High-Stakes Accountability: External Forces’ Influence on New York City High School Principals’ Experiences

Michele Rene Williams, Fordham University


Over the past 20 years with the advent of externally imposed high-stakes accountability policies, there was an increase in principal turnovers, school failures, restructures, closures, and new education business markets in African American and Latinx districts. Public school failures were blamed on practitioners. A historical, socio-political review of the literature showed there was a need for more research that examined the association of external forces’ influence of high-stakes accountability policies on principals in these districts. The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to understand how the use of accountability policies by external forces influenced the experiences and perceptions of 12 retired New York City principals who worked in high-poverty, minority schools. Policy scholarship and organizational control framed the study and highlighted the socio-political, power dynamics, and historical contexts of accountability faced by principals. The analysis of the principals’ experiences led to findings that revealed how these external policies were incoherent and not aligned to the reality of schooling, expanded education inequities, and created disadvantaged learning conditions. This study concluded that principals were under increased oversight and restrictive policies that undermined their schools’ improvement efforts. The coercive power of the policies and threats against schools influenced principals’ decision making towards meeting the external policy goals of the system, while they worked to mitigate its effects on their schools’ learning cultures.

Subject Area

Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Williams, Michele Rene, "High-Stakes Accountability: External Forces’ Influence on New York City High School Principals’ Experiences" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28415097.