10 SES 16 E, Policy Making and School Reform
The dominant characteristic of education system reform in recent decades, encompassing local, regional, national and transnational domains, has been the deployment of neoliberal policies and practices emphasising ‘performance and product’ (Moore & Clarke 2016), promoted through a marketised discourse of ‘autonomy’ and ‘choice’ (Apple 2001, Ball 2003). Performative schools are paradoxical in nature; leaders and teachers are simultaneously self-governing professionals, freed from the ‘shackles of the state’ to act as social change agents through improving educational outcomes, yet also accountable to the state through the constant gaze of high-stakes accountability measures (Perryman 2003). Performative systems explicitly foreground teacher autonomy in such a way as to instil a greater sense of responsibility in teachers - and particularly school leaders - for delivering externally-determined levels of performance. This performance is most commonly measured by way of student outcomes, but increasingly also through a wider range of key performance indicators in relation to, for instance, attendance, behaviour, learner engagement and satisfaction, transferable skills and employability. For Rose (1999), the putative freedom of the performative profession is enacted as responsibility, with teachers and school leaders locked into a self-policing governance model of coercive instrumentalism (AUTHOR 2015).
Although the contradictory dynamic between autonomy and responsibility is ever-present in the performative school, it is also often invisible. The powerful rhetoric of the neoliberal project in public sector management has been largely normalised, with performative mechanisms come to be viewed in public/political discourse not just the most effective/efficient means of improving schools, but the only means. High-stakes accountability fused onto heterarchical governance structures (Ball 2009), with market levers deployed to incentivise and sanction actors, are portrayed in public and political spheres as the ‘common sense’ solution to school/system improvement (Rizvi & Lingard 2010).
The growth of performativity as a central element of neoliberalism has been widely discussed and theorised (Ball 2003, Apple 2010), with particular attention to tracing the impact of performativity on notions of teacher professionalism (Ozga 1995, Hargreaves 2003, Day 2002, Evans 2011), teacher identity (Day et al. 2005; Troman 2008, AUTHOR(S) 2012) and school leadership (Moller 2009; Gunter 2010, AUTHOR(S) 2017). More recently researchers have focused on the complex and highly contested dynamic between the performative focus on driving up standards of attainment and the pursuit of educational equity (Wrigley 2011, Keddie and Lingard 2015, AUTHOR(S) 2015). Evidence regarding the impact of neoliberal reforms on social justice goals in schooling is inconclusive (Machin and Wilson 2009; Whitty and Anders 2017). This is particularly so when assessing the impact of those reforms that ‘free up’ public schools from direct top-down governance, exemplified by the English Academies Programme, Charter schools in the USA and Independent Public Schools in Australia. Set against this are a smaller number of studies arguing that the quasi-autonomous nature of these public schools can foster a progressive social justice ethos (Lipman 2008).
This paper discusses the ways in which the professional identity of teachers and school leaders are shaped by working in intensively performative systems. It focuses in particular on the ways in which a new generation of ‘entrepreneurial’ school leaders (Gerwitz and Ball 2002, Woods 2015) articulate their role as ‘self-governing leaders’ (AUTHORS 2017) and the ways in which teachers more broadly embrace performative practices in ways that have been characterised as post-performative – but we argue here would be more properly described as neo-performative. The discussion throughout is underpinned by an exploration of the ways in which these neo-performative teachers and leaders rationalise their enacting of managerialist models of professionalism as being more than a simplistic pursuit of ‘higher standards', but as being motivated by a socially-progressive moral purpose.
This paper is a theoretical one making conceptual links between related strands of literature addressing different aspects of school governance and accountability and the nature of teacher professionalism, leading to a discussion about ways in which teacher professional identity and school leadership have been reframed by a neoliberal reform agenda and as a consequence a growth of high-stakes accountability frameworks. The first strand concerns theories of teacher professional identity (Hargreaves 2000, Day 2002, Sachs 2003), and the ways in which they interact with models of performative accountability mechanisms in school systems (Ball 2003, Troman 2007 et al.) to shape a 'new professionalism', characterised as either 'entrepreneurial professionalism' (Menter et al 1997), or post-performative (AUTHOR 2011). The second strand addresses in more depth the contradictory nature of the performative school system, and the way it posits a model of empowered professional autonomy (Newman and Clarke 2009) within a culture of 'responsibilisation' (Rose 1999) The two strands are brought together alongside a consideration of research into the ways teachers articulate their sense of social/moral purpose (Nias 1999, Villegas 2007), and in particular the ways in which teachers in quasi-autonomous public schools see themselves in relation to a mission of educational equity and social justice. In doing so the paper attempts to provide a coherent theoretical underpinning for future empirical work investigating the work of a new generation of school leaders in quasi-autonomous public schools, with a particular emphasis on the extent to which neoliberal reforms of school systems can have a positive impact on educational equity and social justice.
