Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Education




Dr. Katina Pollock


This thesis explores how elementary school principals in the Canadian province of Ontario manage multiple accountability expectations in their work. My conceptual framework is based on seven different accountability systems that can influence principals' work: bureaucratic, moral, political, professional, market, legal, and performance-based. This interpretive, qualitative study consisted of 12 semi-structured interviews, approximately sixty minutes in length, with principals from two urban Ontario school boards.

The amount of demands placed on elementary principals by various forms of accountability--including mandated government policies, school board initiatives, and what principals believe to be important based on the needs of their respective schools--is intensifying and changing the expectations of principals’ work. In schools today, the nonnegotiable forms of accountability being imposed by school boards and the Ministry of Education are increasing both in number and the amount of time that accompanies adhering to each mandate. This additional work influences how some elementary school principals function during the work day, and potentially lengthens their time at work. It also creates tensions for principals as they navigate between the nonnegotiable forms of mandated accountability and what they perceive to be important aspects of their work. Pollock & Winton (2015) describe the work of 21st century principals as a juggling act that requires finding a balance to manage the conflicting and competing accountability demands that often occur at the same time.

This study revealed that elementary principals use strategies and supports to fulfill increasing bureaucratic accountability expectations, while also honouring aspects of moral accountability that are specific to the needs of their respective school contexts.