An exploratory analysis of federal accountability mandates and their influence on the role of the Texas school superintendent




Cavazos, Ronaldo Javier

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In June of 2001, the 107th Congress of the United States of America passed what is considered by many to be one of the most significant educational laws since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed in 1965. This new law, called the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), had a profound effect on the roles of school superintendents and increased their responsibility for the academic performance of students. No other leadership position in schools today is held more responsible for the success of its students than that of the superintendent.

The purpose of this study is to study the influence of the federal accountability mandates emerging from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 on the role of the superintendent. This exploratory research study was guided by the following three questions: 1) How do superintendents perceive the influence of federal mandates on their roles as school superintendent? 2) What do superintendents perceive as major reasons for any changes in their roles emanating from the implementation of federal mandates? 3) What type of strategies did superintendents develop and implement in order to address the new federal accountability mandates?

A qualitative methodology was used in this study and was based on the use of a grounded theory approach. In order to collect the data for this study, face-to-face interviews were conducted with five Texas public school superintendents that were actively working as superintendents at least 3 years before and after the implementation of NCLB in 2001. The data from these interviews was analyzed using the open, axial, and selective coding processes. (Creswell 2014). By using this methodology, the researcher was able to identify several major themes that identified how these federal mandates impacted the roles of the superintendent.

The findings from this study determined that superintendents needed to develop a string understanding of the federal accountability system resulting from NCLB and required them to reevaluate their responsibilities as the superintendent with regards to the impact of these new federal mandates on student academic performance. A second theme emerging from analysis of the data was the importance of superintendents as the instructional leaders of the district, to focus the entire organization on the new goals established by these federal mandates. Finally, the third theme emerging from the data was a strong sense of urgency on the part of the superintendent and the need to bring about immediate change in the organization.

This exploratory analysis is one of the only studies performed indicating how federal mandates resulting from NCLB influenced the roles of the school superintendent. While other studies have been conducted using quantitative approaches, this is one of the only studies conducted using a qualitative methodology to analyze the data from superintendents. The value of the data collected from face-to-face interviews with superintendents adds to our level of knowledge about the events resulting from the implementation of federal mandates and their impact on their roles as school superintendents.


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