26 SES 12 B, Leading High-Needs Schools And Schools In Challenging Circumstances
There is a growing interest in leadership that contributes to improvements in high-needs schools worldwide due to policy pressures for high academic student performance. Different countries have taken diverse approaches to transform high-needs schools. However, the differences in policies from different countries may result in different school leadership practices.
In this study, we conducted a comparative study of curriculum and evaluation policies and implications for school performance in the U.S., China, and Germany. We intend to deepen the understanding of school leader practices with regards to curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment in transforming the low-performance schools to high-performance and in relation to different national and cultural contexts.
What are the similarities and differences in curriculum and evaluation policy changes in the U.S., China, and Germany? With the greater attention on accountability and competition due to neoliberal policies and increasing curriculum centralization, we ask: what practices have been implemented among successful school leaders in high-needs schools in the three different countries?
The theoretical framework utilized in this paper is neoliberalism. Neoliberalism has been installed in schools in a remarkable trend (Saul, 2005). The neoliberal concept of improving learning policy with the foundations of school education is implementing and affecting the schools. Neoliberalism has transformed the content of education into a marketing demand, that is the curriculum must be redesigned to reflect the new realities and the need for highly-skilled workers in management, communication, problem-solving, and decision making (Pongratz, 2006). Neoliberalism has also been transformed to encompass a new emphasis on regional educational standards (Peters, 2001). The regulation of regional standards in a global framework aims to promote continuous education and also enhance the governmentality of regional education. Neoliberalism shows how global deregulation and marketization discourse are interconnected with the goals of regional regulations and national policies.
This study is using comparative discourse analysis and qualitative methods for policy analysis. The researchers did interviews for principals, teachers, and parents in high-needs schools. After the school visits form three regions, researchers transcribed the interviews, coded the transcripts, analyzed the data, and compared the similarities and differences among leadership approaches. Furthermore, the researchers drew on policy and policy discourse analysis in order to compare the educational policies across countries for differences of principal leadership practices for different schools.
We found that the high-needs schools in three countries all show the policy implications affecting schools and leaders with some differences according to the cultural and historical context. While Chinese high-needs schools emphasize much on the moral aspects, such as loyalty, diligence, and humanism. In addition, high-needs schools in the U.S. have been implemented with the power shifting between the centralization and decentralization from the state policy to the federal policy. In European countries, school reform policies have been largely focused on the social welfare systems, globalization, and neoliberalism, but there are no particularly discussions about high-needs schools. In China, the external context for schools, such as resources, social capital, leaders’ reputation has been examined on the procedure of the overall school performances.
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