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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 11, no. 3 (January 15, 2003).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c January 15, 2003
Limits of sanctions in low-performing schools :a study of Maryland and Kentucky schools on probation / Heinrich Mintrop.
x Research
v Periodicals.
2 710
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
1 773
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
4 856


1 of 30 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 11 Number 3January 15, 2003ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2003, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES .Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .The Limits of Sanctions in Low-Performing Schools: A Study of Maryland and Kentucky Schools on Probati on Heinrich Mintrop University of California, Los AngelesCitation: Mintrop, H. (2003, January 15). The limit s of sanctions in low-performing schools: A study of Maryland and Kentucky schools on probation Education Policy Analysis Archives 11 (3). Retrieved [date] from 3.html.AbstractThe article reports on a study of 11 schools that w ere labeled as low-performing by the state accountability systems of Maryland and Kentucky, nationally known for complex performancebased assessments. The study shows that putting schools o n probation only weakly motivated teachers because the assessments w ere largely perceived as unfair, invalid, and unrealistic. Admi nistrators responded with control strategies that rigidified organizatio ns, forestalling dialog and learning processes. Instructional reform develo ped only feebly. On the other hand, some schools remedied inefficiencie s and were able to "harvest the low-hanging fruit." The schools strugg led with severe


2 of 30problems of teacher commitment. The proliferation of high-stakes accountability sys tems in the United States has fast created a new category of schools identified with v arious labels: Schools on Probation, Schools under Reconstitution, Schools in Decline or in Crisis, Schools under Review, Immediate Intervention Schools, Schools Eligible fo r Assistance, and so on. Each accountability system has created its own nomenclat ure, but the underlying structure is the same: Based on a small set of numerical perform ance indicators, accountability systems identify putative underperformers that are given a limited period of time to reverse growth deficits or decline and that are thr eatened with more severe penalties upon failure to do so. In the public debate, these schools are also known summarily as "failing."As of the year 2001, 27 states have had school acco untability systems that identify low-performing schools and 14 states stipulate more severe penalties when an underperforming school fails to improve (Boser, 200 1). In 1997 the city of Chicago alone identified a hundred or so public schools on probation that managed to have fewer than fifteen percent of their students read at the national norm, as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (Chicago Public Schools, 1997) To date, the small state of Maryland has identified 200 or so schools statewide Between 1999 and 2001 alone, the large state of California identified 1290 persisten tly low-performing schools that are enrolled in the state's "Immediate Intervention/ Un derperforming Schools Program." Implementation of the new federal Title I legislati on may add further impetus to the phenomenon. What is more, these schools are not ran domly or evenly distributed across the states, but in many instances are clustered in districts that traditionally serve poor and disadvantaged minority populations. For example in Maryland, almost all identified schools are located in two districts; in California 54 of the 1000 or so school districts with more than 10 schools have at least a third of their schools eligible for California's Immediate Intervention/ Underperforming Schools Pro gram. Leaving aside the possibility of a mere symbolic pu rpose of "high stakes," these policies bank on the motivational power of sanctions, curren tly conceptualized in two ways. In one version, popular among economists, high-stakes accountability is resource-neutral; that is, improvements occur as a result of changed orientations and dispositions towards work effort (Hanushek, 1994). In another version, s trongly advocated by researchers around the Consortium for Policy Research in Educat ion (CPRE), sanctions, such as probation or reconstitution, attain their motivatio nal power in conjunction with resources needed for capacity building in schools that fail a s much for lack of will as for insufficient capacity (Fuhrman & Elmore, 2001; O'Da y, Goertz, & Floden, 1995; O'Day & Smith, 1993). Thus, in the first version, clear p erformance goals, incentives, and sanctions make new resources unnecessary while in t he second version they make new resources more effective. But in either case, the m otivational power of incentives and sanctions on individuals or organizations is assume d or implied. In fact, we could probably dispense with the whole superstructure of "high stakes" that many states have built up in the last few years and return to more t raditional redistributive grant making patterns (Peterson, Rabe, & Wong, 1991) if it was n ot for the belief in the power of incentives and sanctions for the improvement of low -performing or "failing" schools. The power of incentives and sanctions is even more crucial in systems that place the accountability burden on schools rather than distri cts. In such systems, incentives and sanctions must compensate for the states' limited c apacity to directly regulate or


3 of 30administrate remote school actors."Naming and shaming," as the English say, threateni ng more severe penalties, signaling public urgency and support are major mechanisms of probation that are to impel individual educators and schools to improve. Genera lly speaking, while there is some research on the effect of high stakes accountabilit y on schools generally (Firestone, Mayrowetz, & Fairman, 1998; Kelley, 1999; Kelley, C onley, & Kimball, 2000; Kelley & Protsik, 1997; Newmann, King, & Rigdon, 1997; Fuhrm an & Odden, 2001), little research on the role of sanctions in low-performing schools is available (Hess, 1999; Hess, 2000; Ofsted, 1997; Reynolds, 1996; Wong, Ana gnostopoulos, Rutledge, Lynn, & Dreeben, 1999; Wong, Anagnostopoulos, & Rutledge, 1 998), despite the proliferation of the phenomenon. But the absence of research does no t necessarily mean that "little or nothing is established," (Wilcox & Gray, 1996, p.3) or as researchers have it, that nothing "is known." While certainly holding little appeal to the education profession that is subjected to it, probation and sanctions must ma ke intuitive sense for those that decree and design accountability systems. This article, tr ying to get behind these intuitions, reports on findings from a three-year study of scho ols on probation in the states of Maryland and Kentucky. The study investigated the e ffect of probation on individual performance motivation, organizational processes, a nd patterns of instruction. The primary purpose of this article is to provide a sum mary of findings in abbreviated form. (Note 1) The Two StatesHigh-stakes accountability has been a topic of vigo rous debate and discussion among educators and educational researchers in recent yea rs. Particularly the Texas case has found wide attention (McNeil, 2000; Sklar, Scheuric h, & Johnson, 2000). The states of Maryland and Kentucky, by contrast, garnered nation al acclaim (Quality Counts 2001, 2001) for centering their accountability systems on tests that went beyond basic literacy and numeracy by asking students to perform complex learning, experiments, cooperative projects, complex essays, and portfolios. Although both states have by now abandoned the complex tests with which they started out, our data were collected at a time when they were still in use, though as in the case of Ke ntucky already contested. Thus, this study informs on schools' responses to probation in pedagogically complex accountability systems.Naturally, there is more to an accountability syste m than student learning assessments. There are non-academic performance indicators (in t he case of the two states mainly attendance for elementary and middle schools), ther e are rewards and sanctions, selection criteria for low-performing schools, exit criteria for probation, school governance requirements, planning mandates, monitor ing systems, and supports for building capacity at schools. These characteristics are embedded in authority relationships between schools, districts and the st ate. And all of these elements are in constant flux as political coalitions shift and new plans are advanced by state policy makers (Cibulka & Lindle, 2001), making accountabil ity systems truly moving targets of study.At the time the study was conducted between 1997 an d 2000, both states had the main features of elaborate accountability systems in com mon: complex student assessments, performance categories for schools, rewards and san ctions as well as school


4 of 30improvement planning and monitoring. But within thi s basic structure they differed in some respects. Compared to Maryland, the Kentucky r eform was more comprehensive, more rule-bound and scripted, but also more contest ed and in transition (Pankratz & Petrosko, 2000). The Maryland accountability system with the MSPAP (Maryland School Performance Assessment Program) as its heart piece was more radical in its performance demands and also more consensual at the time. Kentucky schools on probation, or in the state's la nguage at the time "schools in decline," were identified through a straightforward formula calculated on the basis of quantitative growth expectations, and they exited t he status when they met expected test score gains. Schools on all levels of absolute perf ormance could be in decline when they did not meet their targets. Schools could attain mo dest, but not trivial monetary rewards for raising test scores. The state dispatched to sc hools "in decline" a trained change agent (called Distinguished or Highly Skilled Educator/ H SE) who provided know-how on the system's requirements and mechanisms as well as gen eral skills in school improvement (David, Kannapel, & McDiarmid., 2000). Accountabili ty brought to Kentucky schools more managerial autonomy from districts and a new s chool-internal governance structure of shared decision making and parental in volvement. At the same time, the state gradually increased the prescriptiveness of t he state curriculum. Towards the end of the study, the format of the central test became mo re traditional and sanctions lost some of their rigor, having never been fully applied any way. The reconfiguration of the system wiped schools' slates clean again.By contrast, Maryland left wide discretion to the s tate department of education in selecting "reconstitution-eligible schools" (the st ate's term for probation), imposing sanctions, and exiting schools from probation. The state department tended to select rock bottom performers for probation, applied final sanc tions very sparingly, and set exit criteria (performance at state average) very high. State rewards and supports played a lesser role in the system. During the study period, reconstitution was a tool of the state to influence the reform disposition of two large distr icts that were expected to provide local resources and support to failing schools in order t o avert the threat of state take-over of schools. Thus, the state exerted indirect pressure on districts to take the test seriously, but beyond that it generally provided little pedago gical guidance and capacity building. Probation evolved into a situation in which some 20 0 hundred schools have been languishing for years.The StudyFindings are based on case studies of eleven school s on probation in the two states. Each case study set consists of quantitative and qualita tive data: interviews, classroom observations, meeting observations, and survey ques tionnaires. To gain a better understanding of the behavior of a larger number of schools on probation, we also analyzed school improvement plans from 46 schools i n Maryland and 32 from Kentucky as well as state test score data from Maryland. (We did not conduct such analysis for Kentucky due to the change of test formats during o ur study). Data collection took place between the spring of 1998 and the spring of 2000. The study investigates the role of probation in schools that serve student populations with high proportions of children from poverty and minority backgrounds. Thus, all el even schools have high proportions of students in the Free or Reduced Lunch program. I n the Maryland schools, more than 90 percent of the students are from an ethnic minor ity background. In the Kentucky


