School Leadership in Times of Urban Reform

School Leadership in Times of Urban Reform

School Leadership in Times of Urban Reform

School Leadership in Times of Urban Reform

Synopsis

Developed in response to the growing interest in examining individual schools as they undergo change, this book features eight case studies of urban elementary and high schools as they face problems and attempt to find solutions in their quest to reform themselves. The cases, with all their pitfalls and problems, provide examples of the very bumpy road of change and of the individual school cultures that sometimes support and often impede reform. Told in the individual voices of various school leaders, the narratives reflect the inevitable biases of people immersed in their work. Their richness derives from the passion with which these stories are told. Textured and complex, these chronicles invite readers to think deeply about the many layers involved in the process of changing schools. School Leadership in Times of Urban Reform is a powerful text for courses in educational leadership, school reform, and the politics of education. Engaging pedagogical features at the end of each case facilitate its use: *Each case ends with an "Analysis of Leadership" section and "Extended Thinking" questions and activities. *Sections 2-5 conclude with "Reflections" to help the reader uncover the major themes and issues. Section 1 is an introductory analysis of reform and school leadership; it provides a frame of reference for examining the case studies that follow. Sections 2-5 are organized around eight case studies (two per section) that address questions of how the leadership roles of school principals and teachers have been shaped by the reform initiative; how parents and local communities have contributed to school reform; and how the culture of the school, and teaching and learning, have been shaped by reform. The final section synthesizes and analyzes what the authors have learned through these cases concerning the leadership roles of principals, parents, community members, and teachers during the period of reform; how the cultures of schools changed as reform progressed; and how reform impacted the instructional practices of teachers and the learning of students.

Excerpt

This book demonstrates the strengths of case studies when they are put together with care and imagination; in this instance, the cases are done in ways that make them particularly compelling. They incorporate a variety of perspectives, make us aware of the human, emotional side of change, and are well constructed; combined with the thoughtful observations made by Rebecca Barr and Marilyn Bizar, they stimulate thought and generate ideas, ideas that can lead to productive research and more effective practice.

Reading these cases underscores the complexity of large-scale reform and makes it clear that understanding the events involved in such major change requires subtle and sustained analysis. We empathize with principals and teachers and the concerns of a committed parent; we are reminded, if that be needed, that no one of the groups engaged in schooling our children is composed primarily (or even markedly) of villains nor, for that matter, entirely of heroes. The authors and editors bring alive one of the most significant meanings of complexity; they help us to appreciate that tough problems are built right into efforts to improve schools, that such change is inherently difficult. Recognizing such complexity inoculates us against the oversimplifications we often encounter in public discourse on educational change, oversimplifications that can come from monolithic belief systems -- ideologies that locate all knowledge "in the people" or idealize business management or assume that all will be well if we simply "leave the teachers alone."

The strong feelings that people develop around their work shine through in these pages as we glimpse emotions that accompany change, emotions arising from new opportunities or from new sources of distress. We see the excitement teachers feel as they exert major influence for the first time and we sense the quiet pride of principals whose actions produce the outcomes for which they hoped. One case reveals less happy feelings, the frustration and despair that per-

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