14 SES 04 A, Teachers, Parents and Families in Diverse Communities: Contributions from Australia, Finland and Israel
School accountability is one of the ‘hottest’ educational topics in the last decade and a half in both research and practice, where traditionally the focus has been on reporting to external audiences, such as school board and government. Only scant attention, if any, has been given to other school stakeholders, such as parents. The study’s objective is to explore whether teacher accountability to parents is similar to or different than their accountability to school management. Because of the ethnic heterogeneity in the Israeli educational system – the site of the present study - we will also examine two cultural values: individualism and collectivism. Finally, the predictive power of internal accountability will be explored as well.
Teacher accountability consists of taking responsibility for one’s work, reporting transparently, and accepting feedback (Frink & Ferris, 1998). Borrowing from Firestone and Shipps’ (2005) conceptualization, teacher accountability towards school stakeholders such as principals and parents would be considered ‘external,’ as it includes teacher’s interactions with bodies that are external to the self. Perhaps the most unique external school stakeholder, whose relations with teachers are particularly intriguing, are parents. Although there is a prolific literature on teacher-parent relations (Kalin, & Peček_Čuk, 2012; Robinson & Harris, 2014), little if any research has been published on teachers’ accountability towards parents. Studies have indicated that teachers do not perceive their relations with parents as part of their formal responsibilities and professional practices (Hornby & Lafaele, 2011). Moreover, as parents become more concerned, demanding, and involved in conflictual interactions, teachers may prefer not to cultivate relations that could expose them to further critics and intervention in their professional domains (e.g. Bæck 2010). Accordingly, our first hypothesis is:
H1: Teachers’ external accountability towards school management will be greater than towards parents.
External accountability and Cultural Values – Individualism and Collectivism
Due to its interactive and hence social nature (agent-audience relations), accountability is likely to be affected by cultural norms and values. Based on the notion that individuals are enculturated through socialization in their particular sociocultural context, Gelfand, Lim & Raver (2004) claimed that the nature of accountability is culture-specific, and therefore might be understood using cultural characteristics. Collectivism and individualism characterizing individuals' cultural make-up (Erez & Earley, 1993) have often been found to explain attitudinal and behavioral differences among social groups and individuals (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk & Gelfand, 1995). Collectivist teachers are expected to promote common school interests, and therefore may tend to be accountable to all relevant stakeholders, which is consistent with Fullan, Rincon-Gallardo & Hargreaves (2015) assertion that school accountability is largely collective. Individualist teachers, on the other hand, are expected to be mainly focused in promoting personal interests, such as gaining promotion at work, and therefore may select to be more accountable to school management than to parents. Hence our second and third hypotheses are:
H2: Teacher collectivism will be positively related to external accountability towards both school management and parents.
H3: Teacher individualism will be more strongly related to external accountability towards school management than towards parents.
Internal accountability consists of educators’ “report” to professional values and ethical codes (Firestone & Shipps, 2005). This concept is consistent with conceptualization of “New accountability”, designed to provide meaningful learning that includes a firm basis of professionally-skilled and committed educators (Darling-Hammond, Wilhoit, & Pittenger, 2014). This new notion was followed by Fullan et al., (2015), who claimed that internal (professional) accountability precedes external accountability. Based on this, our fourth hypothesis is:
H4: Internal accountability will be positively related to external accountability towards school management and parents.
The study population was Jewish and Arab teachers from the northern part of Israel. Data was collected with a self-report questionnaire based on a convenience sample of 418 teachers, taken from K-12 schools. Respondents were 71% women, 60% Arab and 40% Jewish; 84% were tenured; 40% held an extra school responsibility (administrative or pedagogical) in addition to teaching. 55% worked at junior or high schools, 45% at elementary schools. The study questionnaire included the following measures: Teachers’ accountability. Two measures were used: external and internal accountability disposition, based on Firestone and Shipps (2005) and Author (2016). External accountability. Respondents answered the same seven items on a 1-5 Likert scale in regard to two audiences: school management and parents (Cronbach α=.87, .86, respectively). A sample item: In my work as a teacher I feel it is my responsibility to report to [school management/parents] on the way I perform my work. Internal accountability. This measure included seven items that were adapted from Author (2016), and had an acceptable reliability (α=.88). A sample item: It is my duty to be responsible for teaching in the best possible way. Teacher individualism and collectivism. These scales, each with four items, had Cronbach’s α=.74 and .86, respectively. Both were adopted from Triandis and Gelfand (1998), with application of their horizontal dimension. Respective sample items: I'd rather depend on myself than others, and I feel good when I cooperate with others. Background and control variables. Data was collected on teachers' background characteristics such as gender, age, seniority, ethnic sector affiliation (Jewish/Arab), school responsibility (other than teaching) and school size. School support, a control variable, was measured by a six-item scale that was adopted from Eisenberger et al. (1986), Cronbach’s α=.80. Sample item: My school board values my contribution.
