23 SES 04 B, Evaluation and Policy Enactments
School inspection is a central instrument for monitoring and improving school quality in more than 60 countries around the world; however, the nature of inspections varies greatly. Inspectors’ power varies importantly, often based on the degree to which a country has adopted performance accountability policies.In some cases, findings by inspectors become an instrument to pressure schools to improve whereas in other counties, inspectors play a more supportive role, assisting principals as they implement new reforms(Altrichter & Kemethofer,2015).Despite this variation, in almost all cases, inspectors represent a direct connection between government agencies and schools.It is this uniquely situated role that we propose to investigate.
When developing recommendations, inspectors can utilize a wide range of information. After all, there is no one “right” solution for identified issues.Thus ,they must rely on some combination of standards developed by the government, education research, prior personal experience and contextual information they observe during their school visits. Although inspectors have a series of guidelines and procedures to follow, latitude exists and inspectors likely value various types of information differently. Understanding how various types of information sources are valued and used to make recommendations in different contexts is vital to improve the processes of school inspection.
In this study, we focus on the main research question: How do inspectors decide on recommendations? In particular, we focus on the role that accountability pressure –both on schools and on the inspector–play in shaping which sources of information are used when an inspector makes a recommendation.Specifically, we ask:
- What information about reform recommendations do inspectors use?Which forms of information are more highly valued?
- When and how do inspectors use local school context to inform their recommendations?
- How does accountability pressure shape reform recommendations and how inspectors value different sources of information?
We hypothesize that accountability pressure may significantly influence this decision making process. In countries where accountability pressures are high and school inspection is a key part of the accountability system, we expect school inspectors are more risk averse and will heavily rely on written procedures and standardized information.This will limit the use of local sources of information and consultation with school stakeholders. As a result, this might lead to a narrow set of recommended instructional and organizational practices. In contrast, other countries have low accountability pressures and school inspectors play a more supportive role in assisting principals to further enhance educational opportunities. In these contexts, we expect that inspectors will rely more on past personal experience with reform initiatives and local contextual information to select reforms. As a result, we expect that inspectors will recommend a wider range of alternative instructional and organizational practices.
The past few decades have seen great efforts to reform public education only to often be frustrated at the local level. There is a growing body of literature in education that uses sensemaking theory, a specific type of cognitive theory, to address questions of how people interpret and implement policies and reforms (Coburn,2005;Halverson et al,2004; Rigby,2015; Spillane et al,2002).Sensemaking theory is particularly useful when attempting to answer questions of how individual actors’ attempt to reconcile conflicting policy demands.Specifically, research that uses sensemaking theory has examined how individuals come to understand and enact policies and how this process is influenced by priorknowledge, the social context within which they work, and the nature of theirconnections to the policy or reform message(Coburn,2005;Cohen & Hill,2001;Spillane et al,2002). Because school inspectors likely attempt to reconcile policy priorities with local needs, sensemaking theory is a useful lens through which to understand the process on how inspectors decide on recommendations.
Altrichter, H., & Kemethofer, D. (2015). Does accountability pressure through school inspections promote school improvement? School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 26(1), 32–56. Coburn, C. (2005). Shaping teacher sensemaking: School leaders and the enactment of reading policy. Educational Policy, 19(3), 476–509. Cohen, D. K., & Hill, H. C. (2001). Learning policy : when state education reform works. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Dedering, K., & Muller, S. (2011). School improvement through inspections? First empirical insights from Germany. Journal of Educational Change, 12, 301–322. Ehren, M., Altrichter, H., McNamara, G., & O’Hara, J. (2013). Impact of school inspections on improvement of schools—describing assumptions on causal mechanisms in six European countries. Educ Asse Eval Acc, 25, 3–43. Halverson, R., Kelley, C., & Kimball, S. (2004). Implementing teacher evaluation systems: How principals make sense of complex artifacts to shape local instructional practice. Educational Administration, Policy, and Reform: Research and Measurement, 3, 153–188. Ladd, H. F. (2010). Education Inspectorate Systems in New Zealand and the Netherlands. Education Finance and Policy, 5(3), 378–392. Lorente, Á. L., & Arres Cortés, R. (2011, December). La supervisión educativa en América Latina ante las Metas Educativas de 2021, propuestas por la OEI. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación. Retrieved from http://www.rieoei.org/deloslectores/4601Cortes.pdf Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE. OECD, O. for E. C. and D. (2015). Education at a Glance 2015 - OECD Indicators. Rigby, J. G. (2015). Principals’ sensemaking and enactment of teacher evaluation. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(3), 374–392. Spillane, J. P., Reiser, B. J., & Reimer, T. (2002). Policy Implementation and Cognition: Reframing and Refocusing Implementation Research. Review of Educational Research, 72(3), 387–341.
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