Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Assessing Public Sector Performance Reforms and the Plight of Disadvantaged Citizens

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Assessing Public Sector Performance Reforms and the Plight of Disadvantaged Citizens

Article excerpt


Efforts to enhance the quality of public services received by vulnerable citizens have increasingly relied on the use performance management techniques. Most recently Race to the Top allowed to states to compete for over $4 billion based on their ability to expand the use of performance management elements in a manner that enhanced the quality of education receive by vulnerable students. This served as a complement to the more controversial and mandatory No Child Left Behind Act which invested millions of dollars into the development of accountability models that required states to demonstrate significant progress in the performance of vulnerable racial and economic student groups and to provide these students with a higher and more equitable quality of education (Patrick, 2012; Wong, 2008). Like other reform efforts, the legislation focused on performance measures and accountability as effective means for improving vulnerable student outcomes but fail to adequately consider the environment in which measures would be developed and implementation.

Light (2006, 7) noted the importance of environmental considerations as well as the dangers of investing in unsubstantiated claims of performance reform success and posited there needed to be "a moratorium on new reforms until an independent body can complete a detailed examination of just how past reforms have worked." Such an examination is particularly important as it relates to the understudied impact that performance policies have on the lives of the most vulnerable citizens who are largely dependent on elected officials and administrators to create policies that promote equality and efficacy.

Given the significance and understudied impact that performance reform policies have on the lives of vulnerable citizens, this research responds to Light's call by examining the development and sanctioning provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) which targeted the performance of racial minorities, the economically disadvantaged, and other vulnerable student subgroups. More specifically, it assess two questions: did the organizational and political environment influence the strength of states' NCLB subgroup accountability provisions targeting the performance of vulnerable students and does the presence of strong subgroup accountability provisions enhance performance?

Other studies assessing performance management reforms in education have advanced knowledge in this area but encountered limitations in their ability to adequately captured policymakers' efforts to target the performance of vulnerable racial and economically disadvantaged groups. Patrick and French's (2011) informative study assessed general, not subgroup NCLB accountability provision and found no significant increase in performance under the legislation. By neglecting to include subgroup accountability provisions, they limited the ability to assess NLCB's primary goal of targeting the performance of vulnerable students. Carnoy (2005) developed and accountability measure largely capturing states' efforts to primarily hold students, not teachers and administrators, accountable under the Clinton Administration and found a weak negative relationship between strong state accountability systems and graduation and progression rates. Hanushek and Raymond (2003) three group state classification system found that as states moved from no accountability to implementing some form of rewards and sanctions test scores improved. These and other studies (Nichols et. al., 2005; Carnoy and Loeb, 2002; Swanson and Stevenson, 2002; Braun, 2004) assessed education accountability but encountered limitations due to some states not operating under a functional accountability model targeting teachers and administrators in general, and not holding them accountable for vulnerable students' performance specifically.

Building on these studies (Patrick, 2012; Patrick and French, 2011; Carnoy and Loeb, 2002; Nichols et al. …

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