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School reform: Accountability, data use, and the principal

Carrie E Glenn, Johnson & Wales University


Many school systems and local governments have demanded that accountability systems be established. With the passage of Article 31 in 1997 by the Rhode Island legislature, the mechanics for a system are now in place for Rhode Island schools and districts. The legislation, designed to ensure that the public and schools are provided with information about students' needs and how schools organize resources to meet those needs, mandates that principals are given data about their schools so they can make informed decisions to improve their schools' performance. In Rhode Island, two data rich documents contain information relative to schools' capacity for reform. These documents are School Accountability for Learning and Teaching (SALT) and InfoWorks!. These two documents are designed to provide Rhode Island school principals with the data they need in order to make decisions that will create increased capacity within their schools for reform. The purpose of this study was to examine (1) how urban elementary principals use the data provided in the state's data sources, SALT and InfoWorks!—specifically, what themes and patterns of use emerge; (2) the obstacles that principals encounter as they use these data sources to inform their decision-making. The study was qualitative in design and investigated principals' use of these data sources through an open-ended and semi-structured interview process. To create an interview protocol, a pilot test was conducted with a focus group of six urban elementary school principals from a district not included in this study. Based on the results of the focus group discussion, a semi-structured content-valid interview protocol was developed. Interviews were then conducted with a purposefully selected sample of urban elementary school principals, recommended by their superintendents. The data from the interviews were coded and analyzed to show patterns and relationships. Key variables emerged that related specifically to principals' use of the SALT and InfoWorks! data and the barriers encountered in the context of making decisions. Based upon these variables, the researcher developed an eight-step action plan to address the concerns raised in this study and made specific recommendations for further research.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education|Educational software

Recommended Citation

Glenn, Carrie E, "School reform: Accountability, data use, and the principal" (2001). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3042728.