Why Do Opt-Out Movements Succeed (or Fail) in Low- Stakes Accountability Systems? A Case Study of the Network of Dissident Schools in Catalonia

External and standardized assessments based on student results are a contested education
policy among school actors. Movements of opposition have emerged in different countries,
especially in those contexts with high-stakes accountability systems. However, this phenomenon has
not been analyzed in soft accountability systems. The objective of this article is to study the opt-out
movement in Catalonia, understood as an anti-standardization movement in a system of soft
accountability. In order to do so, we adopt the case study approach as a methodological strategy,
based on the triangulation of semi-structured interviews with activists (n = 14), key stakeholders (n =
3), and document and press analysis (n = 25). The results shed light on the emergence and nature of
the movement, its opportunity structures, the discursive frames and the repertoires of collective
action. Our results show how accountability instruments have a ‘life of their own’ beyond their
policy design. In this sense, the opt-out movement in Catalonia identifies potential risks and adverse
effects similar to those reported in high-stakes systems, developing a repertoire of collective action
and discursive frames similar to other emerging anti-standardization movements in high-stakes