Structure and Functions of the Accountability Department in Virginia Sschool Divisions

Cai, Qijie, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Duke, Daniel, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Deutsch, Nancy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Esposito, James, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has required school districts to perform a Variety of functions in order to achieve educational accountability. Many districts have reorganized their central offices and created special units to handle these functions. Using a mixed methods research design, this study explored the structure and functions of Accountability Departments in Virginia school divisions. The study involved two phases. The first phase consisted of two case studies and a cross - case comparative analysis in which the Accountability Departments from two Virginia school divisions were described and compared. Data were collected through onsite interviews and a review of documents. Both similarities and differences were identified for the two Accountability Departments. Moreover, evidence showed that homogeneity in their characteristics may result from the institutional isomorphic mechanisms, such as coercive and normative pressures, as well as mimetic mechanisms (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). In the second phase of the study, a checklist survey was administered to a sample of 32 Accountability Departments in Virginia school divisions in order to collect quantitative data on the structures and functions of these departments. The checklists were completed by the Directors of Accountability Departments. Descriptive statistical analysis showed that, for the functions on the checklist, the Accountability Departments were most similar in their involvement in state testing programs; the most differences were found in the departments' involvement in helping schools develop and identify high - quality curriculum. Two subgroups were identified from the sample. Subgroup 1 included 13 Accountability Departments from large school divisions. Subgroup 2 consisted of 10 Accountability Departments selected from small school divisions. A series of comparative analyses using t tests showed that Subgroup 1 had significantly lower involvement than Subgroup 2 in four functional areas: helping schools with curriculum, instructional strategies, parental involvement, and teacher quality. The findings of this study were discussed in light of organization theories. The theory of institutional isomorphism helps explain certain similarities among the Accountability Departments. Variation in the departments may be associated with the size of department and school division, as suggested by the theory of structuralism. Recommendations about how to organize accountability functions at the division level were provided for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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