5 of 30schools, minority proportions are above the state a verage. The seven Maryland and four Kentucky schools were s elected according to district, school type, duration in the program, educational l oad, and performance history. In each state, about half of the selected schools are middl e schools, half are elementary schools. In Maryland, the schools are in the two districts w here almost all schools on probation are located. In Kentucky the schools reflect the st ate's geographic diversity. Four schools, two in each state, are probation veterans while seven schools had been identified half a year prior to data collection. We did not select schools based on their previous performance. Rather, we wanted to study th e unfolding of probation, not knowing whether the schools would be successful in their improvement effort. As a result, this is not a design that allows us to eval uate the programs in the two states. Each school was visited numerous times by at least two researchers over a two-year period from 1998 to 2000. The database for each Mar yland case typically consists of a survey, a minimum of twenty-one formal, semi-struct ured interviews, and many more informal ones as well as six classroom observations per school. Interviewees were teachers of all subjects, administrators, instructi onal specialists, and other resource teachers. All principals were interviewed. We also interviewed district officials who were responsible for programs in schools on probati on, as well as state officials, state monitors, and district support personnel. At least four meetings at each school were formally observed. In many cases the researchers pa rticipated in a number of additional meetings. In the Kentucky schools we interviewed sl ightly fewer numbers of teachers and observed fewer classrooms. Interviews were cond ucted with the help of standardizing protocols and transcribed and coded w ith the help of NUDIST. To better understand instructional patterns we analyze data f rom 45 (30 MD, 15 KY) classroom visits, consisting of a lesson observation and subs equent debriefing interview. The teacher questionnaire, containing 250 items, wa s administered to all full time teachers at the eleven schools. Findings from the s urvey data stand together with qualitative data from interviews, meetings, and cla ssroom observations. Overall response rate to the survey was 53 percent, though response rates varied by school. Across the two states and eleven schools, a total o f 287 respondents returned valid questionnaires. An analysis of respondents' charact eristics show that teachers with leadership roles in their schools are over-represen ted in the sample. However, the 200 or so interviews that were conducted with teachers fro m more varied backgrounds largely confirm the quantitative patterns. These interview data do not contain the bias towards teachers in leadership position.Individual Work MotivationIntuitionsAlthough I have never seen it explicitly spelled ou t by policy makers and designers of accountability systems why probation and the threat of sanctions would be effective motivators in educational settings, one could imagi ne the following intuitive scenario: When a school is publicly labeled as deficient, tea chers after going through a whole range of emotions accept the urgency of improvement This urgency is reinforced by the discomfort caused by state audits and the like. Tea chers and administrators want to repair their public image, but they also take respo nsibility for the quality of their work.


6 of 30So, they take a critical look at their own work and reflect on the valid performance demands of the accountability system. They finally decide to increase effort in their own classroom and get involved in the improvement of th eir school. Teachers who are highly committed to their school are especially motivated. Additional support that might accompany probation is appreciated and put to good use, but fresh resources are not essential for increasing one's effort in the classr oom. TheoriesIn the literature, work motivation in accountabilit y systems is often conceptualized in relationship to sense of efficacy, control, goal se tting, and expectancy of rewards. These varied, though related sources of motivation are as sumed to increase teachers' performance if teachers believe that the task is in their control and they have the requisite competence for its execution, if they see a connection between individual effort and expected reward and if they value the reward it self. Teachers strive for goals that are clear, specific, worthwhile, and attainable (Kelley & Protsik, 1997), and accountability systems streamline the work situation in this regar d. Shamir, on the other hand, doubts the applicability of "point of action" theories of motivation, as he calls them. These models of motivation are useful in predicting discr ete task behavior, but they are less powerful in explaining a "diffuse and open-ended co ncept of commitment" (Shamir, 1991, p. 408) that refers to a "shifting number and range of rather ill-delineated performances rather than to ironclad and numericall y constant behaviors having clearly defined parameters that everyone knows" (ibid.).In Shamir's view, expectancy and goal setting model s of motivation presuppose "strong situations," i.e. situations structured by clear an d specific goals, reward expectancies, and clearly identifiable relationships between incr eased effort, performance, and reward. Schools, however, are "weak" performance situations in which moral purpose and internalized standards are primary motivators. If h e is right, then the accountability system would become motivating to the degree that i t reinforces educational goals valued by teachers. But imbued in probation is not only an incentive to improve and attain rewards, either for the sake of the children or one's own professional prestige, but also an element of coercion and a threat of further penalties to which minimum compliance or exit might be the answer (Katz, 1970; Porter, Lawler, & Hackman, 1975; Vroom, 1964). While the research has not found a cl ear relationship between job satisfaction and work motivation, job satisfaction is related to job commitment, i.e. one's willingness to show up for work or stay on the job (Lawler, 1973; Mohrman, Mohrman, & Odden, 1996). According to Shamir, more congruenc e between work motivation and commitment may be expected if accountability system s tap into teachers' more deep-seated values, ideals, and performance standar ds. FindingsAwareness. Probation had the attention of the majority of edu cators at the eleven schools, but especially in the long-term probationa ry schools knowledge of what the status entailed became sketchy. When the school's s tatus was first announced in public, many teachers felt "very demoralized," "really down or "mortified." Senior teachers who described themselves as hard-working were shock ed: "I took it very personally, because of the efforts that I've made in the years that I've been here... It was almost like, I had broken an arm, and I was in a lot of pain tha t particular day" (A-19; eighth grade


7 of 30science teacher). But soon thereafter, personal dis tancing ensued and personal culpability was rejected: "I viewed it as a very ne gative cast over the school and over me, because I thought it was basically speaking abo ut my instructional leadership. But then on reflection, I realized that it wasn't about me. ....So, once I....cleared my head of any guilt feelings, then I was able to move forward (E-7; elementary school principal). Mild pressure. For most interviewees, the imposition of final san ctions was inconceivable and they were not worried about their jobs. Instead, many stressed their professional worth in spite of public perceptions. On the survey, we asked teachers to rate themselves as professionals. Overwhelming majo rities said they were adequately or very well prepared (90 percent), highly skilled (60 to 70 percent), and very willing to exert effort (about 70 percent), despite the fact t hat large numbers of teachers particularly in the Maryland schools were fairly ne w to the profession (46 percent five years or less) and the school (71 percent five year s or less). On the other hand, our sample is biased towards activist teachers that ful fill some leadership functions at their schools (43 percent of sample). In the interviews, teachers with or without leadership positions voiced confidence and contended that they did the best they could under the difficult circumstances, such as this elementary sc hool teacher in one of the first Maryland schools on probation: Basically, if you think you can do it better, come in, step in, and feel free to show us how to do it any better than how we've been trying to do it.... They [the state] lay these threats on the ta ble, 'We're gonna come take you over.'... And you just get to the point where you say....'Fin e, fire me!'" Most teachers perceived probation as mild pressure and did not worry about threats. Instead, for them probation signaled the need for s upport, and they were willing to endure the stigma in return for new resources: "The stigma is the minus, but the programs that come about from that is a plus. You k now, it's kind of two-sided.... I think, you know, the programs that would come about because of it, you know, it outweighs the negative. I think it's good, but I th ink that they should get rid of the bad stigma that goes with it" (B-5). For most interview ees, probation was not occasion for self-searching. Rather it was a nuisance and stood as well for vague hopes for support. We inquired in both survey and interviews about the accountability system in general. After all, it is this system that spells out the ru les for rewards and punishments. We operationalized the theoretical models by asking ho w teachers perceived the importance, validity, fairness, realism, and directiveness of t he system. (Note 2) Roughly speaking, the goals of the accountability system are of mediu m to high importance for respondents. When asked in the interviews what makes attaining h igh test scores important, most teachers responded that it was "a prestige thing." They didn't like "being at a school where every day in the article they say we're failu res" (20-09; Kentucky middle school English), and "all the county sees is the test scor es" (B-12, Maryland middle school Health). Fewer interviewees also saw the tests as a useful gauge of performance and some of them, particularly administrators, said the y evaluated their success based on the scores, but for many more, the importance of the sy stem's performance goals was connected to their concerns for diminished professi onal status. Fairness. The accountability system was less connected to th e quality of teaching and learning because large majorities of respondents do ubted the system's fairness and validity as a gauge of good teaching. The system wa s seen as unfair because it did not reflect that "'s not the teaching a s much as it is the children" (10-14; first grade), and "we are doing our part, ..... really, t he biggest part is missing for a lot of


