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School Leadership, Control & Accountability

The control and accountability of teachers and their work in schools has long been the subject of controversy, research, and reform. Two opposing views have dominated this issue. Are schools decentralized places where teachers work with little supervision or accountability, as some claim? Or are they overly centralized places with too much top-down bureaucracy restricting teachers, as others argue? And what difference, if any, does this issue make in how well schools function?

To resolve this debate, Professor Ingersoll undertook a series of studies that focused on several key questions: Who makes the crucial decisions concerning the education of the young? How much “voice” and input do teachers have in school decisions? How much autonomy do they have in their classrooms, and how much does teacher independence vary among different types of schools? Do these factors make any difference?

Professor Ingersoll’s research has examined the degree to which schools are centralized or decentralized and the extent to which these organizational conditions vary across different types of schools. He has investigated the kinds and forms of workplace controls that exist in schools and the extent of classroom autonomy held by teachers. Finally, his research has examined what impact the degree of organizational centralization, accountability, and control has on teachers and students in schools. He has documented that schools in which teachers have greater input into school decision-making have significantly fewer student behavior problems, higher teacher retention, and better student achievement. An early article by Professor Ingersoll on this topic won several honors, including the Braverman Award, sponsored by the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and an Honorable Mention in the competition for the Thompson Award, sponsored by the Sociology of Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the American Sociological Association.

His subsequent book, Who Controls Teachers’ Work? Power and Accountability in America’s Schools, was published by Harvard University Press in 2003. The following year, the book received the Outstanding Writing Award for a Book from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. His publications on this topic have been cited more than 2,000 times, and his articles and essays have been downloaded more than 5,700 times from the University of Pennsylvania’s Scholarly Commons website.


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