Accountability has been a major feature of educational policy making across the globe, including in the US where there is a persistent focus on student achievement results. This paper examines how accountability influences organizational routines in US schools, paying particular attention to meeting routines. We draw upon in-depth qualitative data gathered in four urban middle schools in which approximately 40 math teachers were engaged in collaboration and data use in order to improve instruction. Over a period of 3 years, we conducted extensive observations of teacher team meetings and interviews with teachers and administrators. An analysis of data reveals that many meetings were dominated by organizational routines that reflected state accountability systems, regardless of whether the topic was assessment, curricular pacing, or planning. At times, teachers and administrators made attempts to shift meeting routines from test-based accountability to a focus on instruction and professional accountability; however, existing routines endured. The findings from this study have important implications for thinking through whether and how the field may move towards more intelligent forms of accountability in the presence of external demands and deeply embedded patterns.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Achinstein, B. (2002). Conflict amid community: The micropolitics of teacher collaboration. Teachers College Record,104(3), 421–455.
Braaten, M., Bradford, C., Kirchgasler, K. L., & Barocas, S. F. (2017). How data use for accountability undermines equitable science education. Journal of Educational Administration,55(4), 427–446.
Bryk, A., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
Christman, J. B., Neild, R. C., Bulkley, K., Blanc, S., Liu, R., Mitchell, C., et al. (2009). Making the most of interim assessment data. Lessons from Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Research for Action.
Coburn, C. E., & Turner, E. O. (2011). Research on data use: A framework and analysis. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives,9(4), 173–206.
Conway, P. F., & Murphy, R. (2013). A rising tide meets a perfect storm: New accountabilities in teaching and teacher education in Ireland. Irish Educational Studies,32(1), 11–36.
Daly, A. J. (2009). Rigid response in an age of accountability: The potential of leadership and trust. Educational Administration Quarterly,45(2), 168–216.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2004). Standards, accountability, and school reform. Teachers College Record,106(6), 1047–1085.
Darling-Hammond, L., Wilhoit, G., & Pittenger, L. (2014). Accountability for college and career readiness: Developing a new paradigm. Education Policy Analysis Archives,22, 86.
Datnow, A., & Hubbard, L. (2015). Teacher capacity for and beliefs about data use: A review of international research. Journal of Educational Change,17, 7–26.
Datnow, A., & Park, V. (2019). Professional collaboration with purpose: Teacher learning for equitable and excellent schools. New York: Routledge.
Diamond, J. B. (2012). Accountability policy, school organization, and classroom practice: Partial recoupling and educational opportunity. Education and Urban Society,44(2), 151–182.
Diamond, J. B., & Cooper, K. (2007). The uses of testing data in urban elementary schools: Some lessons from Chicago. National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook,106(1), 241–263.
Dillabough, J. A. (1999). Gender politics and conceptions of the modern teacher: Women, identity and professionalism. British Journal of Sociology of Education,20(3), 373–394.
Farley-Ripple, E., & Buttram, J. (2015). The development of capacity for data use: The role of teacher networks in an elementary school. Teachers College Record,117(4), 1–34.
Feldman, M. S., & Pentland, B. T. (2003). Reconceptualizing organizational routines as a source of flexibility and change. Administrative Science Quarterly,48(1), 94–118.
Firestone, W. A., & González, R. A. (2007). Culture and processes affecting data use in school districts. In P. A. Moss (Ed.), Evidence and decision making. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (pp. 132–154). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Hargreaves, A. (1994). Changing teachers, changing times: Teachers’ work and culture in the postmodern age. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hargreaves, A., & O’Connor, M. T. (2018). Collaborative professionalism: When teaching together means learning for all. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Hatch, T. (2013). Beneath the surface of accountability: Answerability, responsibility and capacity-building in recent education reforms in Norway. Journal of Educational Change,14(2), 113–138.
Honig, M. I., & Venkateswaran, N. (2012). School–central office relationships in evidence use: Understanding evidence use as a systems problem. American Journal of Education,118(2), 199–222.
Horn, I., Kane, B., & Wilson, B. (2015). Making sense of student performance data: Data use logics and mathematics teachers’ learning opportunities. American Educational Research Journal,52(2), 208–242.
Kelchtermans, G. (2006). Teacher collaboration and collegiality as workplace conditions. A review. Zeitschrift fur padagogik,52(2), 220.
Lipman, P. (2004). High stakes education: Inequality, globalization, and urban school reform. New York: Routledge Falmer Press.
Little, J. W. (1990). The persistence of privacy: Autonomy and initiative in teachers’ professional relations. Teachers College Record,91(4), 509–536.
Little, J. W. (2012). Understanding data use practices among teachers: The contribution of micro-process studies. American Journal of Education,118(2), 143–166.
Marsh, J. A. (2012). Interventions promoting educators’ use of data: Research insights and gaps. Teachers College Record,114(11), 1–48.
Mausethagen, S., Prøitz, T., & Skedsmo, G. (2018). Teachers’ use of knowledge sources in ‘result meetings’: Thin data and thick data use. Teachers and Teaching,24(1), 37–49.
Means, B., Padilla, C., & Gallagher, L. (2010). Use of education data at the local level: From accountability to instructional improvement. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.
O’Neill, O. (2013). Intelligent accountability in education. Oxford Review of Education,39(1), 4–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2013.764761.
Sahlberg, P. (2007). Education policies for raising student learning: The Finnish approach. Journal of Education Policy,22(2), 147–171.
Schildkamp, K., & Poortman, C. (2015). Factors influencing the functioning of data teams. Teachers College Record,117(4), 1–42.
Spillane, J. (2014). The practice of instructional improvement: Improvement, (infra)structure, & instruction. Presentation at the International Congress of School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Yoygakarta, Indonesia.
Spillane, J. P. (2012). Data in practice: Conceptualizing the data-based decision-making phenomena. American Journal of Education,118(2), 113–141. https://doi.org/10.1086/663283.
Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change,7(4), 221–258.
Vangrieken, K., Dochy, F., Raes, E., & Kyndt, E. (2015). Teacher collaboration: A systematic review. Educational Research Review,15, 17–40.
Vescio, V., Ross, D., & Adams, A. (2008). A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning. Teaching and Teacher Education,24(1), 80–91.
Yin, R. (2013). Case study research (5th ed.). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305H150028 to University of California, San Diego. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education. We wish to sincerely thank the participants of this study who gave generously of their time to share their experiences with us and welcomed us into their work settings. We also wish to thank Enikö Zala-Mezö, Sølvi Lillejord, the participants of the Oxford Symposium on Intelligent Accountability, and anonymous reviewers for their feedback on earlier drafts.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Datnow, A., Lockton, M. & Weddle, H. Redefining or reinforcing accountability? An examination of meeting routines in schools. J Educ Change 21, 109–134 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-019-09349-z
- Teacher collaboration
- Educational change
- Data use