School-Based Management EssayOrganizing for Successful School-Based Management
The improvement of school performance has for decades been the dream of most people involved in the complex process of education. The book “Organizing for successful School-Based Management” by Wohlstetter, Van Kirk, Robertson, and Mohrman provides a refreshing view on the topic of school-based management.
Why can the ideas presented in this book be perceived as refreshing? Because the way things are arranged, the book is quite an inspiration for the reader. Acquiring the information of the issue provides food for thought as well as a desire to actually improve the school-based processes and the level of performance.
The overall impression of the book may be covered in few words: school-based management is not all about the change in the principles of school governance. To be truly successful, an SBM should include the change of processes in all basic aspects: structures, roles, schedules, skills and knowledge of those involved in the processes of education, the new HRM practices, and exchange of opinions and much more.
A successful school-based management practice implies the active participation of all the school stakeholders, so it is not simply an addition to the existing practices.
Let us now take a closer look at what the authors mean by the SBM-related improvement processes.
According to Van Kirk, Robertson, and Mohrman, new curriculum content, instructional practices and assessment procedures are not substantial to the efficient change. To improve the school performance, they believe, the struggling school should introduce principally new approaches like teaching for understanding, using technology, educating all students and providing integration services. The positive effect of the school-based management is that the school management has local (on-site) mechanisms to change and improve the current situation. The important thing is that although most decentralized schools had means of improving the performance (power, knowledge and skills, rewards and information), some used it properly, while others concentrated on fighting for power and making win-lose decisions, trying to impress the local community. Such myopia resulted in failing to develop and implement clear values and purposes that are mandatory for the successful school-based management. The book provides real-life cases with examples of various school-based management structures, activities and issues. Such cases enable the reader to realize the most effective ways of introducing a truly successful school-based management, and even predict activities might jeopardize the whole project.
The examples presented help to see the issue clearer, becoming a sort of a judge for the existing cases.
The problems discussed in the book cases include the issue of power, when the dispersion of responsibility among the wide variety of stakeholders involved in the decision-making process turned out to be more efficient than concentrating power in the school-site council. With the first approach in action, the decision-making authority focused on the improvement of the teaching and learning processes, which in turn positively influenced the central office behavior making it less mandate- and more service-oriented.
The case of skills and knowledge sharing provides an efficient mechanism of improving the overall level of school performance, because of the principally different approach introduced by the reforming schools – the creation of knowledge base, where every teacher could participate and share the relevant information and experience with the colleagues. The strategically linked professional development common in actively restructuring schools is often limited by the central office, but such limitations only broaden the outlook of the program participants making them look for extra (non-traditional) sources of training.
A successful school also uses information available within the processes more actively and efficiently. Such schools benefit from the decision-making structures that help planning and implementing the performance-improvement steps. Other possible ways of using information for improvement includes annual internal surveys and reports, informal communication and learning about innovative practices to avoid “reinventing the wheel”. Using all the information mentioned above to improve the educational and teaching practices was an extremely beneficial practice for successful schools.
Actively restructuring schools used innovative techniques of communicating information to all the stakeholders, making the process persistent and proactive. Sharing of information increased the mutual trust and increased the overall level of awareness and involvement between the stakeholders.
The other case dealing with the issue of reward showed that the successfully restructuring schools were using both monetary and non-monetary rewards to support those individuals (or groups) that made their positive impact on the process of improvement, making the school goals become reality. In fact the issue of compensation is one of the most neglected issues for the existing school-based management; the issue of rewarding is simply overlooked in many schools, while the teachers believe this issue to be of great significance.
Another (and maybe core) issue for successful restructuring is the development of a clear vision, values, and goals in terms of student performance. Firm position on these principles will ease the decision-making process and become a basis for curriculum and teaching reform. The key issues for consideration might include the school vision, curriculum frameworks and materials, learning goals, and the accountability assessment.
The authors also consider the issue of leadership in terms of the principal’s role in the successful restructuring processes. The findings state that a good principal assumed the role of manager and facilitator if change. Still, there was more to add to the issue of leadership within the school-based management process, because in successfully reorganizing schools leadership is shared among the leading teachers involved.
Another important issue for the schools determined to succeed in school-based management is the allocation of resources. According to the example in the book, the most efficient approach was cultivating resources from outside the school (through entrepreneurial activity in the local business community and involvement in the professional networks).
There certainly are serious limitations to the development and successful implementation of the efficient school-based management techniques. Among the most crucial ones is the issue of financing – the schools are based on the district-driven finance systems. A new system is needed to add to the flexibility of the school funds.
Wohlstetter, Van Kirk, Robertson, and Mohrman provided the tips for successful restructuring. They included the dialog about purpose (discussing needs and goals of the school), connectedness among the stakeholders (including practice-based learning involving all participants) and connection to external environment, holistic thinking (general, not partial), learning from experience (sources for improvement are within the school), and personal mastery.
Therefore, school-based management is not all about the change in the principles of school management – it is rather a combination of carefully considered renewal of the whole process. An effective SBM should include the change of structures, schedules, roles, knowledge and skills, and much more. Successful school-based management structures vary greatly because of the differences in vision, principles, approaches, management style. And I believe such practice is righteous as long as the goals of the school and the purposes of the restructuring are kept in minds of the individuals involved. The role of the participants can hardly be underestimated: improved performance results depend on the level if involvement and the ability of every participant to cooperate and supplement the general effort.
The key to successful school-based management is in the thoughtful implementation of the best practices based on a clearly stated vision and goals. Certainly a truly successful restructuring largely depends on the level on involvement among the participants and the desire to improve the existing level of performance. Still, the process of school-based management requires combined efforts on all levels of decision-making and implementation. The examples from the book show nothing is impossible for a successful school-based management.