28 SES 12 B, The Place of Students in Education Policies
In Brazil, age-grade distortion is the indicator that shows the percentage of students from a specific school year, stage or level who are overage in relation to fellow students. According to the Ministry of Education of Brazil, an overage student is considered as such when the difference between his/her age and the one formally expected for the school year he/she is attending is of two or more years. This indicator can be associated to a number of situations, such as school dropout, a late entry in the educational system, and, most importantly, grade retention. The latter points to the capacity of school systems to ensure that students’ learning is achieved in appropriate time.
A large body of Brazilian educational literature has repeatedly reinforced the relevance of age-grade distortion as one of the most prominent educational problems in the country. By directly affecting students’ self-concept and chances of social mobility, it contributes to the perpetuation of social inequality, which has historically characterized Brazilian society (Costa Ribeiro, 1991; Soares, 2007; Oliveira, Soares, 2012; Ribeiro, 2011).
In the extent of educational policies, accelerated learning programs or system policies and flow correction projects designed to correct age-grade distortion have been implemented in Brazil since the 1990s, aiming at closing overage students’ learning gap. The first experiences have been registered in the context of educational reforms of Latin America. In order to achieve that goal, such students were enrolled in peer groups and were taught a specific curriculum linked to a different pedagogical approach. However, despite the widespread implementation of such programs and policies, in 2015, 19.2% of Brazilian students in primary and secondary education still faced age-grade distortion, according to the School Census released by the Ministry of Education. In the high school stage, the percentage was even higher, reaching 27.4% of the students. In major Brazilian capitals, such as Rio de Janeiro, high age-grade distortion rates also reveal the persistence of an unequal distribution of educational opportunities inside the system and the schools.
The present research investigates which factors related to the students, as well as factors related to school context and management, may influence the implementation of age-grade distortion programs/policies, favoring certain outcomes. Our aim is to understand how the policy implementation and its management are affected by different intraschool factors, thereby affecting the trajectories of those students enrolled in the so-called accelerated learning groups. Considering the importance of school principals’ leadership in the implementation and management of the policy at the school level (Bruggengate et al., 2012; Price, 2012), given their role as “street-level bureaucrats” and implementing agents (Lipsky, 1980), we discuss their discretion in this process. In doing so, we also take into account the structural characteristics of schools and their organizational climate.
Given that overage students are not rarely perceived as candidates for school failure (Anderson, 1990), we believe that studies analyzing policies aimed at providing them with special treatment – in an inclusion perspective – are also relevant to international scholars within the Education research community, who are interested in finding ways of tackling the problem of educational inequality. Therefore, despite the focus on the Brazilian context, we believe that our findings can contribute to the wider academic community, especially to those interested in combining Political Science (more specifically, the implementation studies conducted in the field) and Sociology of Education in their analyses.
The research was initially anchored in the analysis of School Census data relative to the public municipal school system of the city of Rio de Janeiro, comprising a period from 2010 to 2014. Initially we aimed at analyzing the sociodemographic characteristics and the trajectories of those students enrolled in accelerated learning projects in any one of the above-mentioned years. The study of the trajectories allowed us to understand how the policy acted upon its target public at a specific stage of their schooling: the transition between elementary school to middle school, and the completion of the latter stage. The study was later extended until 2015. At this stage, we selected a number of schools in which certain types of trajectories and outcomes were more usual. We then investigated the relationship between such trajectories and each school context, as well as how the school management team influenced the outcomes of the implementation. In 2016, we conducted a case study in one of the selected schools in order to understand some of the aspects of the policy implementation. We interviewed 32 members of the school community, including teachers, principals, school keepers and students from both regular and accelerated learning classes. Our main focuses of interest were the agents’ prevailing perceptions on the policy and its target public, and how such perceptions seemed to influence their discretionary practices during the implementation of the policy at the school level.