8 of 30them, that's the home" (A-11; seventh grade). Many teachers rejected the burden that accountability systems singularly placed on them an d called for more distributed responsibility for student achievement: "The adage that it takes a village to raise a child is true, you know, and what that accountability thi ng says to me is you only hold a few villagers, instead of the entire village for the ac countability" (E-8, Maryland elementary school).Validity. Only about a quarter of the survey respondents agr eed that the state assessments validly reflected "good teaching." Wher eas accountability systems are designed around standardized outcomes, teachers in the eleven schools were avowedly child-centered in their philosophy. Survey and inte rview responses were similar in this regard. "The state, I really, the test, I could car e less about, to be honest with you" (B-7). For them, "just getting these kids to do their best and be able to write and to answer questions [was their] ...key priority" (B-7). In th is vein, 71 percent of respondents asserted in the survey that "rather than expecting a great improvement in school performance test scores, [they] concentrate on indi vidual students' growth, no matter how small." When asked to rank-order a catalog of 1 1 quality indicators for their work, respondents gave standardized tests ranks 7 to 9. T eachers drew their sense of success primarily from direct interaction with students, co mments from parents, and teacher-made tests. Teaching "life lessons," basic skills, citizenship, and social conduct, in the eyes of interviewees essential for their cli entele, were not captured by the test, but took center stage in their classrooms. Therefore "l ooking at the kids' background, and looking at what is written in that test and how it addresses them and the social issues that they have, they may not make that connection. So, t hey may not do well. But what is important to me is if my kids are learning the thin gs that I'm teaching them, somehow they're able to connect it to the things that they' re doing" (A-8; eighth grade social studies).Thus, personalization prevailed over data-drivennes s, incrementalism over the ambition of vast test-score gains, and basic skills orientat ion over performance-based pedagogy. Teachers' internal performance standards were not c ongruent with the external standards of the accountability agency. Many teachers' self-c oncept eschewed the image of the score maximizer in favor of the image of an educato r beholden to the intellectual and social growth of individual students and committed to the needs of the local community. Likewise, rewards were derived from encounters with individual students or learning groups and from psychic satisfaction: I don't feel like I need to know that they think th at I'm doing the best at this and they're going to reward me for this or whatever That's just not really important to me. I like to see my students succeed and I like to think that yes, I had something to do with that. Really, that' s the only reason why we're here. The other people aren't that important. It's our students that we help make some achievements. (Kentucky middle school, 40 -04; sixth grade reading) Realism and directiveness. While many teachers expected their schools to impr ove in the near future, optimism was much more muted when teac hers rated their chances to improve according to the criteria of the accountabi lity system. For example, on the survey 50 percent of Kentucky respondents found the system's performance goals "very unrealistic." Yet, the directiveness of the system was very high, and large majorities among survey respondents and interviewees professed to act according to the system's


9 of 30directions and demands. With grave doubts about the system's meaningfulness (with regard to validity, fairness, and realism), teacher s said to be primarily moved out of compliance with the state and out of concern for pr ofessional prestige. Thus, in an Analysis of Variance that tested relationships betw een three levels of engagement in school improvement and means in the importance, val idity, fairness, realism, and directiveness scales, only goal importance and dire ctiveness show strong and significant differences in means. For work effort, a similar an alysis shows moderate, but significant differences in means for directiveness, but not goa l importance. Interestingly, the (reportedly) more industrious teachers were even mo re skeptical about the meaningfulness of the system. I conclude from these findings that the accountability system was overall a poor motivator for teachers in the eleven schools on probation, and its strongest motivators were authoritativeness and stigma producing compliance and status anxiety. Survey responses and interviews con cur in this respect. Job Commitment. While authoritativeness and stigma may have pushed people to become more involved and increase work effort, the highly motivated were not necessarily more committed to staying at their scho ol (means on the commitment scale do not differ according to levels of engagement and effort). On many occasions, we were struck when apparent leaders in school improvement disclosed to us in the interviews that they were planning to leave. Besides better ca reer options elsewhere, these teachers often bemoaned intolerable pressures they felt obli gated to respond to at their school. But when teachers believed more strongly in the mea ningfulness of the accountability system, their job commitment was significantly high er. That is, more committed teacher groups had significantly higher mean ratings on the system's fairness and realism, (but not validity). Among the various factors tested, th e factor showing the strongest mean difference for job commitment was "expectation of i mprovement." Thus, more committed teachers were also more optimistic about their school's prospect. According to the interviews, optimism was an article of faith for some, others reasoned that as a result of probation their school would receive more attention and new resources, but almost nobody mentioned changes in their own classr ooms. Improvements were mostly understood as improvement of others or the organiza tion as a whole. Overall, the eleven schools, particularly the seven Maryland schools, were beset with problems of teacher turn-over. About half of the re spondents, again with teachers in leadership positions over-represented, were not cer tain about staying or were certain to leave. In fact, in many of the Maryland schools the teacher turn-over rate was about 50% from year to year. For those that planned to stay, relationships at school but also the challenge of school improvement and an optimistic o utlook were drawing points, but fewer respondents named probation as a positive inf luence on the school. Primary reasons for Maryland teachers planning to leave wer e better career options elsewhere and the feeling that their school was "a sinking sh ip." In the four Kentucky schools, fatigue from the pressures of probation was the mos t important reason to leave. Given different job market conditions in the two states, it is conceivable that for the Maryland leavers exit options tempered the pressures of prob ation; lack of such options may have heightened these pressures for the Kentucky leavers But it should be stressed that probation for respondents in the eleven schools res ulted in mild pressure only, and given the sentiments uncovered here, an increase in press ure advocated by some policy makers frustrated with the presumed lack of effect of prob ation may exacerbate an already severe commitment problem in these schools.


10 of 30Summary. The study found that probation under the circumsta nces of the eleven schools may have a weak influence on individual work motiva tion and an overall negative effect on teachers' job commitment. Probation in the eleve n schools primarily evokes an urgency for improvements through a dynamic of compl iance and concern for professional prestige. Pressures are mild, but tang ible for the more obligated teachers. Although both the Maryland and Kentucky assessments are complex, they lack meaningfulness for the great majority of educators participating in the study. Teachers eschew the spirit of reward calculus, and hold agai nst the standardized verdict of failure a philosophy of personal connection to children, ps ychic rewards, and incrementalism. As a result, the impetus of the system for self-exa mination and reevaluation of one's personal educational responsibility is weak. The mi ldness of pressure and the promise of new resources seem to temper potentially harmful ef fects of probation on job commitment, but at the same time commitment is a se rious problem for the eleven schools that seems to be exacerbated by probation. With turn-over rates of 30 to 50 percent per year, and highly motivated teacher lead ers leaving as likely as lesser motivated teachers, one cannot argue that with prob ation the "right people are leaving."Organizational DevelopmentIntuitionsMost accountability systems hold whole schools, rat her than individuals accountable for higher performance, and it is therefore through sch ool-wide improvement that individuals overcome the label of probation. How co uld probation work in this way? The label of probation throws the school in crisis, but at the same time makes people realize that "we are in this together." Intense dia log, perhaps even conflict around the discrepancy between the current situation of the sc hool and the state's performance demands ensue. Eventually the faculty pulls togethe r around a set of shared expectations that are the basis for a formal structure of intern al accountability. Performance data bring shortcomings into focus. All parts of the school ar e evaluated; planning and more vigilant monitoring make the school more effective; and with determined leadership the school learns new strategies to turn itself around and change instruction. TheoriesDeliberately induced crisis and group accountabilit y are the main motivational levers imbued in probation, but these levers often come to gether with programmatic and managerial mandates and supports for capacity build ing. This mix is to shape the organization's social interactions and improvement strategies. Organizational theorists have recognized the work group as an important sour ce of work satisfaction, commitment, and productivity (Tannenbaum, 1970; Kat z, 1970; Mohrman, Mohrman & Odden, 1996). In the field of education, studies by Rosenholtz, (1991) and Little & McLaughlin (1993) have shown that teachers increase their commitment to, and involvement in, reform when collegial relationships at school are strong, supportive, and innovative.Very little is known about how group accountability might work in the context of schools (Hanushek, 1994; Malen, 1999). Effective sc hools research considers the school the most suitable strategic unit for educational im provement. Some authors believe that


