Taming the Evaluation Monster

University essay from Handelshögskolan i Stockholm/Institutionen för redovisning och finansiering

Abstract: Purpose: This thesis aims to explore how public schools balance demands on public accountability with professional autonomy through design features and usage of Performance Measurement Systems. Research Approach: Case study data were obtained both through semi-structured interviews with teachers and school managers, and through formal steering documents from the governing municipality as well as from the respective schools. Findings: We find that both schools manage to create professional autonomy for their teachers, despite a coercive PMS by design. Autonomy is by both schools achieved through a high degree of "accounting absorption" by the respective principals, in attempts to shield the teachers from controlling elements. Looking deeper into the micro-dynamics of the principals translation processes, beyond absorption, we find that one principal pursues a full policy/practice decoupling in internal PMS-activities, while the other pursues "strategic filtering", where the formal PMS is reconfigured to suit the teacher profession logic. Although the reconfigured PMS in practice demands more of its users, it is perceived as less coercive than the decoupled PMS. These contrasts pave the way for discussions regarding practical implications of neo-managerial reform, especially concerning the symbolic value of any reform made in the name of "New Public Management". Originality/value: This thesis adds to the field of knowledge on how professionalism and managerialism stemming from NPM intersect in practice under neo-managerial reform. We especially add to this literature the importance of the top manager pursuing a "strategic filtering" when reconfiguring a coercive control system to suit the professional identity, as well as the importance of symbolism in carrying out neo-managerial reforms. Limitations: The case study is specifically focusing on two public schools, and only on steering stemming from the municipality. Thereby we exclude control chains from other public sector instances. The research is thus context specific, and the conclusions drawn in this thesis may differ within the public sector depending on type of organization, and type of steering chain analyzed.

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