School Effectiveness for Whom? Challenges to the School Effectiveness and School Improvement Movements

By Roger Slee; Gaby Weiner et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Introduction: School Effectiveness for Whom?
Roger Slee and Gaby Weiner
Educational Failure and the Crisis of Schooling
Crisis in education? What crisis? Recent media reportage on schooling in Britain, and elsewhere, is characterized by panics over a litany of alleged failures in state schooling:
• falling standards of student achievement compared with the suggested performance of British students of past generations and against the performance of their international peers in Western Europe and Pacific-rim nations;
• the failure of urban comprehensive schools;
• teacher incompetence;
• 'out of control' student behaviour;
• inadequate teacher training in basic skills instruction in English and mathematics;
• irrelevant educational research in higher education.

Reflecting upon the 'despairing' and 'dismissive' national discussion of public schools in the United States, Mike Rose (1995) condemns the distorted reports of the failure of public education arguing that the dominance of such a discourse blinds us to the complex lives lived out in the classroom.

It [the discourse of failure] pre-empts careful analysis of one of the nation's most significant democratic projects. And it engenders a mood of cynicism and retrenchment, preparing the public mind for extreme responses: increased layers of testing and control, denial of new resources-even the assertion that money doesn't affect a school's performance-and the curative effects of free market forces via vouchers and privatization. (Rose, 1995, p. 2)

The effective schooling research, in conjunction with its operational branch-the school improvement movement-has been adopted by policy-makers pursuant to the resolution of these alleged crises in state education (Mortimore, 1995; Barber, 1995 and 1996; Reynolds and Farrell, 1996). The academic voice of some sections of the school effectiveness research community are more tentative and considerate of the limitations of their research paradigm.

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