11 of 30group accountability may be a way "to motivate teac hers and administrators to enact their jobs in a manner that leads to significantly higher student achievement, sometimes without a commensurate increase in expenditures [emphasis added]" (Mohrman, Mohrman & Odden, 1996, p. 54). But once the attainm ent of rewards or the aversion of penalties is tied to the group, rewards and sanctio ns operate in "weaker" situations, in Shamir's terminology, as the individual reward expe ctations are dependent on colleagues' capacity and willingness. As a result, group-generated performance motivation must tap into teachers' more broad-based and diffuse commitment to the organization. Moreover, in the literature on high p erformance organizations the group is usually understood as the basis for rewards or bonu ses rather than as the unit that may have to absorb sanctions and penalties. The respons e of work units to sanctions may flow from individual and organizational processes t hat are quite different from those at work in high-performance or high-involvement organi zations. Responses to sanctions may be more adequately captured by a line of inquir y that places the failing organization and its crisis in the center.Induced crisis, as a means to rouse a declining org anization to focus on its essential service (Meyer & Zucker, 1989) can motivate an orga nization to learn (Leithwood & Seashore Louis, 1998). As probation throws schools into crisis, they unfreeze. Old routines and mental models are up for internal deba te and conflict may arise. A conflict-driven scenario of organizational learning is narrated by Bennett & Ferlie (1994): "A crisis moves awkward issues up agendas.. .We are likely to see continuing pressure from pioneers, the formation of special gr oups that seek to evangelize the rest of the organization, high energy and commitment lev els and a period of organizational plasticity" (p.11). In schools on probation, the in itiative should move to high-performing and highly motivated, perhaps even maverick, groups of teachers and administrators. At minimum, this process entails dialog about the goal s of the accountability system, a collective commitment to shared expectations, and f ormal structures that undergird internal accountability (Abelmann, Elmore, Even, Ke nyon, & Marshall, 1999). External threat and induced crisis, however, are no t automatic triggers of learning (Levine, Rubin, & Wolohojian, 1981). According to S taw's threat-rigidity model (Staw, Lance, & Dutton, 1981), two organizational response s to threat are likely. If the group believes in the likelihood of success in meeting th e new demand from the environment, increased cohesiveness, support for leadership, but also a tendency to uniformity and centralized control occurs. If the group believes i n the likelihood of failure, constricted interaction gives way to leadership instability and dissension. But even organizations successfully responding to new stressful external d emands tend to reinforce dominant patterns of operation, rather than learn new things according to this model. FindingsOur data confirm the motivational power of the grou p for work effort and engagement in school improvement activities. We composed from sur vey items several internally reliable scales that captured respondents' percepti ons of their faculty: skills of colleagues collegiality, principal control, principal support, and burden sharing (three items that specifically ask about group control and sharing the work load). [3] Across the eleven schools, respondents with reported higher le vels of engagement and effort also perceived their faculties to be significantly more collegial and their principal strong, i.e. both more controlling and supportive. This contrast s with the relative irrelevance of the


12 of 30accountability system's meaningfulness for differen t levels of work motivation across the eleven schools.A comparison between two "moving" and two "stuck" s chools from Maryland (Rosenholtz, 1991) corroborates this pattern. In th e two moving schools, levels of engagement and work effort as well as school-wide a ctivity levels (identified by field work) were higher; incidentally the moving schools also managed to increase their scores on the key state assessment (MSPAP) during t he study period, whereas the two stuck schools either stagnated or declined. In the two moving schools, perceptions of colleagues' skills, collegial relationships, and pr incipal support were significantly more positive than in the stuck schools. (Principal cont rol and burden-sharing were insignificant). By contrast, the meaningfulness of the accountability system was actually more in doubt in the two moving schools. Yet, respo ndents in the moving schools felt more directed by the system and attached more impor tance to overcoming probation and raising test scores, that is, they responded more s trongly to the extrinsic motivators of the system. Thus, probation made the moving schools more moving due to higher internal organizational capacity and external press ure, i.e. stigma and authoritativeness, but not because they believed in the rightfulness o f the system. But it was troubling that teachers in the moving schools were not significant ly more committed to staying. What was going on in the two moving schools? Patter ns of organizational interaction and types of improvement strategies were in many re spects quite similar in the two schools, one an elementary school, the other a midd le schools. Both were located in the same district which had few of its schools on proba tion, organized a fairly efficient central Office of School Improvement, and awarded t o all its "reconstitution-eligible" (RE) schools between $150,000 and $250,000 in exces s of the regular budget. Both schools were led by seasoned principals who ha d survived in their position, but felt nevertheless under enormous pressure. (Note 3) With teachers feeling probation only as mild pressure, organizational accountability rested on the shoulders of the principals. Their main response was to increase control and to assemble a leadership team of assistant administrators, instructional specialists test coordinators, and school improvement resources teachers that were often hire d through reconstitution-designated funds. Externally constrained by districts' and sta tes' programmatic and managerial mandates and supports, the fate of probation, inter nally, was largely decided by the interplay between the principals' leadership, the s kills and commitments that the specialists brought to their task, and a largely co mpliant, but relatively immobilized, increasingly inexperienced, and uncommitted staff.School B was the moving middle school in the sample According to staff comments, the RE designation made their principal into a more vig ilant manager, overriding the traditional hands-off style with which administrato rs and staff had traditionally accommodated each other at the school. The principa l abolished all faculty and team meetings and called House teams into his office onc e a week. During these meetings, faculty members were informed and admonished to com ply with the principal's expectations and the strategies adopted by the inst ructional specialists. The faculty's role was to report on task completion. The principal beg an to visit classrooms regularly with checklists in hand. On his visits, he emphasized be havior modification strategies that could be monitored easily, such as the daily lesson plan, a fixed surface structure of the lesson, seating arrangements, bulletin board displa ys, the placement of the district curriculum on the teacher's desk, the page opened t o the day's curriculum, etc., all of


13 of 30which staged the teachers' compliance with school i mprovement efforts. In addition, the very skillful instructional specialist had compiled a handbook of generic strategies that she believed would "crack" the complexity of the pe rformance-based test, such as a particular surface structure for essays, a particul ar way of writing out a math problem, etc. During weekly campaigns, teachers were expecte d to practice these strategies with their students and were monitored on their use. The school raised its test scores substantially for one year, but was unable to keep up this upward trend. Control at School B came with a smiling face. The p rincipal was warm and paternal, but had made it clear that they, he with the rest of th e school, had their backs against the wall. The instructional specialist was accommodatin g and always full of ideas, but the teachers knew that her proposals were what the prin cipal wanted to get done. Teachers at School B felt controlled and supported. Many of our interviewees empathized with the principal's difficult position (it somehow reflecte d their own), they "understood" that accountability dictated stronger measures, and they appreciated the sense of direction that was provided for them, but at the same time ma ny wished to escape the pettiness and pressure and work somewhere else. After the fir st year of probation, and despite the school's success, 70 percent of the teachers were c ontemplating to leave the school, and turn-over rates remained stubbornly high.School C, the "moving elementary school" responded similarly to probation. But here the principal relied more on his team for results. One of the instructional specialists managed to develop detailed knowledge of the school 's test score data and designed a daily curriculum for all lower-grade teachers. Many appreciated the support, and some were "encouraged" to teach these lessons by the pri ncipal's unannounced visits. However, although the school managed to improve as evidenced by raising test scores substantially in two consecutive years and the dist rict alleviated severely overcrowded conditions, teacher turn over hardly abated. Out of 30 classroom teachers in 1997/98, only eight could still be found in the school at th e beginning of the 2000/2001 school year; of those eight, four were kindergarten teache rs. The principal had announced his retirement and the instructional specialist her lea ving. A third school, a middle school located in the same district, was also moving, but it moved astray into "pathological rigidity" as we ter med it. With a legacy of discipline problems, the district installed a new principal wi th a proven track record of school improvement who brought with her a loyal leadership team and cleaned house. Her hallmark were a tight hall supervision policy and t he same control mechanisms in use in the other two schools, minus the attention to curri culum and instruction. Debate was not tolerated at faculty meetings, and teachers' rule i nfractions were publicly rebuked and justified with the need for accountability, occasio nally over the PA system. Test scores never improved much or declined, and year after yea r fifty percent or more of the faculty left. In the end the leadership team imploded and t he remaining teachers threatened a walk-out.In the two "stuck" schools, probation was an altoge ther less dramatic affair at the time of the study. Located in a district where support for probation schools had to be spread over half of the district's schools, Schools D and E had been designated for three years at the time of the study and probation had become habituat ed. If School D, a large middle school, had ever shown a more spirited response to probation, there was no trace of that during the time of our field work. MSPAP test score s had remained very low and stagnant for the entire probation period, and for t eachers the signal of probation was