The paper will provide a coherent conceptualisation of the ways in which teachers' attitudes and identities continue to evolve in the context of educational reforms that adopt neoliberal, market-led approaches emphasising both autonomy and 'responsibilisation'; a shift from 'governed' to 'governing' (Rose 1999). In doing so the paper will articulate the ways in which entrepreneurial teachers/school leaders see themselves as embracing ‘new freedoms’ in order to act as moral agents (AUTHORS 2017). The paper goes on to problematize the conflation of a social justice/educational equity agenda with one of ‘driving up standards’; it concludes by arguing that whilst heterarchical governance models of public schooling (Ball 2009) have created the potentiality for a social justice orientation (AUTHOR(S) 2015), the risk remains that the ‘coercive compliance’ culture inherent in performative systems will prioritise narrower aspirations focused on closing attainment gaps at the expense of addressing fundamental social justice challenges. The paper concludes that teacher/leaders in performative schools are increasingly neither purely 'performative' in outlook (entirely focused on complying with accountability frameworks, nor 'post-performative' (exploiting the freedom of the self-governing, self-improving school to pursue a social justice agenda). Rather they are 'neo-performative' in outlook, navigating a complex terrain in which they satisfy a strong sense of moral purpose through a relentlessly target-driven approach to improving outcomes and closing ‘achievement gaps’ but it is questionable whether they can engage as effectively with other aspects of social justice and equity – such as supporting students development as critically engaged and empowered citizens. The paper will provide the underpinning for future empirical work investigating the work of a new generation of school leaders in quasi-autonomous public schools, with a particular emphasis on the extent to which neo-liberal reforms of school systems can have a positive impact on educational equity and social justice.
Apple, M. 2001. Markets, standards, teaching, and teacher education, Journal of Teacher Education, 52: 182–196. Apple, M. 2010. Global Crises, Social Justice, and Education, NY: Routledge Ball, S. 2003 The Teacher's Soul and the Terrors of Performativity, Journal of Education Policy 18(2): 215-228 Ball, S. 2009 ‘Academies in Context: Politics, Business and Philanthropy and Heterarchical Governance’, Management in Education 23(3): 100–3. Ball, S. 2010. Globalising Education Policy, London: Routledge Day, C. 2002. School reform and transitions in teacher professionalism and identity International Journal of Educational Research, 37: 677-692. Evans, L., 2008. Professionalism, professionality and the development of education professionals. British journal of educational studies, 56(1): 20–38. Gewitz, S. and Ball, S., 2000. From ‘welfarism’ to ‘new managerialism’: shifting discourses of school leadership in the education market place. Discourse, 21(3): 253–267. Gunter, H.M. and Forrester, G. 2010. “Education reform and school leadership”. In Brookes, S. and Grint (eds) The public sector leadership challenge, K. London: Palgrave. Hargreaves, A., 2000. Four ages of professionalism and professional learning. Teachers and teaching: history and practice, 6(2): 151–182. AUTHOR(S) 2015. xxxxx, Educational Management and Leadership xxxxx AUTHOR(S) 2017. xxxxx, School Leadership and Management xxxxx Menter, I., et al. (1997) Work and Identity in the Primary School, Buckingham: Open University Press. Møller, J. (2009). School leadership in an age of accountability: Tensions between managerial and professional accountability. Journal of Educational Change, 10(1) Newman, J., and J. Clarke. 2009. Publics, Politics and Power: Remaking the Public in Public Services. London: Sage Nias, J. (1999). Teachers’ moral purposes: Stress, vulnerability, and strength. Cambridge: CUP. Ozga, J. 1995 `Deskilling a profession: Professionalism, deprofessionalisation and the new managerialism'. London, Kogan Page. Perryman, J. 2006. Panoptic performativity and school inspection regimes: Disciplinary mechanisms and life under special measures. Journal of Education Policy 212: 147–61. Rose, N. 1999. Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. 2nd ed. London: Free Association Books Sachs, J. 2003. The Activist Professional, Buckingham: OUP Troman, G et al. 2007 Creativity and performativity policies in primary school cultures, Journal of Education Policy, 22 (5)549-572 Villegas, A. 2007. Dispositions in teacher education: A look at social justice. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(5), 370–380 AUTHOR(S) 2011. xxxxx Professional Development in Education xxxxx AUTHOR(S) 2015. xxxxx International Journal of Inclusive Education xxxxx Woods, J. Sense of Purpose: Reconfiguring Entrepreneurialism in Public Education, Advances in Educational Administration, 19 223-241
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