05 SES 13, Regulating Schools in Areas of Poverty and Disadvantage: Policy, representation and support.
In anglophone countries, high stakes accountability has put schools serving disadvantaged communities (SSDCs) under enormous pressure, with serious side effects within schools. However, by asking schools to make sure that all students succeed in schools, they have also created an environment in which the challenging context is recognized, though the attention is refocused from the (alleged) deficits of the students to the school’s responsibility to help these students succeed no matter what (e.g. Duke, 2012). Unlike that, Germany has a data-based governance agenda but with no high stakes elements (Kotthoff, Böttcher & Nikel, 2016). Even though the data agenda is aimed at improving the organizational “fit” of schools with their environments, it was neither specifically aimed at those schools with the highest improvement needs nor did it compel SSDCs to reassess basic assumptions towards their students, or emphasize the schools’ responsibility to facilitate these students’ right to good education. Test and inspection data is linked to the composition of the student body, which, however, is mainly discussed as influencing factor. This may send the message that it is okay for SSDCs to externalize failures and “delegate” the responsibility to the community. In addition, only a few of the German states offer financial support for SSDCs (Weishaupt, 2016) – though in a rather unsystematic way. There are hardly any programs that would help SSDCs reassess their organization, and recognize – and overcome – a “toxic” organizational culture (Gu & Johansson, 2013) and deficit thinking that may hinder organizational improvement. Accordingly, one might argue that the German low stakes environment gives SSDCs neither an urgent reason nor enough support to reassess their stance towards the students they are serving. We present data from principal (n=36), teacher (n=1,023) and student (n=2,938) questionnaires of the research and development project Developing Potentials – Empowering Schools. The data indicate (1) an association between the composition of the student body and the deficit framework of teachers, (2) an association between the deficit framework and the perceived self-efficacy and group-related stress, and (3) an association between the deficit framework of teachers and the motivation of students. The results suggest that data alone in the low accountability environment does not encourage SSDCs to reassess their deficit frameworks. Working with the schools, however, indicates that specific support for the schools can help them use data to reconsider their perspective, overcome their “toxic” organizational culture and deal with challenges constructively.
Duke, D. L. (2012) Tinkering and Turnarounds: Understanding The Contemporary Campaign To Improve Low-Performing Schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 17(1-2), 9-24. Gu, Q. & Johansson, O. (2013) Sustaining School Performance. School Contexts Matter. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 16(3), 301-326. Kotthoff, H.-G., Böttcher, W. & Nikel, J. (2016) Die "Schulinspektion" zwischen Wirkungshoffnungen und Wirksamkeit. In H. Altrichter & K. Maag Merki (Hrsg.), Handbuch Neue Steuerung im Schulsystem (2nd ed., S. 325–360). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Weishaupt, H. (2016) Schulen in schwieriger Lage und Schulfinanzierung. Die Deutsche Schule, 108(4), 354-369.
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