Past performance is considered a predictor of current performance. Presumably, last year’s performance should accurately portray how well a district is able to perform in the current year. The logic also follows that effects among primary causal mecha- nisms should exist over and above that of last year (and other control variables). For this reason, the previous year’s pass rate is incorporated as an indicator of overall and Latino TAAS pass rates.
2 In mathematics, the Euclidean distance or Euclidean metric is the ordinary distance between two points that one would measure with a ruler, which can be proven by repeated application of the Pythagorean theorem. By using this formula as distance, Euclidean space becomes a metric space of either one, two, or three dimensions.
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Resources and Constraints
Teacher Salary, Teacher Experience, and Instructional Expenditures per Pupil Teacher salary and instructional expenditures capture the direct impact of monetary resources within a school district. Teacher experience, another kind of resource, at least partially captures the quality of teachers with which students are interacting. More experienced teachers are likely to perform better in the classroom than their less experienced counterparts (Burtless 1996; Darling-Hammond 1999; Rivkin et al. 2005). Additional resources of both types are associated with higher student performance (Evans, Murray, and Schwab 1997; Meier and O’Toole 2006; Wenglisky 1997).
Constraints Bureaucracies cannot influence outcomes without adequate resources. No matter their type, bureaucratic organizations need resources to operate efficiently. It is also apparent that each organization possesses environmental characteristics that can serve as an inherent source of constraint. In the case of school districts, both minority groups and low income students have been noted to require greater resour- ces to facilitate their educational achievement (Jencks and Phillips 1998). To capture these environmental factors, the percentage of African American students, the per- centage of Latino students, and the percentage of poor students, or those that receive free or reduced-price school lunches are included.
As an additional indicator of constraint, the percentage of non-certified teachers in a school district is taken into account (Burtless 1996; Meier and O’Toole 2006). This provides glimpses into the quality of teaching students are receiving, an asset necessary in order to perform well on state-mandated testing. Certified teachers are likely to possess the necessary skill set that leads to student achievement. It is also plausible that certified teachers have undergone training to deal with diverse groups of students. Teacher quality is directly related to outcomes in student performance.
Anglo Pass Rate There are other influences of student performance that must be accounted for in a model predicting minority student performance in the presence of goal conflict. Consideration of the Anglo pass rate is important in that Latino student performance, for example, may be a function of interaction with non-Latino peers. This control requires that Latino teachers or school board members affect Latino students over and above the impact they might have on Anglo students. Including this measure purges the findings from being driven primarily by Anglo student performance.
Table 1 Goal conflict: descriptive statistics
Variable N Mean Standard deviation Minimum Maximum
Latino school board/teachers goal conflict 8304 6.22 11.14 0 100
Latino teachers/population goal conflict 8307 14.46 12.42 0 68.52
Latino school board/population goal conflict 8296 15.11 14.88 0 97.62
Overall school district goal conflict 8296 35.75 31.91 0 200
Texas Education Agency, 1995–2002
The Consequences of Conflict 277
The preceding section described the data, variables, and expectations for models predicting overall and Latino student performance in the presence of goal conflict. The following section expounds upon the results of ordinary least squares regression models, synthesizing parameter estimates with implications.
Findings and Discussion
Goal Conflict and Organizational Performance
To empirically test the expectations discussed above, estimated models examine the relationship between overall and Latino TAAS pass rates and goal conflict. The models vary in statistical significance and substantive implications.
Initial hypotheses suggested that goal conflict would be detrimental to overall student performance. Recall that goal conflict is measured as the difference in Latino represen- tation among the school board, teachers, and district population. Because the measures of goal conflict include Latino members of the district only, the question becomes whether conflict of any sort is problematic for students on the whole. Table 2 predicts the overall pass rate in the presence of goal conflict among the school board, teachers, and popula- tion. Following stated expectations, the key coefficient, goal conflict is negative, but statistically insignificant. This result suggests that goal conflict among members of the school district does not impact overall passage rates on standardized testing. Put another way, the lack of parity in racial composition among teachers, the school board, and the district population does not affect the overall performance of the district.
The remaining variables, specified earlier as controls, vary in statistical signifi- cance. As expected, both lagged overall pass rate and teacher salary are statistically significant and positively related to overall performance on the TAAS exam. The percentages of minority and low income students as well as the percentage of non- certified teachers negatively affects test scores as earlier research utilizing these indicators has found. The measure for instructional expenditures per pupil fails to reach standards of statistical significance.
