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Although performance management is supposed to be a generic, values-neutral tool that can be adapted for any purpose, it has been criticized for ignoring important democratic values. Critics claim that violating these democratic values makes performance management counterproductive to the stated aim of restoring public trust in government through improved outcomes.

This dissertation comprehensively examines the impact of performance management on equity and civic engagement in U.S public high schools. Performance management may incentivize prioritizing high-value students who are more likely to contribute to school performance ranking at the expense of others, creating an inequity problem. However, it can also promote the well-being of disadvantaged groups by providing incentives and information on improvement in disaggregated performance. Performance management may draw resources and attention to activities aiming to improve students’ academic performance in high-stakes subjects (reading, math, and science) at the expense of other important activities where students develop skills in and interests for civic engagement. However, activities aiming to improve students' academic performance also prepare students to perform tasks such as reading, writing, speaking, and quantitative reasoning, integral parts of civic engagement.

To conduct the analysis, the dissertation draws on a nationally representative survey of administrators and students at public high schools. As students’ academic performance is the result of collaborative efforts among students and staff (teachers and principals), performance management is operationalized for students and staff respectively. The student component includes established student performance standards, frequency of standardized testing, and imposed consequences. The staff component includes principals’ managerial autonomy, teachers’ evaluation, and imposed consequences. Through a multilevel analysis of how performance management influences students, especially for racial minorities’ standardized test scores in math, findings point to an unfilled promise regarding equity. Performance management components for students and staff are each associated with increased average student test scores, but do not shrink the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged student subgroups. Still, not all aspects of performance management perpetuate inequity. Of the two performance management components focusing on staff and students, the staff component is associated with lower test scores for struggling students while the student component increases struggling student performance.

By simultaneously analyzing the indirect effects of performance management on volunteering behaviors through cognitive abilities, civic skills, and civic norms in structural equation modeling, the dissertation finds mixed effects of performance management on civic engagement. On the one hand, the student component has a positive but small indirect effect on civic participation by improving students’ cognitive abilities. On the other hand, the staff component has a negative but small indirect effect by reducing students’ participation in extracurricular activities where they develop civic skills. However, the student component does not negatively affect civic engagement. Overall, the findings suggest that despite the negative effects of performance management on equity and civic engagement, performance management can be used to mitigate inequity and reverse the recent decline in civic engagement.