14 of 30simply submerged among the many other concerns for daily order and survival. When we first entered School D, we encountered a dispiri ted principal who felt he had barely made a dent in his school during his one year tenur e. Frustrated by flat test scores, district inaction on the most basic building repair s, and feuding with the faculty, he was counting his days to be replaced. The next principa l showed very little urgency and concern for change. He said that he would study the school the first year and then take his steps. He was liked, but he was also known to t ake his breaks with other teachers smoking under a tree off school grounds. His tenure ended with an acrimonious faculty meeting during which some faculty members aired the ir raw frustrations with his inaction.School E, a small elementary school located in a ve ry poor section of town, had actually been moving at some time. When the school was "name d" as one of the first in the state, the school and community had organized a spirited r ally in support of the school and in protest against the state. The principal, rooted in the community, had a background in staff development, but management was not her stron g suit, so she opted for intensive training of her staff in performance-based pedagogy Test scores improved remarkably and with increasing numbers of schools entering pro bation, she was in high demand as a speaker and trainer. But her training-based improve ment model faded as the district spread staff development resources thinner with inc reasing numbers of probation schools, and as high teacher turn-over erased past training gains. The school was unable to fill positions, and it became common that teache rs quit mid-year. While on probation, the percentage of inexperienced teachers increased to 70 percent. One year, with test scores plummeting, the school could not fill positi ons with permanent teachers in 3rd grade, a key testing grade for MSPAP. Also, while o n probation, the percentage of special education students increased from 23 percen t, already above the district average, to 27 percent. All instructional specialists had to be moved into regular instruction, and as a result the faculty according to one of the spe cialists did not even have sufficient basic capacity to implement the district-mandatory and very prescriptive "Open Court" literacy program even with district training. With test scores decreasing and the faculty dispirited and worn-out, the district decided to re place the principal who hitherto had provided a modicum of stability, with a new, but in experienced principal. The school declined even further, and after six months into th e tenure of the new principal, the state announced that the school would be taken over by th e state the following year. That year, prior to the actual take-over, satisfactory s cores on the MSPAP plummeted to zero or near zero.Summary from the Maryland CasesRather than staging crisis and opening channels of inquiry into solutions with broad faculty participation, administrators are in crisis and as conduits of accountability tend to mute the voices of outspoken critics who might ques tion the undisputed reality and legitimacy of the accountability system, but whose ardor might also expose the school to honest self-evaluation. Accountability is accepted as a fact; the value and realism of performance goals is not publicly deliberated in mo st schools. The teachers are willing to rally around their leader as long as they sense tangible progress. Teachers resist crude managerial control, but accept increased control in those schools where it is laced with traditional paternalism and concrete assistance. Te acher learning takes place as skill (re)training primarily.


15 of 30High principal turnover or low-impact principals do om a school's probationary period. Our "success" cases have higher (perceived) capacit y. They are more unified and supportive, their faculty is perceived as more skil lful, capacity building is seen as more effective, and the district is more forthcoming wit h new resources and interventions. But also, probation makes teachers compliant, and tradi tional prerogatives of teachers' classroom autonomy are overcome through administrat ive power attached to specialists' instructional support. In the more successful cases increased rigidity is associated with more effectiveness of the organization. Discipline tightens; more attention is paid to the state assessments; classroom teachers are on guard. Career teachers and instructional specialists are roused into action and rally around the principal. A curriculum is being followed. Increased participation in staff developm ent workshops may have increased the competence of (especially novice) teachers. Som e of the seven schools post modest improvements in this way. But increased organizatio nal rigidity exerts a price. Teachers are dissatisfied; some resent the pressure and stan dardization, and many contemplate leaving. These are not circumstances under which in ternal accountability flourishes. Improvement strategies chosen by the schools corres pond to the patterns of leadership. Schools rely on external programs, sweeping standar dization, easily surveillable behavior, surface compliance reviews, and test prep aration schemes (see also Mintrop & MacLellan, 2002, for results of the content analysi s of school improvement plans).Evidence from the Kentucky Cases Rethinking the P atternOn the individual level, notwithstanding different weights, basic patterns were similar in schools from both states. But on the organizational level, we did not observe the same kind of organizational rigidity pattern in the four Kentucky schools that were so prevalent in the Maryland schools. To begin with, p robation in the Kentucky schools was an altogether less stirring affair. (This is 19 98 when the first wave of accountability demands is spent and the system is in the throes of political contestation.) Teachers and administrators stressed continuity of their school' s efforts to improve regardless of the school's status. The Kentucky respondents attached less importance to higher test scores and less meaning to the accountability system. Perf ormance problems tended to be externalized. One school considered itself the "dis trict dumping ground," another the district "special ed magnet." Although public stigm a hurt and instilled in most teachers a desire to shed the "in decline" label, they reporte d to a lesser degree than Maryland teachers having exerted more effort as a result of probation. Although, compared to Maryland responses, Kentucky respondents were less optimistic about their school's prospects of improvement and l ess certain about their efficacy with their students despite higher levels of work experi ence, they gave their schools higher marks on capacity. Faculties were seen as more skil lful and collegial and principals as more supportive and less controlling. Principals th emselves did not feel threatened in their jobs based on test scores. Three of the four principals owed their long tenure to districts that the state accountability system larg ely by-passed, and district interventions were not as prominent. Hence the urgency that fuele d control strategies in the Maryland schools was largely absent. Teachers felt challenge d to do a better job at aligning their curriculum with the increasingly prescriptive state core curriculum and pay more attention to test-specific features, such as writin g prompts. Because the faculties were fairly stable, there was more evidence of training effects in the interviews. The Distinguished/ Highly Skilled Educators provided as sistance in assessment-specific


16 of 30features and were seen as helpful in keeping their schools focused on what schools could internally control (Mintrop, MacLellan, & Quintero, 2001). But they did not direct the schools' improvement strategies. Rather their forma l authority position was absorbed into the traditional hierarchy of the schools. More managerial autonomy of the school fostered entrepreneurialism in attracting new grant s and projects. "You name it, we've tried it," as one principal termed it, was the visi ble badge of the schools' commitment to improvement. Several HSE's bemoaned that this appro ach left (low) expectations and classroom routines in these schools largely unexami ned. In summary, then, the detected rigidity effects of probation in the Maryland case may not be a general pattern of response to probation, but be related to a specific constellation of factors: More district control, threatened principa ls, and ordinary teachers with low skills, low commitment, and modest work motivation all working within a state accountability system that steers local districts w ith pedagogically complex outcome demands without providing the tools to reach them. Thus, one might say that the Maryland schools are a case of high administrative pressure meeting low capacity. In the four Kentucky schools, we observe a more traditiona l pattern of school improvement through alignment and the acceleration of add-ons. The eleven schools have in common, however, the absence of dialog about teachers' resp onsibility and the school's expectations, and a conversation about a meaningful response crafted in the tension between the school's and the accountability system' s shortcomings. Instructional ChangesIntuitionsGiven the ambitious performance-based character of the accountability systems studied here, schools, in order to master probation success fully, not only need to compel students to work harder, but also learn differently Higher work intensity, tighter lesson plans, but also higher order thinking and teamwork are paramount. When teachers have the will to change and faculties have begun to eval uate the shortcomings of their school, raise their own expectations to the high demands of the system, and agree on formal procedures of internal accountability, the conditio ns are ripe for a restructuring of teaching content and methods. TheoriesThe literature on curriculum policy and instruction al change shows that what teachers learn from policy depends on a host of factors: the ir extant practices, their understanding and interpretation of the policy, their own experie nces, dispositions and skills, and the support they receive in efforts to change their pra ctices (Cohen, McLaughlin, & Talbert, 1993; Darling-Hammond, 1997; Grant, 1998) found tha t teachers responded quite differently to the same reform, even when exposed t o the same interventions. Spillane & Jennings (1997) show that when districts employed a lignment strategies to change instructional practice at the level of classroom di scourse, they often achieved superficial task modification, but did not reach more deeply in grained task and discourse structures. Two responses are observed in the literature. Teach ers often trivialize complex tasks to simpler task demands (Cohen, 1990); Spillane & Jenn ings, 1997; see also Spillane & Zeuli, 1999; Cohen & Ball, 2001) and they doubt the relevance of ambitious


