Date of Award

Fall 12-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Jay Paredes Scribner

Committee Member

Karen L. Sanzo

Committee Member

Jonna L. Bobzien


The education landscape has been inundated in recent decades with a plethora of accountability measures. New mandates and processes are conceived at the hands of policymakers, and concepts such as power and values are at the core of accountability changes. The purpose of this research study was to uncover the web of unwritten structures and systems in place that influence the educational accountability policy process using complexity theory as the guiding theoretical framework (Shoup & Studer, 2010). Complexity theory dispels the notion of simplistic cause and effect relationships as predictors for accountability trends, and, instead, posits the multiplicity of factors that lead to decisions and outcomes. Particular attention was paid to the role values played in stakeholders’ motivations and their uses of power (Fowler, 2013; Lukes, 2005; Shoup and Studer, 2010).

This qualitative case study design examined the values that motivated policy decisions around landmark accountability mandates in Virginia over a twenty-year span and uncovered how and in what ways educational stakeholders attempted to influence the degree of decision-making. Data collection included numerous interviews beginning with an initial group of stakeholders who were privy to accountability decisions. Snowball sampling was then used to identify additional interviewees. In addition, a variety of press releases, public documents, and media articles were analyzed to understand the public narrative. Findings revealed how values and power were driving factors in decision-making and how stakeholders work toward the policy goals. Further, findings illustrate how societal values can work in tandem or in opposition in the pursuit of policy goals and how stakeholders utilize distinct sources of power available to them with disparate effect.


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Copyright, 2022, by Angela M. Rhett, All Rights Reserved