Among the preliminary results obtained, we could observe an uneven reduction in the age-grade distortion rates among the school years, as well as differences in students’ trajectories and the school year achieved in 2014. Such results suggested existing relationships between the implementation model adopted, students’ sociodemographic characteristics, likely intra school factors, and the effect of the policy upon students’ trajectories. Regarding the contexts in which the accelerated learning groups were organized, we observed wide margins of discretion in the implementation of the policy at the school level. Human resources, infrastructure, the organization of schools and their physical spaces are some of the elements that affect the management conditions and represent challenges to the work of school management teams. As for the main conclusions reached from the case study, we found that the implementation of the policy represented an additional challenge to a school that already faced a situation of scant resources. In such context, there seemed to be a prevailing perception of overage students as undisciplined, lazy, or even as cognitively impaired, holding such students accountable for their own failure. Several discretionary practices could be reconstructed from the interviews, especially those concerning the enrollment of students in the accelerated learning groups and the provision of materials to them. The implementing agents seemed to guide their discretionary actions based on a practical-moral judgement that differed “worthy” students from “unworthy” ones (Maynard-Moody & Musheno, 2003), consequently responding to their needs differently. Since those students from the accelerated learning groups were often perceived as “unworthy”, sometimes they were not provided with access to resources, which were scarce for all in the school. The undermining of the instructional leadership and the redefinition of school education as a reward to some students seemed to have a strong impact on the promotion of equitable learning environments.
ANDERSON, V. H. The overage student: Candidate for school failure. Doctoral Dissertation, Portland University, 1990 BRUGGENGATE, G.; LUYTEN, H.; SHEERENS, J.; SLEEGERS, P. Modeling the influence of school leaders on student achievement: how can school leaders make a difference? In: Educational Administration Quarterly, n.48, v.4, p.699-732, 2012. COSTA RIBEIRO, S. A Pedagogia da Repetência. Estudos Avançados, nº 5 p. 6-21. 1991. LIPSKY, M. Street-level bureaucracy: dilemmas of the individual in public service. Russel Sage Foundation, New York, 1980. MARCONDES, M. I; LEITE, V. F. A; OLIVEIRA, A. C. P. Reforma e recontextualização das políticas: o papel dos coordenadores pedagógicos nas escolas municipais do Rio de Janeiro. Rev. Diálogo Educ., Curitiba, vol. 12, n. 35, p. 187-209, jan./abr. 2012. MAYNARD-MOODY, S. & MUSHENO, M. 2003. Cops, Teachers, and Counselors: Stories from the Front Lines of Public Service. University of Michigan Press. 216 p. OLIVEIRA, A. C. P. Política pública e gestão escolar: um estudo de caso no Rio de Janeiro. Jornal de Políticas Educacionais, v. 7, p. 29-37, 2013. __________; WALDHELM, A. Liderança do diretor, clima escolar e desempenho dos alunos: qual a relação? Ensaio: aval. pol. públ. Educ., Rio de Janeiro, v.24, n. 93, p. 824-844, out./dez. 2016. OLIVEIRA, L. F. B.; SOARES, S. S. D. Determinantes da repetência escolar no Brasil: uma análise de painel dos censos escolares entre 2007 e 2010. Brasília: IPEA, fevereiro de 2012 (Texto para discussão 1703). PAES DE CARVALHO, C.; OLIVEIRA, A. C.P.; LIMA, M. F. M. Avaliações externas: tensões e desafios para a gestão escolar Est. Aval. Educ., São Paulo, v. 25, n. 59, p. 50-77, set./dez. 2014. RIBEIRO, C.A.C. Desigualdade de oportunidades e resultados educacionais no Brasil. DADOS – Revista de Ciências Sociais, Rio de Janeiro, vol. 54, no 1, 2011, pp. 41 a 87. SAMPAIO, M. das M. F. Aceleração de Estudos: uma intervenção pedagógica. Revista Em Aberto (Programa de Correção de Fluxo). Brasília, v.17, janeiro de 2000, p.57-73. SOARES, S. A Repetência no contexto internacional: o que dizem os dados de avaliações das quais o Brasil participa. Brasília: IPEA, 2007. (Texto para Discussão nº 1300). SOUZA, A. R. Perfil da Gestão Escolar no Brasil. Tese de Doutorado (Educação). São Paulo: PUC-SP, 2006.
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