17 of 30performance standards and institutional demands whe n incongruent with the perceived needs of their students (Darling-Hammond & Wise, 19 85). In this case, institutional demands and school reality come in conflict with ea ch other unless high standards are examined in light of real student work (McDonald, 1 996). If teachers learn ambitious pedagogy through "revisiting and reinventing" (Cohe n & Ball, 1999), then probation cannot succeed without accountability being connect ed to personal educational meanings and processes of organizational dialog and learning that facilitate exploring these meanings.FindingsIt is apparent from the previous sections on indivi dual learning and organizational development that probation in the context of the el even schools provided unfavorable conditions for learning new and ambitious performan ce-based pedagogy. For many teachers, the state assessments did not provide mea ningful tools for the self-evaluation of their teaching. Teachers were not data-driven. R ather data from the state assessments tended to be discounted in their value and validity On the organizational level, probation fostered rigidity and compliance with ext ernal obligations, as in the case of the Maryland schools, to the detriment of organizationa l learning and internal dialog. Moreover, whereas the accountability system calls f or an upgrading of teaching quality, the investigated schools on probation struggled wit h high teacher turnover, low job commitment, an increasing number of uncertified and inexperienced teachers, and in some cases highly unsupportive districts.We saw that large numbers of teachers in the 11 sch ools viewed themselves as highly competent professionals whose skills and knowledge measured up to the demands of the states' performance-based assessments. But in reali ty, 70 to 80 percent of the observed lessons in Maryland did not show evidence of elabor ate level teaching at all; that is, the frequency of higher-order thinking, problem solving and complex dialog among the counted snapshots (total number 150) was very low. (Due to their limited number, we did not quantify the observed lessons in Kentucky.) Only one third of all observed Maryland lessons were deemed highly coherent, i.e. beginning, middle, and end hung together; the majority lacked conceptual depth. On the positive side, in the overwhelming majority of lessons, teachers used a v ariety of materials, activities, and forms of interaction; in quite a few lessons variet y was a very prevalent feature. Contrary to some other assessment systems that emphasize min imum competency tested in a multiple-choice format (Darling-Hammond, 1991; Nobl e & Smith, 1994), evidence of practicing simple test taking skills (i.e. "drill a nd kill") was fairly low. In all likelihood, the complexity of the state assessments in the two states did not lend itself to such an approach.A selection of seven teachers illustrates patterns observed across the 30 classrooms. We observed the classroom of a senior middle school te acher who had the reputation as an innovator. In the observed lesson, she had students measure the relationship between diameter and circumference of various circular obje cts. By following the lesson "script" from the newly adopted mathematics textbook, she be lieved that her instruction was aligned with MSPAP because "they match the skills w ith the national standards. So it is really close because I know the MSPAP is taken from the state standards that they get from the national standards" (G-16).


18 of 30The problem was that, contrary to the intentions of the book, she herself introduced Pi without the students having had a chance to discove r the relationship themselves. She said, "I'm a math teacher. I'm used to, you know, t his is this and this is this…" To her, the ability to work successfully in groups was the key to MSPAP proficiency, construction of concepts was the lesser of her conc erns. But despite her willingness to change, accountability for her was "treating you mo re like a child… So, I see it as the work doubling….And we do it, I mean, you know, they say "this" and we do it. [But] the morale doesn't work very well. (G-16)A young and effective mathematics teacher in anothe r middle school coped with accountability differently. Because of the variety of testing situations she had to prepare her students for, she parsed her lessons in a regul ar pattern of basic skills, performance-based, and regular lessons: "If it's ju st a regular lesson, no MSPAP, no Functional per se, then I rely on the book" (B-17). She was obviously a skilled classroom manager and adept at teaching. When asked how she envisioned closing the gap between her students' capacities and the state' s expectations, she responded: "Well, one day at a time, basically. I knowthat the gap ca nnot be tightened within a, you know, short period of time… and in time, if instruction i s, if you're doing what you're supposed to do, then the scores will come up" (B-17)We visited the classroom of a very respected scienc e teacher with the reputation of a disciplinarian. He taught a very directive and repe titive lesson. Changing his teaching in response to the accountability system was out of th e question for him. He taught the content he believed needed teaching, with the mater ials of his choice (very old textbooks), in the manner that he saw fit. An alter nation of very directed reading with experiential lessons worked best for him. Similarly his colleague, a middle-aged woman, highly respected by students, taught a very traditional lesson that kept students working hard. She introduced herself: "I don't know if you want this on tape but I have a sticker on my car that says, 'Stop MSPAP, teach bas ics.'" She subverted external pressures and was outspoken about her conviction th at she had better sense than the various distant agencies and actors that tried to t ell her what worked with her students: No matter what happens, I don't change, and they [t he students] depend on it. That's important to them. It's also a part of c lassroom climate. My expectations don't change for them. They know what to expect. (A-22) An elementary school teacher, in contrast, was deli ghted with the instructional materials mandated by the school. She loved the scripted natu re of the Open Court reading. She was confident that if students could read they woul d be successful at taking the MSPAP test when the time came, or any other test for that matter. Mr. C. faced the problems that many beginning teach ers face. We observed a frustrating lesson during which he attempted to teach the diffe rence between "action and state of being verbs." He received little instructional supp ort or guidance. Student discipline was not, in his view, an administrative priority at his school and that combined with parental non-involvement made classroom management very diff icult for him. He faulted his inability to raise his instruction to grade level o n his students' lack of knowledge. Mr. C. assured us that "I can be rather creative when I'm in the right environment." When asked whether the reconstitution eligibility status of th e school or the MSPAP influenced his teaching, he replied, "Is MSPAP driving what we're doing in any way? No. No. What's


19 of 30driving what we're doing is survival" (G-21). Anoth er beginning teacher, Mr. S., was in the same situation. Nonetheless, he made an effort to follow the adopted curriculum as closely as possible, but was often thrown for a loo p, as in the observed lesson, because the curriculum did not match up with his students' below-grade-level skills. He did not think that students could come up to the expected p erformance level because his third grade students were "already so far behind" (F-20). Mr. S. was, in his words, "worn out" and "run down" by trying to reconcile the reality t hat "a lot of things that the kids come into school with are things that are way beyond my control" and being held accountable for student achievement. He intended to leave teach ing at the end of the school year. Most teachers we visited considered it unlikely tha t their students would reach the lofty goals the accountability had set out for them. But teachers were willing to try concentrating on incremental learning steps. In neg otiating the gap between external performance demands and the perceived abilities of their students, teachers foremost gauged their lessons to students: "I teach to the n eeds of the students. That's what I feel I should do because if I try to teach up here and the y're not up there, I'm wasting my time and my energy because they will never meet with suc cess" (F-17; second grade). Teachers felt justified teaching lessons in a basic skills format that traditionally "worked" for "their kids." In the view of many, MSP AP activities distinguished themselves mainly as writing activities, group work and the use of particular analytic vocabulary. For fewer teachers, reflection on one's own thought process was also associated with MSPAP. This pattern holds across al l observed teachers. Often the conceptual depth of knowledge construction that is a core element of the new pedagogy was simplified into a set of activity formats. Judg ing from the debriefing interviews that accompanied lesson observations, teachers were, for the most part, not aware of this task trivialization. This was not surprising, considerin g that the test itself was shrouded in mystery and teachers only reluctantly discussed ite ms that they had seen for fear of doing something inappropriate. Thus, while teachers on on e hand did not reach the levels of pedagogical complexity that the state assessments e nvisioned, test practice was not trivialized to the level of learning how to "fill i n the bubbles" either. The more performance-based assessments, in place in Maryland and Kentucky at the time of the study, may have discouraged this.Although teachers strongly expressed the notion tha t their lessons were first and foremost adapted to their students' ability and ach ievement levels, tests, new instructional programs, new curricula, and new text books reached deeply into many teachers' classrooms. But external pressures and di rections were multiple and often contradictory. In the survey, more than half of the teachers felt clearly directed by the accountability system. Observations show this clari ty much more laden with conflict. For all their resentment, many teachers, almost in passing, expressed habitual compliance with administrative mandates intended to align instruction with MSPAP. Although they saw the accountability system as unhe lpful and stacked against them, they did not reject it and did not outright condemn it. They truly served two masters. They wanted to concurrently accept the institutional wei ght of the state and be sensitive to the needs of their students, but the two pulled from op posite ends. Some teachers learned from this tension, but more frequently tension was diffused by discarding the state's directives by virtue of their unreasonableness, or by discarding students as uneducable. But the great majority adopted officially sanctione d programs as a defensive retreat that relieved them of dissonance and delegated the decis ions and responsibilities to a higher


