Evidence for the Feedback Role of Performance Measurement Systems



Performance measurement systems (PMSs) are used to diagnose and remediate problems, termed the ‘decision-facilitating’ or feedback role of management control. We examine whether use of PMSs by individual decision makers is associated with better performance. Experimental studies have isolated individual-level effects of feedback on decision quality; however, it is difficult to extend these findings to natural settings. Archival and survey studies offer evidence on the association between the presence of PMSs and performance, but have had limited success in measuring decision makers’ actual use of PMSs and in addressing endogeneity of the decision to use PMSs. We use unobtrusively collected data on actual PMS use in 30 K-12 charter schools over three years to test whether teachers who make greater use of two PMSs are associated with greater growth in student learning. We find that teachers’ use of PMSs is associated with increased student learning, consistent with the premise that PMSs facilitate teacher interventions and improve student outcomes. The results are both statistically and materially significant and are better explained by PMS use than by selection effects of better teachers using PMSs. Consistent with the organizations focus on “at risk” students, the strongest effects of teachers’ use of one PMS are concentrated among the lowest-performing students. In sum, we find broad support for the thesis that the feedback role of PMSs is associated with meaningful performance improvement.