Assessing the Impact of Leadership Preparation in Two Distinct Testing and Accountability Policy Contexts (PRELEAD - project)

The project examines the values, goals, and practices of public school principals in two distinct political contexts – the United States and Norway.


The aim is to investigate what transpires in the field after universities bridge theoretical concepts about social justice and human rights with school principals’ practice, where one university is embedded in a high-stakes testing and accountability context (University of California, Berkeley) and the other is embedded in a low-stakes testing and accountability context (University of Oslo).


Public schools reflect our society’s values. Their images mirror which principles and norms a society has chosen to cultivate in their citizenry, as well as its deep-seated assumptions about the purposes of public schooling. When universities prepare practitioners to lead our schools, therefore, they engage in inherently value-laden processes. They privilege some goals for principals’ work over others. They stress which priorities should come first, and which may be secondary to the overall aims of their school.

When these leaders enter their schools the public trusts that principals will have the capacity to enact these values. But in what ways do schools’ political contexts enable or constrain public school leaders’ goals, hopes, and commitments? Which values survive, which change, and which are abandoned? As middle managers, school principals must mediate between the values that prevail in their local contexts and those that weigh on them from afar. They lead within a zone of mediation, that is, a site which requires them to test the limits of what the local public is willing to tolerate and the macro-level institutional systems in which their work is embedded. For some principals, these contexts may delimit their sphere of influence in unexpected ways. For others, they may expand these boundaries.

Project period: 2016 - 2019

The project is funded by the Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study

Meny på venstre side: (her skrevet inn med blå skrift)

Research Question

•       How do principals in each political setting define and understand democracy and social justice?

•       How do principals in each political setting make sense of each other's school contexts and practices?

In what ways do principals see the potential for sustaining equity and democracy as orientations when they confront different types of testing and accountability policies?

Which contextual conditions enable and constrain schools potential to promote democracy and social justice under test-based accountability policies?

Research Design

•       2 four-day analytical exchanges for 11 school principals, 5 alumni from an American university’s principal preparation program, 6 from a Norwegian university’s program. The principals serve as participants in the study. In each exchange, we will facilitate visits to the host principals’ schools, during which the research team and visiting principals will observe classrooms and interview other school leaders.

•       Pre-readings: educational policy contexts and political histories of each country

UC Berkeley (October, 2016)

University of Oslo (April, 2017)

•       3 focus group interviews per exchange

One composed of the Norwegian school principals

One composed of the American school principals

One joint focus group in which both sets of principals interact and discuss cross-cutting themes.

•       11 individual principal interviews


Project Organization

A collaborative project across University of Oslo and UC Berkeley: Professor Jorunn Møller will act as Principal Investigator for the Norwegian part of the project, and Associate Professor Tina Trujillo will act as a Principal Investigator for the American part of the project.

Project Group:

Associate Professor Tina Trujillo, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education

PhD student René Kissel, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education

Professor Jorunn Møller, University of Oslo, Dep. of Teacher Education and School Research

Associate Professor Ruth Jensen, University of Oslo, Dep. of Teacher Education and School Research

Research Fellow Eivind Larsen, University of Oslo, Dep. of Teacher Education and School Research

Publisert 19. mars 2018 19:30 - Sist endret 4. sep. 2019 11:24