20 of 30level. In all the schools, a main feature of instru ctional reform was the monitoring of surveillable behavior. A few teachers considered th is "good pressure" (F-18), but many experienced teachers thought it failed to attack th e real problems faced by the school, like this senior teacher: We are now held to certain standards and expectatio ns such as we have expectations for the students, the principal has so me and administration has expectations for us and she checks to make sure tha t these things are being done….In the past we've more or less been left to d o to our own task and like I used to be guilty of not writing lesson plan s. I'd come in, I knew what I wanted to teach….Really, the only thing I do diff erently now is write out…..But other than that, there's nothing I didn't do that I've changed. I still have my objectives, my outcomes, my warm-ups….That was all there before. (A-24)Instructional Change in the Four Kentucky SchoolsDescriptions of Kentucky classrooms are based on a smaller base of observations. Therefore Kentucky patterns are more anecdotal. Non e of the Kentucky teachers we visited in their classrooms reported instructional sea changes as a result of the state assessments. Most teachers described their instruct ional changes as "add[ing] skills here and there" (10-10, second grade math). Patterns of instruction in the small number of classrooms we visited in the Kentucky schools were very similar to the patterns encountered in the Maryland schools. Most lessons w ere taught on a basic level, some lessons were marginal. Changes mentioned by teachers bifurcated. There wer e those that had to do with alignment. Overall Kentucky interviewees seemed rel atively well informed about unique features of the system, most notably portfolios and writing prompts. Conceivably, with less staff fluctuation, professional development an d assessment-related training may have left their mark to a much larger degree than i n the Maryland schools. Highly Skilled Educators cautiously focused schools on key tasks of the reform, such as planning, portfolios, writing, and curriculum align ment. Most teachers said they tried to cover the core curriculum as best they could: Well, each school does an aligned curriculum, so th at's what I'm supposed to teach. That's my aspect of it….What we try to do is make sure that we have given them a thorough review for the test. We try to get as much through as possible. With the test, they give you r oughly what percentages, like 10 percent is going to be weather and stuff li ke that, so you say, "Well, okay, it's going to be 10 percent weather, so I can give them worksheets on weather and give them a project on weather." Things like that….(40-15, sixth grade science) But on the other hand, Kentucky schools had wide di scretion in selecting programs and strategies. For some teachers, instructional goals were to raise achievement on state assessments while many others revealed that the nee d to motivate students was a more persuasive influence on their decision making about instructional materials. Pressures from the school's accountability status did not see m to foreclose their own approaches and curriculum alignment left flexibility. Overall, being "in decline" did not exert a


21 of 30strong press towards broader instructional changes. One teachers weighted the effect of the "in decline" status this way: Yes and no. Yes because there are certain things th at I must do to... They have requirements now for us, like we have to do so many questions with the kids, like open response questions and things l ike that, so yes, it affects me in that way. The curriculum is not changed any. The curriculum is the same. If they were not here, if I'm doing my job, t hen I'd still be doing the same curriculum. Channel 11 was in here and they as ked the same question. They said, "What are you doing...blah blah blah?" A nd I said, "Well, the academics are still the same. It's just our account ability that's up for grabs right now." We have to show that we're doing these things by performing, jumping through certain hoops. But no, I don't thin k I'm a better teacher because I'm in decline trying harder…..I don't thin k I am doing anything different. I do post stuff, though, because I'm sup posed to. …..I didn't have all the nice little things that they give us, so no w I can label everything I do…. We have to succeed on a test that the students take. …..The students will take the test, but their grades are going to h ave to be high enough that we succeed. (40-16) Neither in the Maryland nor in the Kentucky classro oms did we encounter much of the mind-numbing test drill and practice that have been reported from accountability systems in which traditional basic skills tests hav e become high-stakes.The Limits of SanctionsIncentives and sanctions are the linchpin of a new generation of high-stakes accountability policies. I have explored how school s in pedagogically complex accountability systems responded to the signal of p robation. On the positive side, almost all of the eleven schools were modestly energized b y the label, at least at some point or from time to time. Teachers in all schools reported that they increased work effort and engagement in school improvement as a result of pre ssure and direction. Management in some schools tightened up, educators paid closer at tention to the state assessments, support from instructional specialists intensified, and the adoption of new programs, strategies, and projects accelerated. In this way, a number of schools were able to remedy some inefficiencies and provide more structu re to teachers than previously had been there.A look at MSPAP test scores across the seven school s from Maryland during the post-probationary period suggests as much. While tw o schools have made notable strides on the MSPAP test in the areas of math and reading since becoming "reconstitution-eligible," for the majority MSPAP p erformance in these key areas has either seen a very modest increase or decline, but mostly stagnancy. Additionally, schools have been plagued with year-to-year score f luctuations. But all seven schools arrested decline in the first years after identific ation. In all these respects, our sample resembles the overall patterns identified for all M aryland schools on probation in the 1996 and 1998 cohorts. We concluded from this analy sis that probation may foremost be a tool to arrest decline in persistently low-perfor ming schools, but it may not produce large gains. By remedying gross inefficiencies, man y schools are able to "harvest the low-hanging fruit," as one of my colleagues calls t his stage, but they make few further


22 of 30inroads into the territory of instruction.Had the assessments been less complex and more basi c skills oriented, probation may have "worked" better, that is, the pressure of the stigma combined with various control strategies and program standardization I described earlier could have produced an intensification of instruction based on already exi sting competencies and instructional formats. But pressure is a double-edged sword. It m ay challenge people to increase work effort, but also make them want to leave if they do not value the pressure as serving a worthy purpose. Increasing pressure would have exac erbated the already immense problem of job commitment in the studied schools. M oreover, teachers knew that they did not face too much competition for work places t hat many outsiders viewed as unattractive. Hence, as to sanctions, most teachers called the states' bluff. Principals, however, standing in for the accountability of the organization, felt differently. Probation was not working well as a tool for instru ctional reform. To begin with, majorities of teachers did not find the standards o f the accountability systems meaningful for their work as educators. Being "unfa irly" branded as "deficient" by a system that was seen as insensitive to the needs of their disadvantaged students, they in turn based their own sense of worth on personal rel ationships in their close-up environments. Rather than accepting criteria and ju dgments of the system, they felt singled out as the ones who had to carry the "blame for student learning and in turn externalized the causes for underperformance. Proba tion did instill in schools the notion that "something" had to be done, but in none of the schools did probation trigger elements of internal accountability, if this is to mean a process through which a faculty formulates its own expectations in light of student needs and high demands of the system, agrees upon formal structures that hold the m to account, and focuses improvement on identified key instructional deficie ncies. This kind of internalization process was neglected in the Kentucky schools, but forestalled in the Maryland schools. The rigidity p attern encountered in the latter is an example of what happens when high performance deman ds and top-down pressure meet low capacity schools. The result was a proliferatio n of control strategies that had the potential to turn classrooms into the opposite of w hat performance-based pedagogy intended. Being "in the fish bowl" most teachers ti ghtened up traditional lesson structures. Coverage and task completion reigned su preme and more group work and writing assignments were added. Looked at through t he perspective of the seven focal schools, the Maryland case illustrates the limits o f steering educational reform through incentives and sanctions placed on outcomes without an instructional technology that facilitated the alignment of demanding outcomes wit h curricula and materials and provided a bridge to student needs. The state also left capacity building largely in the hands of local districts, with the result that exte rnal demands and pressures fell upon wholly unprepared schools that reacted with rigidit y, rather than learning. In the Kentucky cases these responses were avoided. Here, by contrast, higher capacity schools responded to a system that was less ambitious pedag ogically, more prescriptive as to alignment, and more supportive through the Highly S killed Educator feature. But there are success cases among the Maryland scho ols on probation. And one of the moving schools in our sample may give us an idea of what went into their improvement: an experienced principal, exceptional instructional specialists with data analysis, curriculum development, and coaching abilities, and additional resources provided by the district. And yet, prospects for the school are dimmed. Leaders exit, and without a


