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Laura Mentini, Antonina Levatino (2023)
A "three-legged model": (De)constructing school autonomy, accountability, and innovation in the Italian National Evaluation System

The widespread adoption of school autonomy with accountability reforms in education has generated debate regarding the relationship between autonomy, innovation and accountability. While at the policy design level, these three elements are highly related, several authors highlight the contradictions among them. By analyzing key documents and interviews, this paper aims to identify the program ontology behind the current Italian National Evaluation System (SNV), with a focus on the way in which autonomy, accountability and innovation have been conceptualized and linked together. The paper also aims to explore whether pitfalls and/or tensions exist that might hamper the achievement of the SNV goals. The findings highlight the peculiarities of the Italian autonomy with accountability system, which has resulted from the involvement of different stakeholders in the design and implementation of the reforms. The findings also reveal contradictions regarding some of its premises. Various rationales (improvement, efficiency, equity and transparency) emerge that seem to have acted as drivers of the reforms, however, the influence of globalizing discourses on international competition and the benefits of datafication also appears significant. A number of contextual aspects are finally considered which hamper the expected change mechanisms, highlighting the discontinuous ground in which such policy dispositifs operate.
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Antoni Verger, Clara Fontdevila, Llu铆s Parcerisa (2022)
Constructing School Autonomy with Accountability as a Global Policy Model: A Focus on OECD's Governance Mechanisms

This chapter aims at understanding the role of the OECD in the development and international dissemination of SAWA policies. Specifically, the chapter analyses the governance mechanisms through which these reforms are being promoted by the OECD, namely, data gathering, education policy evaluation, and the generation of policy ideas through different knowledge products and policy spaces. Methodologically, the chapter is based on a systematic literature review of a corpus of 33 papers, which we triangulate with official documents produced by the OECD. The chapter is structured as follows. In the first part, we present our research framework, which covers both our theoretical approach and our methods. In the second part, we present our main results, which we organize according to the different governance mechanisms articulated by the OECD around SAWA reforms. In the last part, we pick up the main points in a concluding discussion.
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Marcel Pag猫s, Gerard Ferrer Esteban, Antoni Verger, Miriam Prieto Egido (2022)
At the crossroad of performativity and the market: Schools' logics of action under post-bureaucratic and hybrid accountabilities

School systems are shifting towards forms of post-bureaucratic governance (PBG), implying higher levels of school autonomy, choice, and performancebased management. Under this governance approach, which combines forms of administrative and market accountability, schools face greater levels of competition and external pressure to perform. Schools experience such pressures unevenly and address them through different responses. The paper develops a mixed-methods case study conducted in Madrid, a Spanish region where PBG reform has intensified in the last decades, and proposes a novel index to position schools within their reference local education markets. The results show that schools articulate a broad range of logics of action, largely interrelated with their position in the education marketplace. We also show that schools’ responses to external pressures are dynamic and marked by tensions of a different nature, which schools need to navigate, often without sufficient support from public authorities.
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Antonina Levatino (2021)
Surveying principals and teachers: Methodological insights into the design of the REFORMED questionnaires

This note describes the methodology behind the design of the REFORMED Survey questionnaires. The Survey constitutes one of the main pillars of REFORMED RS2 which is aimed at exploring the intricate relationship between SAWA policies, contextual contingencies and policy enactment dynamics. The aim of this note is essentially twofold. On the one hand, it provides detailed information on the key concepts used in RS2 as well as the theoretical underpinnings and content of the questionnaires. On the other hand, it presents a detailed overview of the methodological steps followed to conceive and develop them. The information contained in this note is relevant for those researchers who want to use the data collected through the REFORMED Survey. It also provides useful methodological insights that can be valuable for those who want to undertake similar research endeavours.
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Marcel Pag猫s, Miriam Prieto Egido (2020)
The instrumentation of global education reforms: an analysis of school autonomy with accountability policies in Spanish education

This paper analyses, from the perspective of the political sociology of policy instruments, the adoption and re-contextualisation of School Autonomy with Accountability (SAWA) reforms in Spain, with a particular focus on the region of Madrid. Over the last few decades, Madrid has adopted a wide range of education policies that have contributed to consolidate a market-oriented approach in the governance of the educational system. This paper analyses the instrumentation and complex interaction between standardised tests, test-based accountability, school choice and school autonomy in advancing this governance shift. The main objective of the paper is twofold: first, to trace the policy trajectory of SAWA reforms in Spain and Madrid, and second, to identify the rationale of the reform and its related policy ontology in relation to the selection and articulation of different policy instruments as well as the governance implications of these choices. Methodologically, we have conducted a policy analysis case study, analysing data from a set of 35 original interviews with education policymakers and key policy actors, combined with document analysis. The results of our research show how the policy preferences of domestic political actors and the legacies of the politico-administrative regimes mediate the final form and uses of the SAWA policy instruments. These policy instruments can be conceptualised as ‘life objects’ whose development and uses are attached to context specific – and sometimes contradictory – political objectives and rationales.
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Natalie Browes (2019)
The instrumentation of test-based accountability in the autonomous dutch system

Test-based accountability or ‘TBA,’ as a core element of the pervasive Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), has become a central characteristic of education systems around the world. TBA often comes in conjunction with greater school autonomy, enabling governments to assess ‘school quality’ (i.e. test results) from a distance. Often, quality improvement is further encouraged through the publication of these results. Research has investigated this phenomenon and its effects, much of it focusing on Anglo-Saxon cases. This paper, drawing on expert interviews and key policy documents, couples a policy borrowing with a policy instruments approach to critically examine how and why TBA has developed in the highly autonomous Dutch system. It finds that TBA evolved incrementally, advancing towards higher stakes for schools and boards. Further, it argues that school autonomy has been central to the development of TBA in two ways. Firstly, following a period of decentralisation that increased school(board) autonomy, the Dutch government saw a need to strengthen accountability to ensure education quality. This was influenced by international discourse and accelerated by a (politically exploited) national ‘quality crisis’ in education. Secondly, the traditionally autonomous Dutch system, shaped by ‘Freedom of Education’, has at times conflicted with TBA, and has played a significant role in (re)shaping global policy and in mitigating the GERM.
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