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Accountability Policies and Teacher Decision Making: Barriers to the Use of Data to Improve Practice


by Debra Ingram, Karen R. Seashore Louis & Roger Schroeder — 2004

One assumption underlying accountability policies is that results from standardized tests and other sources will be used to make decisions about school and classroom practice. We explore this assumption using data from a longitudinal study of nine high schools nominated as leading practitioners of Continuous Improvement (CI) practices. We use the key beliefs underlying continuous improvementderived from educational applications of Deming's TQM modelsand organizational learning to analyze teachers' responses to district expectations that they would use data to assess their own, their colleagues', and their schools' effectiveness and to make improvements. The findings suggest that most teachers are willing, but they have significant concerns about the kind of information that is available and how it is used to judge their own and colleagues' performance. Our analysis reveals some cultural assumptions that are inconsistent with accountability policies and with theories of continuous improvement and organizational learning. We also identify barriers to use of testing and other data that help to account for the limited impacts.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 6, 2004, p. 1258-1287
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11573, Date Accessed: 9/24/2017 4:32:22 AM

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About the Author
  • Debra Ingram
    University of Minnesota
    E-mail Author
    DEBRA INGRAM is a research associate at the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement in the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include school change, the arts and learning, and teacher professional development.
  • Karen Seashore Louis
    University of Minnesota
    E-mail Author
    KAREN SEASHORE LOUIS is a professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Administration at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include organizational theory, schools as workplaces, and leadership. Recent publications include ‘‘A Culture Framework for Education: Defining Quality Values for U.S. High Schools’’ with J. R. Detert and R. G. Schroeder (Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 12, 2001), and ‘‘School Improvement Processes and Practices: Professional Learning for Building Instructional Capacity’’ with J. Spillane (in J. Murphy, Ed., Challenges of Leadership, 2002, Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Chicago: University of Chicago).
  • Roger Schroeder
    University of Minnesota
    ROGER G. SCHROEDER is a professor and the Frank A. Donaldson Chair in Operations Management in the Department of Operations and Management Science at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. His research interests include quality improvement and linking operations and business strategy. Recent publications include ‘‘A Framework for Linking Culture and Improvement Initiatives in Organizations’’ with J. R. Detert and J. J. Mauriel (Academy of Management Review, 25, 2000) and Operations Management: Contemporary Concepts and Cases (Irwin/McGraw Hill, 2nd ed., 2004).
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