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ERIC Number: ED549056
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 258
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2673-5379-5
The Influence of Performance Accountability Culture on the Work of High School Principals
Cohen, Michael Ian
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Seton Hall University
This study examined the way performance accountability culture influenced the work of public high school principals. A qualitative multiple case study design was used to discover the way principals responded to, and coped with, performance accountability culture at the local level. Interviews of nine high school principals in the state of New Jersey and analysis of their respective districts' public documents revealed the salience of three major themes of performance accountability culture: the marketization of public education; limitations on a principal's autonomy imposed by bureaucratic demands; and tensions between a principal's attempts to pursue instructional leadership and manage accountability systems. An ethos of marketization and competition was demonstrated by the principals' emphasis on public relations and impression management as crucial elements of their work, their close attention to the rankings of their schools, their attempts to attract student enrollment, and their respective school systems' discursive treatment of schooling as a business. Mandated improvement of quantifiable outcomes, cumbersome state audits, and demands for standardization resulted in the principals' loss of autonomy and their expression of cynical attitudes toward bureaucratic systems at the state and local levels. Furthermore, the principals revealed that the bureaucratic demands of accountability systems threatened to disconnect them from everyday classroom life. Three principals proved more successful than the others in combating this threat. Four conceptual frameworks associated with postmodern and critical theory were used to interpret the data. Ball's (2001) concept of performativity, Power's (1997) notion of the audit society, Foucault's (1995) work on disciplinary power, and Habennas's (1989) distinction between lifeworld and system helped to explain the way accountability systems can have perverse consequences on the institutions they are intended to regulate and improve. Ultimately, this study recommended stronger advocacy on the part of school principals to effect systemic changes promoting the principal's function as instructional leader. Because three principals in the study coped more successfully than the other participants with the demands of performance accountability culture, further study on systemic conditions that allow principals to remain connected to the lifeworld of their schools was recommended. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New Jersey