ERIC Identifier: ED309563
Publication Date: 1989-00-00
Author: Klauke, Amy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Restructuring the Schools. ERIC Digest Series Number EA 37.
Having ridden the first wave of education reform measures, which stressed
accountability, schools now find themselves facing another major challenge.
Restructuring has become the central issue in the school reform movement.
Technological advances, increasing ethnic diversity, as well as rising rates
of poverty, drug abuse, suicide, and divorce in the U.S., are a few of the
demographic vicissitudes that are profoundly affecting student performance. In
response, educators are taking a serious look at societal changes and trends
with an eye toward restructuring schools.
WHAT IS "RESTRUCTURING"?
"To restructure means to preserve
and build upon what has been successful in educating our children and to rethink
and redesign those aspects of the enterprise that have failed," Glenn Harvey and
David Crandall (1988) say.
Specific areas to review, Harvey and Crandall advise, include mission and
goals; organization; management; curriculum; instruction; roles,
responsibilities, and regulation; external involvement; and finances.
Strategies for structural change benefit from the establishment of clearly
defined goals, which may include a shift toward school-based management,
decentralized decision-making, outcome-based education, more active hands-on
learning, or a broadening or synthesizing of curricula.
WHAT CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CURRENT EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM ARE OBJECTS OF REFORM?
Before attempting to establish a direction for change,
it is necessary to first analyze the existing educational structure. Kenneth A.
Sirotnik (1987) points out that the educational structure is based on a factory
model, with "rational, linear, machine-like top-down decisions, a production
line layout, reliance on technological solutions and the use of quality
control." School organization today, Lynn Olson (1988) notes, includes "the
rigid grouping of students by age and ability;...anonymous and impersonal
environments, and the dominance of passive, sedentary learning." William Spady
(1988) adds that our calendar-based educational system emphasizes curriculum
coverage over student mastery and has legitimized the bell-curve as a measure of
student achievement. He argues that valuing outcome, rather than rate, should
inform educational organization.
Barbara Benham Tye (1987) distinguishes what she labels "the deep structure"
of the educational system from the unique personality of individual schools.
Components of deep structure include physical uniformity, control orientation,
similarity of curriculum and schedule, reliance on test scores, and tracking.
The unique personality of each school, she says, reflects its own history,
community characteristics, internal relationships, particular school problems,
and the climate of its classrooms.
Any restructuring process needs to address whether or not institutionalized
assumptions about education are being challenged and how to best solve resultant
conflicts. Most educators agree that restructuring that begins at the local
level is best able to send tremors of positive change throughout the deep
HOW CAN RESTRUCTURING STRATEGIES ATTEND TO THE NEW SKILLS STUDENTS WILL NEED?
Social changes are challenging the fundamental
structure and outcomes of our educational system, thus demanding that schools do
more than provide supplementary courses or extracurricular support groups.
Considering these developments, Michael Cohen (1987) recommends that students
will need to acquire "the ability to communicate complex ideas, to analyze and
solve complex problems, to identify order and find direction in an ambiguous and
uncertain environment and to think and reason abstractly." Small groups and
student-selected activities, Cohen suggests, could "provide opportunities for
all students to become meaningfully engaged in reasonably complex and demanding
learning tasks...and gain practice working cooperatively with others." Schools
that provide opportunities for frequent success and an environment in which
students receive personal attention, he says, enhance students' sense of
self-worth and competence and foster a positive attachment to the school. He
advises treating student performance standards as fixed, but permitting the
amount of time and number of opportunities students have to reach standards to
Student performance standards, according to Spady, might include skills in
problem-solving, decision-making, cooperation, respect for others, creativity,
adaptability, and self-esteem.
HOW CAN INDIVIDUAL SCHOOLS IMPLEMENT A RESTRUCTURING
School reform must begin at the building level, Sirotnik argues;
teachers, as repositories of first-hand experience, are the primary agents of
change. "People who live and work in complex organizations like schools need to
be thoroughly involved in their own improvement efforts, assuring significant
and enduring organizational change." Schools, he advises, must become centers of
critical and self-reflective inquiry into educational processes. They must be
seen as "centers of change rather than objects to be changed." Such a shift in
mentality, he feels, could heal the split between researchers and practitioners.
