws, parliamentary discussions, reports, governmental documents), and draws on 27 semi-structured interviews with those involved in the production of the policy (policy-makers, Ministry officials, parliamentarians, advisers and technicians). The article examines the development of the policy process, the factors that opened a “window of opportunity” to consolidate the accountability model, the discursive disputes that emerged during the deliberation process, and the emergence of accountability policies as a policy approach that seduced both the right and the center-left.
In the education sector, new public management (NPM) has crystallized in policies such as school autonomy, professionalization of school principals, standardized evaluation and teachers' accountability, and it has been widely disseminated by international organizations, such as the OECD, which enjoy a great prestige when it comes to frame education reforms in European countries. This article analyses the way NPM has been constructed as a global education policy, and its adoption and re-contextualization into the Spanish education context. This article shows that the reasons for adopting NPM are not so different from those prevailing in other countries where these policies have been implemented before. Counter-intuitively, although NPM is a reform programme traditionally initiated by conservative governments, in the Spanish education field, as also happened in other Central and Northern European countries, it has been adopted and regulated with social democratic governments. In all these countries, social democrats have tended to embrace NPM as an attempt to address the legitimacy crisis of the welfare state and of public services in particular. Nonetheless, in Spain, the NPM reforms have been re-contextualized and regulated in very uneven and paradoxical ways. For a combination of political, institutional and economic reasons, the final form adopted by the NPM approach is far from the model advocated by the international community and is deeply contradictory. Our arguments are based on intensive fieldwork that include, on the one hand, interviews with key education policy-makers and stakeholders and, on the other, document analysis of policy briefings, press releases and legal documents.
RESUMEN La rendición de cuentas (RdC) ha devenido un tema central en la agenda educativa global, y actualmente muchos países están adoptando nuevos sistemas de RdC en sus sistemas educativos. Sin embargo, las reformas de RdC, lejos de ser homogéneas, se pueden basar en enfoques y operar en direcciones muy diferentes. Utilizando una metodología de revisión de literatura conocida como scoping review, este artículo analiza los principales efectos de las políticas de RdC en diversas dimensiones educativas. La evidencia revisada muestra que la RdC tiene efectos diferentes dependiendo del diseño, la recepción y el proceso de aplicación de dicha política, así como del contexto socioeconómico e institucional de las escuelas en que se aplica. El artículo identifica además las principales lagunas de la literatura existente sobre RdC en el ámbito educativo, y sistematiza cuatro premisas con las que orientar investigación futura sobre la temática.