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

Fitting the Pieces - October 1996

Lesson 7: Managing Resources

Reform prospects improve if there is a means to redirect or reallocate resources in ways that meet the needs of the new, emerging system. Reform is not cost-free.

At the very least, reform often requires reallocating existing fiscal and human resources. Authority over budgets and other resources allows schools to support the reform process, often because it enables those implementing the reform to funnel resources to where they are most needed. Many schools that were successful at reform did not wait to be granted control over existing resources, but actively sought new funding. Beyond initiating the reform process, schools need to take into account the ongoing costs of reform in order to plan for the long run. This lesson details some of the costs typically associated with reform and describe some of the ways in which schools can garner resources to support reform efforts.

Funding Reform

Release time for teachers to engage in reform-related activities, such as teacher collaboration or professional development, was identified as crucial in a number of studies (Teacher Professionalism, 114; Uses of Time, 54). While time was an essential resource, as shown in Lesson 3, few schools actually paid for release time to facilitate the reform process. Many schools implementing technology reforms, for example, relied on teachers' volunteer efforts to accomplish the work of reform; in these schools, it was common to find teachers meeting to discuss technology issues at 7:00 A.M. and then again in the evening sometimes until 7:00 P.M. or later (Technology, 86-87).

Cost data on participant donations to reform are difficult to gather, since many costs are assumed by external agents or by the teachers themselves. Indeed, "teachers and administrators indicated that they spent their own personal funds-estimated by most teachers to be in excess of $1,000 per year on items such as food, leisure reading materials, and other instructional materials for individual students" (Community Involvement, 105). Moreover, while schools often require that teachers serve in nontraditional roles, they are seldom compensated for the extra time and responsibility this may involve (Uses of Time, 68). Although volunteer time is a hidden cost, reliance on teacher volunteerism can result in teacher burnout and turnover, and schools may eventually pay by losing valued staff and having to recruit and train new instructors.

Reallocating Resources

Reallocating sufficient funding may be difficult if reforms are highly labor intensive. Most reform programs often require new staff (e.g., school-to-work coordinator, transition specialist, and job coach) in addition to purchasing supplemental equipment and materials (School-to-Work, 166). For instance, lengthening the school year to provide more learning time can increase the costs associated with teacher salaries, which is not an insignificant expense (Uses of Time, 51). Of all the expenditures in a reform effort, human resources often constitute the most substantial and important investment. For example, in one study, participants' salaries accounted for about 60 percent of program expenditures, with the remaining 40 percent allocated to fixed costs, such as materials and supplies (Community Involvement, 106).

Money for training and skill development is another important resource required for reform. For schools implementing school-based management, time and money to support extensive skills development are crucial (School-Based Management, 41). Yet, whereas the average private-sector firm allocates nearly 2 percent of its payroll for training, the typical school spends only 0.5 percent of its budget. Furthermore, expenditures on educational staff development are typically the first to be cut during tight fiscal times, since the importance of these activities is often underestimated. For example, resource constraints forced one large California school district to severely curtail its support for professional training; this in turn acted as a major barrier to the implementation of its School-Based Management program (School-Based Management, 63-64). As noted in Lesson 6, the freedom to restructure and reconfigure schedules can allow schools and districts to provide time for collaboration and learning in a cost-effective manner. Indeed, a combination of these approaches can insure that there is sufficient time and money for this activity (Systemic Reform, 144).

Recognizing that hiring new staff may be impossible, many reformers instead attempt to reconfigure their available resources. The Uses of Time study points out that some schools switch to block scheduling to give teachers the opportunity to engage in joint planning, team teaching, and curriculum development (Uses of Time, 29). Schools that are actively involved in restructuring tend to creatively use their authority over the mix to support teaching and learning. For instance, some schools hire less expensive substitute teachers in the short term to cover classrooms and free up teachers' time for common planning periods (School-Based Management, 71-73). Other schools have approached reform by arranging to have school funding allocated to them as a lump sum; these schools can then reallocate at least some of these funds according to reform priorities. Alternatively, a school in Prince William County, Virginia instituted an end-of-the-year budgeting process whereby academic departments pooled their residual funds and focused on overall school improvement issues (School-Based Management, 75).

Many of the schools that were successful at reform did not wait for district administrators to allocate resources or devolve power. Instead, they wrote grants for staff development, restructured schedules for planning time, used in-kind support, and tapped private-sector resources in order to move forward. In one such school (Linda Vista Elementary School in San Diego, California) staff sought a number of grants in order to launch a systemic reform effort. Alternatively, several schools undertaking school-to-work reform formed partnerships with the private sector, drawing on business expertise and in-kind donations to secure financial support. Honeywell, for instance, contributed funds and technical assistance to the Metro Tech (Phoenix, Arizona) electronics program, while the airline industry donated equipment and technical assistance to an Aviation Magnet (Louisville, Kentucky).

While initial investment of resources is crucial in the early stages of the reform process, it is not sufficient to sustain a program. When "soft" money from foundations, businesses, or other sources disappears, the district and school often face the dilemma of how to fund ongoing costs. For example, when the corporate partner for a Los Angeles secondary school chose to discontinue its participation in the reform effort, the principal was faced with the difficult task of finding "replacement" funds in order to continue (Technology, 79). Thus, reform requires long-term planning to anticipate these eventualities and to ensure that there are sufficient resources available to maintain the effort. One principal recommends that hidden and ongoing costs be made explicit at the outset of the reform process, even if these costs are initially absorbed by grants or corporate partners. This, in turn, can help schools understand the nature of their ongoing obligation.

As Lesson 2 suggests, thinking ahead at the planning stages is important to the viability of any reform project. The Southern Maine Teacher Education Partnership, for instance, received external support to fund crucial positions that they later incorporated into either district or university budgets. Moreover, the Toronto Learning Consortium began its professional development program without substantial external funding; however, they did so at a time when they had sufficient internal resources to assure ongoing support (Teacher Professionalism, 114).


[Lesson 6: Infrastructure] [Table of Contents] [Lesson 8: Self-Assessment]