26 SES 14 A, What Makes Effective Area-Based Reform in Disadvantaged Areas? Learning from Austria, England and Germany
It is well-documented that socially disadvantaged students – especially in deprived neighborhoods of metropolitan areas – have unequal educational opportunities. In Germany, these inequalities manifest themselves in the transition from primary to different types of secondary schools. In response, educational landscapes aim to promote equity in the transition from primary to secondary schools. In this context, a new project administration unit emerged within Local Education Authorities: the Local Education Office (LEO). LEOs are designed as agents of change and expected to strengthen the collaboration between all relevant actors by supporting project network structures (e.g. Busemeyer & Vossiek, 2015). Building on the concept of path dependency (e.g. Mahoney, 2000), this paper analyzes opportunities and strategies of LEOs to induce change and promote equity school transitions. I hypothesize that LEOs’ opportunity to change is strongly restricted by institutional constraints. To analyze this hypothesis, I examine LEO’s strategies of selecting schools for their project networks given that these networks are to develop and implement new approaches in the school system. I investigate eight municipalities of the Metropolis Rhine-Ruhr – one of Europe’s largest metropolitan areas that has been shaped by drastic structural changes and social and cultural segregation between neighborhoods ((Jeworutzki, et al., 2017). My analysis relies on official statistics and in-depth interviews with LEO employees. Using social area statistics, I analyze differences between network schools and others schools, and apply content analysis on my interview material to study institutional conditions that frame the establishment of school networks. I establish that LEOs need to balance contradictory expectations when selecting network schools. This can result in an incremental rather than an abrupt change in school transition practices. The potential for reducing relevant inequalities is ambivalent. For instance, the majority of the LEOs deliberately ensured that school networks represent real transition flows between primary and secondary schools. However, in some cases this strategy leads to a systematic exclusion of schools in deprived neighborhoods, and reproduces existing inequalities in school access for socially disadvantaged students. In other cases, motivated by (local) school policies, LEOs systematically excluded schools from project networks that risk being closed. This is problematic given that reasons and consequences of inequality cumulate at such schools in particular. The paper contributes to the literature by showing that an area-based reform needs to pay attention to former and existing institutional settings given that they determine opportunities and likelihoods of institutional change to materialize.
Baumert, J., Maaz, K., & Trautwein (Eds.) (2009). Educational decisions. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, Special issue 12-09. Busemeyer, M., & Vossiek, J. (2015). Reforming education governance through local capacity-building: A case study of the "Learning Locally" programme in Germany (OECD Education Working Papers: Vol. 113). Paris: OECD Publishing. Jeworutzki, S., Knüttel, K., Niemand, C., Schmidt, B.-J., Schräpler, J.-P., & Terpoorten, T. (2017). Räumlich segregierte Bildungsteilhabe in NRW und im Ruhrgebiet. In J.-P., Schräpler, S., Jeworutzki, B., Butzin, T. Terpoorten, J. Goebel, & G. G. Wagner (Eds.), In Wege zur Metropole Ruhr (pp.13–213). ZEFIR-Materialien, Band 6. Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Regionalforschung (ZEFIR). Mahoney, J. (2000). Path dependence in historical sociology. Theory and Society, 29(4), 507–548.
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