Educational leaders and how they deal with the tensions of accountability: A case study of one district's response to the No Child Left Behind Act

Thomas John Locke, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The increased accountability in public education because of the No Child Left Behind Act seems to create daily headlines, debate, and reflection among educators and across society. An important question to consider is whether or not the changes that are taking place in local school districts are the type of changes we want for our students. In order to examine these changes and the resulting tensions embedded in the responses to NCLB, this case study examines how the leadership team of a large, suburban school district in New Jersey has responded to the legislation. Through a series of interviews, this group of educational leaders discussed and reflected upon the degree to which their own beliefs on the purpose of public education aligned with the rationale behind the accountability provisions of NCLB. They discussed the pressures of an increased accountability, the decisions they made either caused or greatly influenced by NCLB, and the tensions involved when thinking about whether or not these changes were educationally sound. The group revealed numerous tensions with the philosophy and implementation of the law itself as well as with the three major initiatives explored in this study: an accelerated benchmark system to attain 100% proficiency within six years; a performance pay system with direct ties to test scores; and an intensive, 8-week intervention program for students struggling with math and language arts. Even though there were many tensions and inherent criticisms associated with NCLB, ultimately this leadership team seemed comfortable with the legislation. The final chapter discusses recommendations for districts to reduce the tensions associated with increased accountability. Leaders are encouraged to focus on the intent of the law, not the details of its implementation; broaden the way NCLB defines success, accountability, and the purpose of public education; balance short term actions with long term approaches and systemic thinking; and develop into a true learning organization.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Locke, Thomas John, "Educational leaders and how they deal with the tensions of accountability: A case study of one district's response to the No Child Left Behind Act" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3168032.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3168032

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