All change involves risks, but for the contemporary American school, the “safe” strategy of maintaining old structures and yesterday’s curricula is often a poor choice. Declining enrollments, rapid changes in the existing technology and knowledge about teaching and learning processes, a continual expansion of the role of the school into new areas, and changes in the prevailing cultural preferences of both local communities and the larger society continually impel schools to innovate.
KeywordsSchool District Change Process Rural School Educational Change System Linkage
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- 1.Although the Rural ES program never put into writing an elaborate definition of the concept of comprehensiveness, its staff members generally led school districts to understand that, in order to be comprehensive, a project must involve all schools, all pupils, and all subject areas; in particular, it must involve five concerns, which became known as “facets” of comprehensiveness: (1) curriculum—a fresh approach to the nature and substance of the total curriculum in the light of local needs and goals; (2) staffing— reorganization and training staff to meet particular project goals; (3) time, space, and facilities—innovative use of time, space, and facilities; (4) community participation—active community involvement in developing, operating, and evaluating the proposed project; and (5) administration and organization—an administrative and organizational structure to support the project.Google Scholar
- 2.Other products of this research effort include Abt and Magidson (1980), A. Burns (1979), Clinton (1979), Colfer and Colfer (1979), Corwin (1977), Donnelly (1979), Firestone (1980), Fitzsimmons and Freedman (1981), Fitzsimmons, Wolff, & Freedman (1975), Hennigh (1979), Herriott and Gross (1979), Messerschmidt (1979), Stannard (1979), and interim reports that have preceded this volume: Herriott and Rosenblum (1976), and Rosenblum and Louis (1977).Google Scholar
- 3.This is not to say that the student of educational change should not look for unintended outcomes of any innovation program. However, it is clear that we need to avoid the frequent problem, encountered by Charters and Jones (1975), of “labeling,” in which activities are called by a name associated with a new educational practice, but, in fact, bear no resemblance to this practice.Google Scholar
- 4.It is interesting to note that, with some regularity, organizational theorists emerge with a significant new concept which captures the irregularity of organizational behavior, and the ways in which it deviates from the constrained patterns implied by traditional administrative theory. Among the previous significant theoretical concepts which fall, along with “loose coupling” into this category are the concepts of “informal organization,” “mock bureaucracy,” “goal displacement,” and “subordinate influence.”Google Scholar
- 5.The reader familiar with several of the companion volumes from the Rural ES study (Abt & Magidson, 1980; Clinton, 1979; Firestone, 1980; Herriott & Gross, 1979) may feel that there is some discrepancy between our story, which is one of modest optimism, and those of the other authors, which tend to stress the failures of ES. We believe that there are several important reasons for the differences in tone. First, our data cover a much longer span of time, and allowed for the real gains of the program to be better balanced against the turbulence and conflict of the early years of planning and implementation (see Chapters 4 and 5). Second, we believe that our comparative view across districts allowed us to find variation in implementation and change which on-site observers of single sites were unable to discern. Third, our emphasis upon looking for change in schools rather than in districts led, we believe, to the location of changes that were relatively invisible at the community-and district-office level. Many of these changes were worthwhile, even if they were not “comprehensive.” Finally, there is a matter of perspective: We have attempted to make our work relevant to the development of proactive theory and policy regarding educational change, and, as a consequence, we have chosen to see our cup as half full rather than half empty.Google Scholar