School Governance Structure, School Leadership, and Student Achievement: Cross-National Evidence from the 2015 PISA

Year: 2018

Author: Luschei, Thomas, Jeong, Dong Wook

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The 1990s and early 2000s witnessed a global trend in decentralization of educational governance, in which teachers gained increasing responsibility over school wide decisions (Eurydice, 2008). Yet during this period educational governance in the United States moved in the opposite direction, as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002 increased the federal role in decision-making and, in the eyes of many, constrained teachers’ professional decision making and autonomy (e.g., Barrett, 2009). During this period, several European countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, and the United Kingdom, also moved toward centralization in the form of standards-based accountability (Eurydice, 2008).
Cross-national evidence indicates that the impact of decentralization to a lower level of educational governance varies across contexts and domains of decision making (e.g., Fuchs & Woessmann, 2007). However, such cross-national research often considers school-level decision making as monolithic, rather than involving distinct power-sharing arrangements across actors within schools. As a result, there is little international evidence regarding how decentralization influences decision making relationships within schools, and whether certain school-level actors are better able to mobilize increased authority to improve student achievement.
In this study, we use rich cross-national data from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to examine school governance arrangements across 68 countries and education systems,1 and to assess whether differences in these patterns are significantly related to cross-national differences in student achievement. Specifically, we explore the following research questions:
1. How do school governance structures vary across 68 diverse countries participating in the 2015 PISA?
2. How do differences in school governance structures relate to differences in student achievement within and across these countries?
Our results indicate that increasing the role of teachers in school governance can have positive impacts on student achievement, but teachers must have sufficient capacity—in the form of higher education levels—to positively mobilize their increasing authority. Government involvement in school governance appears to have little or even a negative relationship with student achievement. In contrast, the influence of principals and school boards—a stakeholder group that has been the subject of very little cross-national research—appears to vary according to context, and appears to be most positive where resources are scarce, including in developing countries (for school boards) and in schools where average educational attainment of teachers is low.