Abstract for:Navigating between protocols and principles; An evaluation of the impact of Dutch school inspections

The Netherlands Inspectorate of Education is responsible for safeguarding educational quality. However, educational quality is a notoriously diffuse concept that is hard to measure, let alone govern. Research shows that school boards only have a weak influence on quality. Besides, inspecting schools may lead to unintended, negative effects. In this paper we adopt a group model building approach to evaluate the effects of inspections on Dutch schools. Our results show that principle based inspections help push school systems in the direction of higher quality through the reinforcing effect between teacher’s aspiration and autonomy. Rule based inspections on the other hand can have detrimental effects through the reinforcing effect between increased formal scrutiny and bureaucratic assessments of a narrow definition of quality. We contribute to public governance literature by putting the key assumptions in today’s policy theory in a critical perspective.