In school systems around the world, countless reform strategies have focused on school and teacher accountability—the process of evaluating schools’ performance on the basis of student measures. Policy and education research has been dominated by debates on its effectiveness, where advocates highlight the positive effects on achievement while critics emphasize the negative consequences on pressure, morale, and autonomy. Yet the question is not so much whether to have accountability, but what form it should take. To answer this, sociologists contribute through their study of accountability’s organizational and ecological dynamics—key facets that are sidelined when researchers only focus on quantitative program evaluation. An organizational perspective highlights the meaning-making school actors and the general public have of the policy, viewing it through technical-rationalist and institutional-performative lenses. An ecological perspective highlights how the form of accountability is a negotiated outcome of larger macrosocial forces, and how accountability is itself contributive to larger social changes. This review suggests a broader conceptualization of accountability regimes, and the unique contribution of critical, organizational, and sociological perspectives to the study of public policies.
Trinidad, J.E. (2022). Meaning-Making, Negotiation, and Change in School Accountability, Or What Sociology Can Offer Policy Studies. Sociological Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1111/soin.12485