26 SES 14 A, What Makes Effective Area-Based Reform in Disadvantaged Areas? Learning from Austria, England and Germany
The role and impact of ‘middle tier’ bodies, such as school districts and local education authorities, has been studied across different schools systems over many years (Leithwood and Azar, 2017; Leithwood and Mccullough, 2017; Leithwood, 2013; Anderson et al, 2012; Waters and Marzano, 2006). Several of these studies and reviews have sought to identify the characteristics of ‘effective’ districts, but this endeavor has proved methodologically challenging with limited evidence that a single set of practices will prove consistently successful (Trujillo, 2017). Meanwhile, in many school systems, school districts have been criticized as overly bureaucratic and have been bypassed through school autonomy policies and wider processes of disintermediation (Lubienski, 2014). However, the rise of school autonomy policies has not removed the need for some form of local co-ordination and oversight of schooling. In their study of school systems around the world, Moushed et al (2010:22) observed that every system had: “increasingly come to rely on a ‘mediating layer’ that acts between the centre and the schools”. So it seems that processes of disintermediation are serving to reshape but not entirely remove the ‘middle tier’ in many local education landscapes. These processes appear to demand a renewed focus on network governance and system leadership across localities, in order to bring coherence and address the needs of diverse schools. Several authors have argued that new models of ‘middle out’ change have emerged in recent years (Fullan, 2015; Munby and Fullan, 2016). Hargreaves and Shirley (2018) distinguish between ‘leading-in the-middle’ and ‘leading from the middle’, where the former is a more formalised connector and buffer between the centre and schools, while the latter is intended to imply a more fluid set of relationships that are bound together by moral purpose, collective responsibility, and playing an active role in initiating, rather than just implementing, change. This paper will draw on four locality case studies undertaken in England to explore the ways in which large scale academisation and wider changes to the traditional ‘middle tier’ roles played by Local Authorities are reshaping local school landscapes (Greany and Higham, 2018). Drawing on governance theory, the paper will explore the ways in which network governance intersects with wider hierarchical and marketised processes. It will focus in particular on the ways in which the agency of different school leaders is exercised and the extent to which this supports inclusive and effective local improvement and reform models.
Greany, T. and Higham, R. (2018) ‘Hierarchy, Markets and Networks: analysing the 'self-improving school-led system’ agenda in England and the implications for schools’. London: IOE Press. Hargreaves, A. and Shirley, D. (2018) ‘Leading from the Middle: Spreading Learning, Well-being, and Identity Across Ontario’. Council of Ontario Directors of Education Report Leithwood, K., 2013. ‘Strong districts and their leadership’. A paper commissioned by Council of Ontario Directors of Education, Toronto, Canada. Leithwood, K., Azah, V.N., 2017. ‘Characteristics of high-performing school districts’. Leadership and Policy in Schools. 16, 27–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/15700763.2016.1197282 Leithwood, K., Mccullough, C., 2017. ‘Strong districts and their leadership project (Executive Summary)’. Council of Ontario Directors of Education. Lubienski, C, (2014) Re-making the middle: Dis-intermediation in international context. Education Management Administration and Leadership, 42/3 pp423-440. Munby, S. and Fullan, M. (2016) ‘Inside-out and downside-up: how leading from the middle has the power to transform education systems’. Reading, UK: Education Development Trust. Trujillo, T. (2017) School and District Improvement: research issues and evidence. In Daly, A. (Ed) (2017) Thinking and Acting Systemically. SAGE. Waters, J.T., Marzano, R.J., 2006. School district leadership that works: The effect of Superintendent leadership on student achievement (Working paper). McCREL International, Denver, CO.
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