Teachers reported significantly higher external accountability to school management than to parents ((M=4.39; SD .58 and M=3.63; SD=.82, respectively, t=18.46, p<.000), supporting H1. Apparently, teachers perceived parents as less legitimate and/or less entitled to receive accountability reports. To test hypotheses H2 to H4, multiple regression analyses were conducted where we examined the prediction effect of each variable. Collectivism was found to predicted accountability to school management and to parents (β=.187, β=.237, respectively, p<.05), supporting H2. However, contrary to H3, individualism was not related to accountability towards school management or to parents. These results corroborate studies that assert the communal nature of schools, and thus the importance of collectivism as a cultural value that affects school key operations such as accountability relations. Internal accountability had a positive effect on accountability towards both school management and parents (β=.403, β=.270, respectively, p<.05), supporting hypothesis H4. Although not part of our direct hypotheses, interactive predictors between ethnic sector (Jewish/Arab) and teachers' values (collectivism, individualism) were explored. For Jewish teachers we found that individualism seems to increase accountability to school management (β=.193, p<.05), while for Arab teachers it decreases accountability (β=-.190, p<.05). This finding may reflect the importance attributed to individualism in the Jewish sector compared with the Arab sector. Finally, the predicting variables, including the interactions, explained 30.3% of accountability towards school management and only 18.1% of accountability towards parents. Results show that parents are perceived as less relevant and less entitled to receive teachers’ work report, compared to school management. Understanding the factors leading to teachers’ accountability towards parents may promote this neglected aspect of school accountability, and advance school success, particularly as teacher accountability is related to collectivism, supporting the notion of school as a collective environment.
Author, 2016 Arar, K., Shapira, T., Azaiza, F., & Hertz-Lazarowith, R. (2013). Arab women in management and leadership. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Bæck, U. D. K. (2010). ‘We are the professionals’: A study of teachers' views on parental involvement in school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 31(3), 323-335. Bryk, A., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. Russell Sage Foundation. Darling-Hammond, L., Wilhoit, G. & Pittenger, L. (2014). Accountability for college and career readiness: Developing a new paradigm. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22, 2-38. Eisenberger, R., Huntington, R., Hutchison, S., & Sowa, D. (1986). Perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 500-507. Erez, M., & Earley, P.C. (1993). Culture, self-identity and work. New York: Oxford University Press. Firestone, W. A. & Shipps, D. (2005) How do leaders interpret conflicting accountabilities to improve student learning? In C. Riehl & W. Firestone (Eds.), A new agenda: Directions for research on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press. Frink, D. D. & Ferris, G. R. (1998). Accountability, impression management and goal setting in the performance evaluation. Human Relations, 51, 1259-1283. Fullan, M., Rincon-Gallardo, S., & Hargreaves, A. (2015). Professional capital as accountability. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 23, 1-22. Gelfand, M.J., Lim, B.C. & Raver, J.L. (2004). Culture and accountability in organizations: Variations in forms of social control across cultures. Human Resource Management Review, 14, 135-160. Hornby, G., & Lafaele, R. (2011). Barriers to parental involvement in education: An explanatory model. Educational Review, 63(1), 37-52. Hornby, G., & Lafaele, R. (2011). Barriers to parental involvement in education: An explanatory model. Educational Review, 63(1), 37e52. Kalin, J., & Peček_Čuk, M. (2012). Editorial. Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 2(1), 5-11. Singelis, T.M., Triandis, H.C., Bhawuk, D.P.S., & Gelfand, M.J. (1995). Horizontal and vertical dimensions of individualism and collectivism: A theoretical and measurement refinement. Cross-cultural Research, 29, 240-275. Robinson, K., & Harris, A. L. (2014). The broken compass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Triandis, H.C. & Gelfand, M.J. (1998). Converging evidence of horizontal and vertica individualism and collectivism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 118-128.
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