23 of 30process that involves all faculty members as respon sible and committed actors, rather than mere implementers, the school may find itself at a loss again. The accountability systems in both states operate o n the assumption of organizational stability. Only this assumption makes it legitimate to publicly expose putative deficiencies of whole schools based on year-to-year comparisons of schoolwide test scores. The reality of the 11 schools on probation selected for the study is, however, quite different. These schools were, on the whole, hard and challenging work environments that educated large numbers of student s considered at risk. Particularly the 7 Maryland schools faced instability due high teach er and administrator turn-over, and increasing proportions of inexperienced teachers wh ich first and foremost raises the specter of student discipline problems and social i nstability. But the Kentucky schools as well were beset with high student mobility rates an d changing student in-take or attendance zones, changes that were outside of thei r control. Under these conditions, continuous improvement was an impossibility due to the schools' lack of organizational continuity. Thus, many of the schools, particularly in Maryland, needed baseline stabilization first before they could embark on amb itious instructional reforms. The responsible actors for this kind of stabilization a re for the most part districts and states. Teachers themselves give us an idea of what is urge ntly needed. When asked to select among 10 priorities for school improvement, large m ajorities chose student discipline, teacher motivation, and teacher turn-over while not even ten percent believed that a new pedagogy should be first on the agenda.Note: I would like to thank Daria Buese, Kim Curtis Masako Nishio, Lea Plut-Pregelj, and Margaret Quintero for their assistance, as well an anonymous reviewer for very insightful comments. This research was supported by a grant from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Departme nt of Education (No. R308F70035). The views expressed in this article ar e mine.NotesSee the full report at www.gseis.ucla./faculty/mint rop, "Schools on Probation." 1. These were direct questions in the interviews and s cales derived from questionnaire items. (See Technical Report for deta ils at 2. Since many reconstitution-eligible (RE) schools in Maryland (including the seven selected schools) improved only marginally or not a t all after identification, punitive transfers of principals were frequent. In four of the seven schools in our selection, the RE designation was accompanied with an immediate change of the principal. Two of the four new principals did not s urvive their first year after RE designation, one was transferred after his second y ear. One school had a new principal every year for the three years of data co llection. In three schools, the long-term principals survived the RE designation, b ut they felt highly uncertain in their tenure. One of them subsequently lost her job and chose early retirement, leaving only two principals who survived RE designa tion in their assignments. One of those two retained his job against the expli cit wish of the state department to remove him and one retired two years after his s chool's probation designation. By comparison, across the four Kentucky schools, th e situation was more stable. Three of the four schools were headed by principals with long tenure in their schools. One school, by contrast, had a new princip al every year in the last six 3.


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26 of 30Meyer, M. W., & Zucker, L. G. (1989). Permanently failing organizations Newbury Park: Sage. Mintrop, H., & MacLellan, A. (2002). School improve ment plans in elementary and middle schools on probation. Elementary School Journal, 102 (4), 275 -300. Mintrop, H., MacLellan, A., & Quintero, M. F. (2001 ). School improvement plans in schools on probation: A comparative content analysi s across three accountability systems. Educational Administration Quarterly, 37 (2), 197 218. Mohrman, A. M., Jr. Mohrman, S. A., & Odden, A. R (1996). Aligning teacher compensation with systemic school reform: Skill -ba sed pay and group-based performance rewards. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 18 (1), 51-71. Newmann, F. M., King, M. B., & Rigdon, M. (1997). A ccountability and school performance: Implications from restructuring school s. Harvard Educational Review, 67 (1), 41-74. Noble, A. J., & Smith, M. L. (1994). Old and New Be liefs about Measurement-Driven Reform: "Build It and They Will Come". Educational Policy, 8 (2), 111-136. O'Day, J. A., Goertz, M. E., & Floden, R. E. (1995) Building Capacity for Education Reform New Brunswick: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Rese arch and Improvement, Educational Resources Information Center. O'Day, J. A., & Smith, M. S. (1993). Systemic refor m and educational opportunity. In S. H. Fuhrman (Ed.), Designing coherent education policy: Improving the system (pp. 250-312). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Ofsted. (1997). From failure to success: How special measures are h elping schools improve London: Office of Standards in Education. Pankratz, R. S., & Petrosko, J. M. (Eds.). (2000). All children can learn: Lessons from the Kentucky reform experience San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Peterson, P., Rabe, B., & Wong, K. (1991). The matu ration of redistributive programs. In A. Odden (Ed.), Education policy implementation (pp. 65-80). Albany, NY: Suny Press. Porter, L., Lawler, E., & Hackman, R. (1975). Behavior in organizations New York: McGraw-Hill. Quality Counts 2001. (2001). Quality Counts 2001: A Better Balance. Education Week, 20 (17), 8-193. Reynolds, D. (1996). Turning round ineffective scho ols. In D. Gray, D. Reynolds, C. Fitz-Gibbon, & D. Jesson (Eds.), Merging Traditions: The Future of research on school effectiveness and school improvement London: Cassell. Rosenholtz, S. (1991). Teachers' work place: The social organization of sc hools New


27 of 30York: Teachers College Press. Shamir, B. (1991). Meaning, self, and motivation in organizations. Organization Studies, 12 (3), 405-424. Sklar, L., Scheurich, J., & Johnson, F. (2000). Equity-driven, achievement-focused school districts: A report on systemic school succe ss in four Texas school districts serving diverse student populations Austin, TX: Charles A. Dana Center. Spillane, J. P., & Jennings, N. E. (1997). Aligned instructional policy and ambitious pedagogy. Teachers College Record, 98 449-481. Spillane, J. P., & Zeuli, J. S. (1999). Reform and teaching: Exploring patterns of practice in the context of national and state mathematics re form. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21 1-27. Staw, B. M., Lance, E., & Dutton, J. (1981). Threat -rigidity effects in organizational behavior: A multilevel analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 26 501-524. Tannenbaum, A. (1970). The group in organizations. In V. Vroom & E. Deci (Eds.), Management and motivation (pp. 218-225). Harmondsworth, GB: Penguin. Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Wilcox, B., & Gray, J. (1996). Inspecting Schools: Holding schools to account and helping schools to improve. Buckingham: Open University Press. Wong, K., Anagnostopoulos, D., Rutledge, S., Lynn, L., & Dreeben, R. (1999). Implementation of an educational accountability age nda: Integrated governance in the Chicago public schools enters its fourth year Chicago: University of Chicago. Department of Education. Wong, K. K., Anagnostopoulos, D., & Rutledge, S. (1 998). Accomodation and conflict: The implementation of Chicago's probation and recon stitution policies (Paper presented at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the Associa tion for Public Policy Analysis and Management ). New York: Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.About the AuthorHeinrich Mintrop Graduate School of Education & Information Studies3335 Moore HallBox 951521University of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles, CA. 90095Ph: (310) 794-7477Fax (310) 206-6293E-mail: mintrop@ucla.eduHeinrich Mintrop was a teacher in both the United S tates and Germany before he entered


28 of 30 into his academic career. Currently he is an assist ant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He explores how education policies form institutional structures that in turn shape teaching and learning in schools. He is particularly interested in the tension between student achieveme nt and citizenship, accountability and democratization in educational systems across t he world. He recently published "Changing Core Beliefs and Practices Through System ic Reform: The Case of Germany After the Fall of Socialism" in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (1999) and co-authored with Bruno Losito, CEDE Italy, "The Tea ching of Civic Education," a chapter in the IEA Report on Civic Education in 28 Countries (2001). In recent years, Dr. Mintrop has turned to the issue of school accou ntability with emphasis on policies that support school improvement in low-performing s chools. This work has so far produced a number of articles and book chapters. A book at Teachers College Press on Low-Performing Schools Facing High Stakes is forthcoming.Copyright 2003 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Greg Camilli Rutgers University Linda Darling-Hammond Stanford University Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Gustavo E. Fischman California State Univeristy–Los Angeles Richard Garlikov Birmingham, Alabama Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute ofTechnology Patricia Fey Jarvis Seattle, Washington Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Les McLean University of Toronto Heinrich Mintrop University of California, Los Angeles Michele Moses Arizona State University Gary Orfield Harvard University


29 of 30 Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Jay Paredes Scribner University of Missouri Michael Scriven University of Auckland Lorrie A. Shepard University of Colorado, Boulder Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Kevin Welner University of Colorado, Boulder Terrence G. Wiley Arizona State University John Willinsky University of British ColumbiaEPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico)Departamento de InvestigacinEducativa-DIE/ Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande doSul-UFRGSlucemb@orion.ufrgs.brJavier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma Marcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Angel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)American Institutes for Resesarch–Brazil(AIRBrasil)


30 of 30 Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los

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