A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Assessment of School-Based Management - October 1996
In conclusion, the data provide considerable evidence that the set of supporting conditions assessed in this study plays a key role in facilitating the implementation of significant reforms in four aspects of curriculum and instruction at the schools in our sample. When considerable change took place in two or more of these categories, it appears to have been facilitated by high levels of at least half of these supporting conditions. When minimal reform was found, most of the supporting conditions were at lower levels.
However, it is important to note that we are not claiming, and the data do not allow the conclusion, that there is a direct causal relationship between these supporting conditions and the reforms we examined. In fact, findings from two "outlier" schools in our sample suggest that these conditions are neither necessary nor sufficient to generate a significant number of innovations. The possibility that they are not necessary is exemplified by School 8 (see Table 2), which had produced high levels of reforms in three of the four categories even though the only support mechanism at this school was a high level of knowledge and skill development. It was clear that a wide variety of reforms had been implemented in this school, but these changes were quite varied and not well integrated since focus was not being provided through a coherent instructional guidance system (i.e., a "Christmas tree" school). Not a lot of power had actually been delegated to the school. Instead, they had to receive waivers to accomplish most of the changes they were implementing, or had made these changes unilaterally. The staff was feeling burned out from their reform efforts because the organizational system needed to support innovation was not in place.
In contrast to the above case, School 14 demonstrated a high level of five supporting conditions and yet had not generated significant innovations in any of the four categories. This would suggest that having a number of support mechanisms in place is not a sufficient condition for insuring that innovative practices can or will be implemented. Considerable decision making power had been decentralized to this school, which also had a well-developed team structure that facilitated information flow at the school and provided opportunities for a large number of staff members to take on leadership responsibility. However, the principal had only been at this school for a year, and prior to his arrival the team structure, including the school council, had not been very active in school decision making. During the last year, a charter had been developed at the school to outline the instructional direction for the school, but it had not yet had any impact on curriculum and instructional innovations. Whether it eventually will remains to be seen, but the best explanation for the discrepancy between the presence of numerous supporting conditions and the absence of reforms may be an insufficient amount of time for school-level decision making to have generated such reforms.
This research makes important contributions to the scholarly literature on school-based management and educational reform more generally. Empirical research on the process and outcomes of school reform through school-based management remains rather limited. In particular, the field has been in need of research on the linkages between school governance structures, the nature and quality of decisions made at the school, and the degree of success in implementing those decisions (Swanson, 1989). Our analysis yields a valuable addition to the extant data base in this area. Furthermore, as it is grounded in theoretical foundations as well as on the findings of prior research, this study contributes to the theory base which can serve to guide further research on this topic. Likewise, our findings suggest a number of different avenues for future research:
More in-depth analyses of the role of the specific supporting conditions. What types of changes in reward systems will most effectively encourage reform? What types of professional development are most critical and how much is needed? Which approaches to leadership are most conducive to implementing these reforms? What kinds of information/feedback systems will stimulate organizational improvement?
Analyses of the interactive effects of the supporting conditions. Which combination of supporting conditions is most efficacious for supporting reform efforts? Under what conditions are additional resources an important trigger for innovation?
Examination of additional factors that affect the school's ability to implement innovations in curriculum and instruction. To what extent does the size of the school moderate the outcomes of reform efforts? How do reform efforts differ between elementary schools and secondary schools? How do overall per pupil resources affect innovation adoption?
Research on the dynamics of the change process through which school reform takes place. What are the causal relationships between changes in curriculum and instruction and improvements in student learning? In what ways does the timing of various system changes affect the reform outcomes obtained?
Exploration of the role of the external environment. Which aspects of the environment facilitate or inhibit the reform process? How does a school's environment shape the pattern of supporting conditions it is able to develop? Are there interactive effects among environmental factors, supporting conditions, and innovations implemented?
Answers to questions such as these would improve considerably our understanding of how to generate meaningful curriculum and instructional reform through school-based management.
To conclude, this research makes an important contribution to an understanding of the potential efficacy of school-based management for implementing curriculum and instructional innovations explicitly oriented toward improving teaching and learning. By examining the conditions under which this new form of governance can be utilized to generate school improvement, the findings from this study are valuable to educators, policy makers, and researchers. The insights gained can be used by school-level educators to guide their decisions regarding the development of mechanisms to facilitate the reform process underway at their schools. Likewise, through a better understanding of the dynamics of reform at the school level, district administrators can learn how to more effectively support schools' efforts to function as SBM schools and to introduce and maintain the curriculum and instructional changes they desire. Policy makers at the local and even the state level can utilize the information gained from this study as they make decisions regarding, for example, curriculum frameworks and resource allocation. Researchers can design future studies to explore important issues surfaced by these findings so as gain further valuable insights into the process of school-reform through school-based management.
29 The comparison of School 14 to School 6 is interesting, since the latter also had the same five supporting conditions in place but adopted high levels of reform in three categories.
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[Part 5: Results]
[Part 7: Appendix A - Variable Coding Questions and Possible Responses]