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Decentralization has been one of the centerpieces of education reform in the United States over the past decade, yet the results so far are not encouraging. This booklet presents findings of a study that explored the hypothesis that decentralization efforts have failed to relax external constraints on schools or to enable school staffs to make decisions about instructional matters. It analyzes decision making at four high schools with varying degrees of decentralization. The matched case studies examine the ways in which decision making varies under different governance arrangements. The four schools included a centralized, a modestly decentralized, a radically decentralized, and an independent school. Data support the hypothesis that decentralization can fail to significantly change external constraints on schools. The schools' governance structures remained centrally controlled or represented a combination of decentralized and centralized arrangements. Second, decentralization may be flawed to the extent that it assumes that decisions are separable, although actually, linkages among decisions may exist. Third, many features of the governance arrangements tended to insulate the financial and professional interests of the teachers and administrators from one another and from the performance of their schools. In conclusion, decentralization should address the need for comprehensive changes across all interrelated categories of decision making. (LMI)

Descriptors: Case Studies, Decentralization, Decision Making, Governance, High Schools, Organizational Change, Participative Decision Making, School Based Management, School Restructuring

RAND, 1700 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138.

Autor: Bimber, Bruce


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