Goal conflict was shown inconsequential for overall TAAS performance, but does it have an impact on minority students, specifically? Considering that the conflict measures capture the presence, or lack thereof, of Latinos in these representative bodies within the district, the question becomes whether Latinos fare differently in the presence of goal conflict.
The first model shown in Table 3 examines the impact of goal conflict among the school board, teachers, and district population on the TAAS pass rates of Latino students. Each of these indicators is employed simultaneously in that it potentially affords two separate conclusions.3 In other words, when controlling for all other relevant factors, are Latino pass rates affected by any particular source of conflict or
3 The variance inflation factors (VIF) for these measures do not indicate “harmful collinearity”, defined by Kennedy (1998) as any VIF greater than 10. The variation inflation factors are 2.38, 2.03, and 1.84, for goal conflict among the teachers and district population, school board and district population, and school board and teachers, respectively.
278 E.K. Melton
by no source at all? In addition, this method permits conclusions on which type matters more, when compared to the other sources of conflict.
Based on the data used for this analysis, the null hypothesis is rejected that goal conflict, or increased racial disparity, among school district entities is an immaterial factor for Latino student performance. Because Latino students comprise a portion of the overall performance of the district, the way in which underrepresentation affects this segment of the district population is important. Conflict with the school board, either when observing teachers or the district population, negatively affects Latino pass rates. T-statistics associated with the corresponding beta coefficients suggest that racial dis- parity between the school board and population is more detrimental to Latino student performance than such disparities between the school board and teachers.
Model one further demonstrates that goal conflict among teachers and the popu- lation, holding all other variables constant, causes the most harm to Latino TAAS pass rates. This finding is intuitive: when the racial composition of teachers fails to match up with that of the district population, students are likely to suffer. In this case,
Table 2 The effect of goal conflict on overall performance
*p<.05; **p<.01; one-tailed test Texas Education Agency, 1995–2002
Overall TAAS pass rates
OLS, (Huber-White Standard Errors)
Overall district goal conflict −.341 (.345)
Lagged overall pass rate .733**
Percentage Latino students −.026** (.006)
Percentage black students −.060** (.007)
Percentage low income students −.017** (.007)
Teacher experience −.042 (.039)
Non-certified teachers −.047** (.015)
Teacher salary .234**
Instructional expenditures per pupil −.063 (.319)
The Consequences of Conflict 279
Latino student performance on state-mandated testing is hampered when they lack representation in the classroom.
Each of the measures of conflict and their associated beta values warrant further discussion. Consider the negative and significant coefficient of .068 for goal conflict between teachers and the district population. This effect, which represents the short-run, or impact, of this source of conflict for the current year may seem small; however, these data encompass 8 years of student performance. Were this coefficient to remain steady over an 8 year duration (i.e., if there continued to remain unequal proportions of Latinos on the school board, among teachers, and in the district population over time), Latino TAAS pass rates would decrease by .123 percentage points, almost double the amount at which they would decrease in the current time period. This value, (.123), is the long-run multiplier, or the total impact of change in goal conflict on Latino TAAS pass rates after all finite lagged effects are taken into account. These short and long run impacts are notable considering that the measures of conflict employed here pertain to only one racial group. Other racial groups that lack equitable representation within the district could attribute additional sources of conflict.
To further substantiate the claims that each source of conflict is detrimental to Latino student outcomes, Table 3 shows that Latino TAAS scores are affected by the summed measure of conflict among members of the school district population. This is not surprising considering that the overall conflict measure depicted is simply the sum total of all sources of conflict into one measure. This measure of goal conflict is employed in a separate model to emphasize the overall impact that multiple sources of conflict (from one racial group in the district population) has on organizational outcomes. Although racial disparity among Latino members of the district is incon- sequential for overall student performance on the TAAS, the findings demonstrate that underrepresentation for a particular racial group affects the educational attain- ment of that group in the current year and for future years if inequities persist.
In sum, racial disparity among Latinos in school district representative bodies stifles the success of Latino students. Beyond their normative implications, the results suggest that there is substantive value added when Latinos are equitably represented across all entities within the district.
The purpose of this analysis was to evaluate the effects of goal conflict on the relationship between a political-controlling entity and bureaucracy. The findings suggest that goal conflict is detrimental to Latino student performance, yet does not affect the performance of students overall. It is the responsibility of the school district to ensure that the needs of every racial and ethnic group are represented in the processes of policy and administration, even under conditions of racial underrepresentation.
