A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

[Education Research Report]

Who Runs the Schools? The Teacher's View

June 1993

School-based management (SBM) is often in the news. In practice, SBM varies from school to school, but generally it gives increased budgeting, curriculum, and staffing responsibilities to principals and teachers or to parents and community members in conjunction with school staff. The influence each group has varies, but the goal is the same: to improve children's schooling.

The theory is that those closest to the children--principals, teachers, parents, and community members--know best what is needed to improve their schools and are in the best position to make and carry out decisions. However, implicit in this call for greater school-level influence is a belief that most decision making occurs outside the school, usually at the school district or state level.

The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) provides information on where decisions are made. In a companion report based on this survey, Who Runs the Schools?: The Principal's View (1993), we looked at public school principals' views on who has control over curriculum, hiring teachers, and discipline.

Principals believed:

Teachers, on the other hand, were not seen having primary responsibility over any of these areas. In the 1987-88 Public School Teachers Questionnaire, teachers were asked how much actual influence they thought they had over school policy decisions and how much control they had in their classrooms over selected areas of planning and teaching. The data provided in this report are teachers' accounts of conditions and are not based on independent observations of actual decision making.

Who Decides?

Teachers did not believe they had much influence over determining discipline policy or the content of in-service programs, setting policy on grouping students in classes by ability, or establishing curriculum. No more than 35 percent believed they had a great deal of control over decisions in these areas.

Control over classroom activities, however, is a different matter. Most teachers believed they had considerable influence over classroom decisions.


Figure 1.

Percentage of teachers believing they had considerable influence over school policy and classroom activities.

     School Policy Area:
             Discipline ==============>35%     In-service programs ============>31%        Ability grouping ===========>28%              Curriculum ==============>35%                         |----------|----------|----------|----------|                        0          25         50         75        100                                           Percent
    Classroom Activities:
    Selecting materials ========================>54%       Selecting content ==========================>59%    Selecting techniques =====================================>85%   Disciplining students ==============================>69%      Amount of homework ======================================>87%                         |----------|----------|----------|----------|                        0          25         50         75        100                                           Percent
                                         SCHOOLS AND STAFFING SURVEY

Community Type

In the school principal study, we found the type of community in which schools were located influenced who made school decisions. Big city schools are more often part of large school districts that exercise central control over decisions. In small town or rural schools, principals and teachers play a larger role in decision making.

Similarly, teachers in very large cities were less likely than their peers in smaller communities to control decisions on school policy and classroom activities.

While a minority of teachers in any type of community believed they had considerable control over setting school policy, far fewer teachers in very large cities believed they were in control.


Table 1

Percentage of Teachers Believing They Had Considerable Influence Over Selected Areas of School Policy and Classroom Planning and Teaching

  -------------------------------------------------------------------                               School Policy
 (Percentage of teachers answering "5" or "6" on a scale of from 1 (none) to 6 (a great deal))   Determining discipline policy ...............................35 Determining the content of in-service programs...............31 Setting policy on grouping students in classes by ability....28 Establishing curriculum......................................35 -------------------------------------------------------------------                           Classroom Activities
 (Percentage of teachers answering "5" or "6" on a scale of from 1 (none) to 6 (complete control))  Selecting textbooks and other instructional materials........54 Selecting content, topics, and skills to be taught...........59 Selecting teaching techniques................................85 Disciplining students........................................69 Determining the amount of homework to be assigned............87 

In contrast,

Teachers in big cities were also less likely to feel they had control over classroom practices than were their peers in rural areas.


Table 2

Percentage of Teachers Who Said that They Had Considerable Influence Over Selected Areas of School Policy and Classroom Planning and Teaching, by Community Type and Policy Area

--------------------------------------------------------------------------                                                                                               Community type Policy area       --------------------------------------------------------                       Rural     Small            Medium-    Large     Very                        or      city or   Suburb   sized     city     large                      farming    town              city                city --------------------------------------------------------------------------                                   School policy
 (Percentage of teachers answering "5" or "6" on a scale of from 1 (none)  to 6 (a great deal))  Determining discipline  policy                 37       37        34       35        33       27  Determining the content  of in-service programs 32       32        32       30        29       23  Setting policy on  grouping students in  classes by ability     28       28        30       30        27       23  Establishing   curriculum             41       38        36       31        23       23 -------------------------------------------------------------------------                                  Classroom activities
 (Percentage of teachers answering "5" or "6" on a scale of from 1 (none)  to 6 (complete control))  Selecting textbooks and  other instructional  materials              65       58        53       44        38       41  Selecting content,  topics, and skills   to be taught           67       61        58        52       47       47  Selecting teaching  techniques             88       86        86        84       81       78  Disciplining students   74       71        70        68       64       60  Determining the amount  of homework to be   assigned               90       87        85        84       85       84 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Weighted number of  teachers             550,738  554,711   451,663  214,086  205,743  146,559 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
NOTE: Community types were described in the survey as follows: a rural or farming community; a small city or town of fewer than 50,000 people that was not a suburb of a larger city; a medium-sized city (50,000 to 100,000 people); a suburb of a medium-sized city; a large city (100,000 to 500,000 people); a suburb of a large city; a very large city (over 500,000 people); a suburb of a very large city; a military base or station; and an Indian reservation. Teachers on military bases and Indian reservations are not included in table 2 because of small sample sizes. All three categories of suburbs are combined in the table.

In general, the larger the community, the less control teachers believed they had over classroom practices.

Conclusions

Teachers do not believe they have much control over school policies on discipline, in-service programs, ability grouping, or curriculum. These findings agree with the earlier report on school principals that found teachers played a limited role in establishing curriculum, setting discipline policy, and hiring teachers.

As in the earlier study, however, the amount of control varies greatly for teachers in different types of communities. Teachers in rural areas influence policies and practices considerably more than their big city peers. SBM studies need to take into account this difference.

Reference:

U.S. Department of Education (1993)
Who Runs the Schools?: The Principal's View, Washington, D.C.

Notes:

(1) This report was prepared by Judith Anderson, Office of Research of the U.S. Department of Education, to provide background information for an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report on The Effectiveness of Schooling and of Education Resource Management. If you have comments on this Research Report, please send them to the Office of Research, OERI, U.S. Department of Education, 555 New Jersey Avenue NW, Room 610e, Washington, DC 20208.

(2) Tables of standard errors and numbers of cases are available in a separate report. Write to the address above to obtain this report.


This Research Report is part of a series published by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. If you would like to suggest topics for future Research Reports, please write to the Office of Research at the address above. To be added to the Research Report mailing list, send your name and address to Research Reports, Outreach Office at the address above. This report is a public document and may be reproduced in part or in its entirety without permission. Please credit OERI.
This Research Report is produced by the Office of Research, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education.

Richard W. Riley, Secretary of Education
Emerson J. Elliott, Acting Assistant Secretary, OERI
Joseph C. Conaty, Acting Director, OR

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