The purpose of this paper is to investigate how principals and school supervisory authorities understand and use feedback from mandatory proficiency tests (VERA) in the…
The purpose of this paper is to investigate how principals and school supervisory authorities understand and use feedback from mandatory proficiency tests (VERA) in the low-stakes context of Germany. For the analysis, the authors refer to a theoretical model of schools that differentiates between Autonomous and Managed Professional Organisations (Thiel, 2008a).
The empirical basis of the qualitative research are contrastive case studies which are focusing on individual schools and on school supervisory authorities. The selection of cases was oriented on Theoretical Sampling according to Glaser and Strauss (2005). For the analysis, the authors used a sample of upper track secondary schools (Gymnasien), four from Berlin and five each from Thuringia, Brandenburg and Baden-Wuerttemberg. In total, the authors conducted 229 structured interviews over two periods in 19 schools with different protagonists on all levels of the educational system (principals, heads of subject departments, teachers and school supervisory officials). The interview data were descriptively analysed according to procedures of qualitative content analyses (Mayring, 2010).
The analyses show a clear tendency in the direction of the Autonomous Professional Organisation within the context of VERA. However, some principals reported activities according to a Managed Professional Organisation. The traditional decoupling remains and the supervisory authorities retain their picture of the individual school as an Autonomous Professional Organisation. Both levels have a major deficit in a competent use of VERA and lack profound experience with accountability and evaluation processes.
The sampling has certain restraints: schools of a particular type, few schools within one state, four of 16 states.
Even though German test-based school reforms have been in progress for one decade, systematic analyses of the reform’s relevance for leadership and for school supervisory authorities’ actions in a low-stakes context have not been conducted yet. The analysis meets this lack of research with an explorative reconstruction of principal leadership within the context of test-based school reform as well as the corresponding school supervisory officials.