This analysis adds to the existing literature on public administration in specific ways. First, this study shows that goal conflict, as an environmental factor, disrupts the ability of a bureaucracy to effectively serve its public, and thus, has direct implications for the ongoing question of whether bureaucracy and democracy can co-exist. The reality of public service is that a lack of bureaucratic diversity has the ability to thwart the pursuit toward democratic values of equity, fairness, and
280 E.K. Melton
effectiveness. Second, goal conflict in school districts is detrimental to organizational performance. It is apparent that a lack of representation of Latinos, for example, in the school board and among teachers, negatively impacts Latino student achievement over time.
Furthermore, there is an implicit normative argument in this analysis. That resulting argument is simple: there is great import and benefit to having a representative
Table 3 The effects of goal con- flict on Latino student performance
*p<.05; **p<.01; one-tailed test Texas Education Agency, 1995–2002
Latino TAAS pass rates
OLS, (Huber-White Standard Errors)
School board/teacher goal conflict −.017* – (.010)
Teacher/population goal conflict −.068** – (.010)
School board/population goal conflict −.017** – (.007)
Overall goal conflict – −.032** (.005)
Lagged Latino pass rate .447** .448**
Anglo pass rate .488** .481**
Percentage Latino students −.051** −.055* (.009) (.009)
Percentage black students −.081** −.082** (.012) (.012)
Percentage low income students .048** .048**
Teacher experience −.146** −.161** (.062) (.062)
Non-certified teachers −.011 −.010 (.028) (.028)
Teacher salary .569** .592**
Instructional expenditures per pupil .024** .025**
Constant −17.281** −17.548** (1.582) (1.581)
N 7159 7159
R2 .67 .67
F 1211.97 1438.69
The Consequences of Conflict 281
bureaucracy. Using one type of bureaucratic institution, this analysis finds that the lack thereof has significant effects on a portion of the public being served. This result is generalizable to other agencies in that a lack of representation in other types of bureau- cracies might also have detrimental effects for other constituencies. In cases where a representative bureaucracy currently does not exist, bureaucrats must still make efforts to consider the needs of all groups represented in their constituencies. In other words, an entirely Anglo faculty in a district populated with Latino students should make every effort to consider the differential effects of certain education policies, for example, on Latino students despite a lack of Latino teachers on the faculty. Admittedly, an ideal situation would permit all individuals to be sensitized to the needs of all groups alike, regardless of racial or ethnic background, but this is a utopian ideal. It is not illogical or impossible; however, that the public require bureaucrats to take steps toward the realiza- tion that the interests of all groups are of critical importance for bureaucratic effectiveness.
This research has some limitations. Future research on this topic would first include more rigorous measures of bureaucratic values and preferences. The current study used racial indicators as proxies of values and preferences. This is problematic in that the race of a bureaucrat does not automatically denote his or her value system. Thus, more accurate measures would capture personal policy preferences or opinions, rather than draw conclusions based on race or ethnicity. Such indicators would allow for the capturing of variation across and within racial groups.
Second, it would be useful to apply this proposed framework to African Americans. The same research questions should be examined for this group in that their represen- tation on school boards has increased over time, yet there remains puzzling questions surrounding African American student performance and educational attainment.
Third, it would be advantageous to evaluate the potentiality of coalition effects among minority groups in times of conflict. In other words, do African Americans and Latinos ever represent each other when specific racial group representatives are unattainable? If this is true, what happens to influence in conflicting, yet coalition- bearing, conditions? The current analysis is the first step in a long line of inquiry regarding the role of goal conflict in public administration. Incorporating any of the aforementioned suggestions as well as the empirical testing of additional performance indicators would prove beneficial.
In sum, this analysis demonstrates that goal conflict is detrimental to the constit- uency being served. A lack of value or preference congruence has the potential to shift the pendulum of influence from one entity to another. Further empirical research is needed to determine exactly what this potential shift means for the reconciliation of bureaucracy with democracy in the study of public administration.
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Erin K. Melton is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut. Her research considers the implications of race in the management and performance of public organizations.
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- The Consequences of Conflict: An Evaluation of Racial Disparity and Organizational Performance
- Literature Review
- Agency Theory
- Political Control
- “The Inner Check”
- Theoretical Argument
- Representative Bureaucracy
- The Case for School Districts
- Goal Conflict
- Data, Measures, and Expectations
- Dependent Variables
- Overall Student Pass Rate/Latino Student Pass Rate
- Independent Variables
- Goal Conflict
- Lagged Overall/Latino Pass Rate
- Resources and Constraints
- Dependent Variables
- Findings and Discussion
- Goal Conflict and Organizational Performance