We discussed in Chapter 2 the difficult issue concerning the nature of goals in education, arguing for the importance of the cognitive outcomes of education but also recognising that social and affective outcomes should not be forgotten. We continue in this chapter by looking at the knowledge base about how to attain these goals that is on offer within the body of knowledge known as 'school effectiveness'.
We must accept at the start, of course, that differences between students in their school outcomes are determined to a great degree by their background, the socio-economic status of their parents, and their initial abilities, but it is clear from the body of research to date that different schools and classrooms also have considerable effects. This knowledge represents an optimistic point of view, which differs from the views that were held on education in the 1960s. In those times, the initial differences between students were supposed to have been diminished substantially by means of educational provisions, and education was supposed to determine student outcomes independent of the social and intellectual backgrounds of the students (Bloom, 1976). Our current views on the role of education differ from the pessimistic ideas that arose in the 1970s and 1980s as a reaction to the optimistic point of view of the 1960s: it was believed that teachers did not matter and that classrooms did not matter, and that education in general did not matter (Coleman et al., 1966) after the failure of the educational reforms to equalise opportunities.
The school effectiveness movement found out over the years that some of the differences in students' results could be explained by the school and its teachers, even though there were differences in the size of these effects between countries (Scheerens et al., 1989). Therefore it