Each district will have to assess the trends in its community and establish
how best to respond to the concurrent needs of its students. Harvey and Crandall
recommend that restructuring attempts first establish a multiconstituent team
that participates in the following restructuring stages:
o creating vision
o establishing goals, priorities, and strategies
o determining resources and obstacles
o anticipating policy conflicts and developing agreement procedures
o preparing for and monitoring implementation
o institutionalizing change
The first task in restructuring, according to Cohen, is "to identify key
dimensions of the structure of instruction that affect pedagogical practice and
student learning." The next step involves a consideration of experience and
available research to serve as starting places for structural change. Finally,
an understanding of the integration of forces within each school can facilitate
change on various levels.
HOW CAN DISTRICT OFFICIALS PARTICIPATE IN THE RESTRUCTURING
Educators on all levels of the process must become amenable to
changes originating at the building level; as Richard M. Bossone and Irwin H.
Polishook (1988) advise, "A teacher's capacity and motivation to learn will be
shaped by the willingness of the system to change."
Olson (1989) reports, "Increasingly, experts have come to believe that
changes within schools cannot be sustained without equally fundamental reforms
in district-level management." The most basic change must occur in the roles and
relationships existing between educators on all levels. In San Diego Public
Schools, for example, central office personnel are seeking a shift in
roles--from being controllers, monitors, and protectors of the system toward
becoming listeners, assisters, and supporters--from enforcers to enablers. In
their new advisory role, they will need to determine and communicate which
policy and budget constraints are resistant, and which resilient, to proposed
District control, Cohen believes, should place emphasis on schools achieving
district goals rather than following guidelines. They should create "an
orientation toward performance, rather than procedures; in which the district
provides the enabling tools and resources to achieve desired ends." Reviewing
and approving plans, providing technical assistance and training, garnering
local support, and evaluating the restructuring process, he says, will become
primary district responsibilities in the restructuring process.
Because of the institutionalization of the school system, Cohen adds, state
and federal policymakers must be encouraged to support local experimentation
with school structures by reducing regulatory barriers, providing implementation
support and technical assistance, linking rewards to performance, and
researching and disseminating the results of effective new practices among the
Bossone, Richard M., and Irwin H. Polishook, eds.
RESTRUCTURING THE SCHOOLS. Proceedings: Conference of the University/Urban
Schools National Task Force. New York: City University of New York, 1988. 126
pages. ED 295 298.
Cohen, Michael. RESTRUCTURING THE EDUCATION SYSTEM: AGENDA FOR THE NINETIES.
Washington, DC: National Governors' Association, Center for Policy Research, May
1988. 40 pages.
Harvey, Glenn, and David P. Crandall. A BEGINNING LOOK AT THE WHAT AND HOW OF
RESTRUCTURING. Andover, Massachusetts: Regional Laboratory for Educational
Improvement of the Northeast and Islands, 1988. 37 pages. ED 294 326.
Honetschlager, Dean, and Mike Cohen. "The Governors Restructure Schools."
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 45,5 (February 1988): 42-43. EJ 368 826.
Olson, Lynn. "In San Diego, Managers Forging 'Service' Role." EDUCATION WEEK
VIII,24 (March 8, 1989): 1,8-9.
Olson, Lynn. "The 'Restructuring' Puzzle." EDUCATION WEEK VIII,9 (November 2,
1988): 7-11. EJ 363 380.
Sirotnik, Kenneth A. "The School as the Center of Change." Paper presented at
the Brechenridge Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching, Southwestern Bell
Invitational Conference, San Antonio, Texas, August 18-21, 1987. 42 pages. ED
Slater, Robert O. "Introduction: School Leadership in the Context of
Uncertainty." EDUCATION AND URBAN SOCIETY 20,3 (May 1988): 235-38. EJ 372 909.
Spady, William G. "Organizing for Results: The Basis of Authentic
Restructuring and Reform." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 46,2 (October 1988): 4-8. EJ
Tye, Barbara Benham. "The Deep Structure of Schooling." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 69,4
(December 1987): 281-84. EJ 363 380.