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

[Education Consumer Guide]

Number 4

January 1993

School-Based Management

WHAT IS IT? School-based management (SBM) is a strategy to improve education by transferring significant decision-making authority from state and district offices to individual schools. SBM provides principals, teachers, students, and parents greater control over the education process by giving them responsibility for decisions about the budget, personnel, and the curriculum. Through the involvement of teachers, parents, and other community members in these key decisions, SBM can create more effective learning environments for children.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES? According to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and other sources, school- based management can:

HOW DOES SBM AFFECT THE ROLES OF THE SCHOOL BOARD AND THE SUPERINTENDENT AND DISTRICT OFFICE? The school board continues to establish a clear and unifying vision and to set broad policies for the district and the schools. SBM does not change the legal governance system of schools, and school boards do not give up authority by sharing authority (AASA/NAESP/NASSP, 1988). The board's role changes little in a conversion to SBM.

The superintendent and his or her district office staff facilitate the decisions made at the school level, and provide technical assistance when a school has difficulty translating the district's vision into high-quality programs. Developing student and staff performance standards and evaluating the schools are also the responsibility of the district staff.

The district office will generally continue to recruit potential employees, screen job applicants, and maintain information on qualified applicants from which the schools fill their vacancies. The district office may also specify curricular goals, objectives, and expected outcomes while leaving it up to the schools to determine the methods for producing the desired results. Some districts leave the choice of instructional materials to the schools, whereas others may require schools to use common texts.

HOW ARE BUDGET DECISIONS MADE? In most SBM systems, each school is given a "lump sum" that the school can spend as it sees fit. As outlined by JoAnn Spear (1983), the district office determines the total funds needed by the whole district, determines the districtwide costs (such as the cost of central administration and transportation), and allocates the remaining funds to the individual schools. The allocation to each school is determined by a formula that takes into account the number and type of students at that school.

Each school determines how to spend the lump sum allocated by the district in such areas as personnel, equipment, supplies, and maintenance. In some districts, surplus funds can be carried over to the next year or be shifted to a program that needs more funds; in this way, long-range planning and efficiency are encouraged.

HOW ARE DECISIONS MADE AT THE SCHOOL LEVEL? Most districts create school management councils at each school that include the principal, representatives of parents and teachers, and, in some cases, other citizens, support staff, and--at the secondary level--students. The council conducts a needs assessment and develops a plan of action that includes statements of goals and measurable objectives, consistent with school board policies.

In some districts, the management council makes most school-level decisions. In other districts, the council advises the principal, who then makes the decisions. In both cases, the principal has a large role in the decision-making process, either as part of a team or as the final decisionmaker.

WHAT IS NECESSARY WHEN IMPLEMENTING SBM? From the beginning, the school board and superintendent must be supportive of school-based management. They must trust the principals and councils to determine how to implement the district's goals at the individual schools.

It is important to have a written agreement that specifies the roles and responsibilities of the school board, superintendent and district office, principal, and SBM council. The agreement should explicitly state the standards against which each school will be held accountable. James Guthrie (1986) states that each school should produce an annual performance and planning report covering "how well the school is meeting its goals, how it deploys its resources, and what plans it has for the future."

Training in such areas as decision-making, problem solving, and group dynamics is necessary for all participating staff and community members, especially in the early years of implementation. To meet the new challenges of the job, principals may need additional training in leadership skills.

In summary:

WHAT ARE THE LIABILITIES OF SBM? Participitory decision-making sometimes creates frustration and is often slower than more autocratic methods. The council members must be able to work together on planning and budget matters. This leaves principals and teachers less time to devote to other aspects of their jobs. Teachers and community members who participate in the councils may need training in budget matters; some teachers may not be interested in the budget process or want to devote time to it.

Members of the school community must also beware of expectations that are too high. According to the AASA/NAESP/NASSP task force, districts that have had the most success with SBM have focused their expectations on two benefits--greater involvement in making decisions and making "better" decisions.

WHERE HAS SCHOOL-BASED MANAGEMENT BEEN IMPLEMENTED? Hundreds of school districts across the country have experimented with aspects of SBM, including the following:

Cherry Creek, Colorado- - This district, located near Denver, has refined its school-based management system over a number of years. Individual schools perform many duties that traditionally fell within the domain of the central office. Commitment, trust, and a sense of ownership are cornerstones of the system at Cherry Creek.

Portland, Oregon- - A "hybrid" form of site-based management is in operation in this district. Although both budget authority and personnel selection are decentralized, the district has adopted a basal text for each subject but allows individual schools to retain control over teaching methodology and selection of supplementary instructional materials.

Martin County, Florida- - In this district, individual schools have near-complete autonomy; food service is the only area that is centralized. After soliciting ideas from teachers, staff, and advisory groups, principals make final decisions about budget, curriculum, and personnel.

Where can I get more information?

Priscilla Wohlstetter
University of Southern California
The Finance Center of the Consortium for
Policy Research in Education
Waite Phillips Hall 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0031
(213) 740-3299

ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management
University of Oregon
1787 Agate Street
Eugene, OR 97403-5207
(503) 346-5043

1600 Research Blvd.
Rockville, MD 20850-3166


American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and National Association of Secondary School Principals.
School-Based Management: A Strategy for Better Learning. Arlington, Virginia: 1988.

David, Jane.
"Synthesis of Research on School-Based Management." Educational Leadership, 46(8), May 1989.

Guthrie, James W.
"School-Based Management: The Next Needed Education Reform." Kappan 68(4) (December 1986): 305-9.

Kubic, Kathleen.
School-Based Mangement. ERIC Digest No. 33. Eugene, Oregon: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, Eugene, 1988.

Lindelow, John, and Heynderickx, James.
"School-Based Management." In School Leadership: Handbook for Excellence, 2nd edition, edited by Stuart C. Smith and Philip K. Piele. Eugene, Oregon: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, 1989.

Peterson, David.
School-Based Management and Student Performance. ERIC Digest No. 62. Eugene, Oregon: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, 1991.

Spear, JoAnn Palmer.
School Site Budgeting/Management: The State of the Art. Paper presented at the annual meeting of American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada, April 11-15, 1983.

by Dorothy Myers and Robert Stonehill

This is the fourth Education Research CONSUMER GUIDE--a new series published for teachers, parents, and others interested in current education themes.

OR 93-3058
ED/OERI 92-38
Editor: Margery Martin

This Consumer Guide is produced by the Office of Research, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education.

Joseph C. Conaty, Director, Office of Research


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