First results of the principal survey in the Netherlands

Results of the principal survey, collected in the first year of the study, indicate that principals and teachers in both primary and secondary education generally report relatively high satisfaction with school inspections and little unintended consequences on the school level. Principals in primary schools that were inspected in the previous year seem to implement more changes in the school’s capacity to improve and in the achievement orientation of the school, compared to non-inspected schools. These changes were however not perceived by teachers; they perceive (a small amount of) more changes in the implementation of self-evaluations. Principals and teachers in primary schools in more intensive inspection arrangements also report of a higher use of inspection standards to set expectations, more actions of stakeholders in response to the inspection report, more actions to improve the school’s self-evaluation and more changes in the school’s capacity to improve.

Teachers in primary education seem to teach more to the inspection rubric (e.g. changing their pupil care and teaching strategies to meet inspection criteria) then to the (Cito)-test, whereas in secondary education this seems to be reversed and teachers indicate to teach more to the test then to the inspection rubric. Teachers in secondary education (in the final examination grade) for example indicate to prepare students for testing in the month before the test, they have students practice old exams, teach students general test-taking skills and explain questions from old exams during regular instruction throughout the year. They make sure tested topics are covered in their lesson plan and use items from previous exams in their classroom assessments.

Teachers in the (high stakes) testing grade 8 in primary education indicate more changes in learning time, clear and structured teaching and higher levels of teaching to the test compared to their colleagues in the (low stakes) grades 3 and 5.

Teachers and principals who are overall satisfied with school inspections generally use inspection standards and feedback to a somewhat larger extent in their daily work and to improve the school’s functioning. Principals and teachers (particularly in primary education) who indicate that inspection standards guide their daily work and who accept inspection feedback also indicate that school inspections promote self-evaluations and improvement actions in the school. Teachers who feel that inspections standards guide the daily work of the school perceive stakeholders to more frequently use the inspection standards and feedback in their actions towards the school. Teachers and principals (in primary education) who indicate that school inspections promote the implementation or improvement of self-evaluations in the school rate higher levels of innovation capacity in the school.