ERIC Number: ED477176
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 2002-Jun
Politics, Control, and the Future of School Accountability.
Moe, Terry M.
This paper examines the forces that affect school accountability. It presents the discussion in the context of the classic agency model, which is built around a principal-agent relationship. In these types of relationships, a principal attains certain goals through an agent, who acts on her behalf. Although ubiquitous in society, these kinds of arrangements can sometimes lead to tension between the agent and the principal, as each finds her interests to be at loggerheads. Such difficulties lie at the root of the two fundamental problems that undercut accountability in schools: the control problem and the political problem. The control problem arises because school employees (the agents) have their own interests distinct from those of the authorities (the principals and school boards). The agents have power because they have information that the authorities do not have, giving the former the incentive and the capacity to resist top-down efforts to hold them accountable. The political problem arises because the authorities are elected officials who are responsive to the political power of school employees, and thus have incentive to ignore true accountability. If school accountability is to succeed, reformers need to break from top-down methods of control and recognize that a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches is more likely to yield results. (Contains 46 references.) (RJM)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Conference on Taking Account of Accountability, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, June 10-11, 2002).