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The Limits of Sanctions in Low-Performing Schools: A Study of Maryland and Kentucky Schools on Probation


This study focuses on how schools that have been labeled as "failing" respond to being placed on probation. It provides interesting "accounts" on the effect that probation has had on individual performance motivation, organizational processes, and patterns of instruction.

"The article reports on a study of 11 schools that were labeled as low-performing by the state accountability systems of Maryland and Kentucky, nationally known for complex performance-based assessments. The study shows that putting schools on probation only weakly motivated teachers because the assessments were largely perceived as unfair, invalid, and unrealistic. Administrators responded with control strategies that rigidified organizations, forestalling dialog and learning processes. Instructional reform developed only feebly. On the other hand, some schools remedied inefficiencies and were able to "harvest the low-hanging fruit." The schools struggled with severe problems of teacher commitment."