04 SES 02 B, Learning Environments
The principles of New Public Management (Adcroft & Willis, 2005, Deifenbach, 2008) have inspired educational reforms in Sweden during the last 20 years with the introduction of a large array of reforms: educational standards, national assessments, new grading system, accountability, vouchers, independent schools, school inspectorate (Allodi, in press, NAE, 2013). One of the assumptions is that the schools will perform better if they are exposed to concurrence from other schools, through the parents’ free choice of school. The system requires therefore that inspectorate reports and various measures of school performance are made publicly available. Measures of students’ achievements, grades, qualification rates, are included in the accountability system, while measures of school performance on other shared educational goals, as inclusiveness, fairness and equity, are usually not considered. It is inevitable that some schools will be identified as low performers, or as performing less well than expected - in models that take account of school composition. The models employed in the Swedish school accountability system, however, do not take account of students with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Schools that recruit large numbers of disadvantaged students or that recruit students with special educational needs from the whole districts to special units, risk getting lower results than expected, may get consequently a bad reputation and eventually smaller numbers of students, which may conduce to economic trouble and budget cuts. Schools like these may be penalized and risk ending up in a situation of demoralization and crisis (Allodi, in press).
The school’s organizational climate has been identified as a factor that influences school performance and students’ well being and results (Rutter & Maughan, 2002; Leithwood, 2011). The aim of the intervention program Social climate participation and learning was to sustain changes in the schools’ organizational climate, by mean of activities for the staff as workshops, evaluations and planning, in collaboration with a researcher. The broad theoretical framework of the intervention includes theories of learning environments, universal human needs and values (Allodi, 2007, 2010 a, 2010b, Schwartz, 1995), organizational learning and change (Mintzberg, 1983, Senge, 1995, Kaplan , 2007). The changes were expected to make the school more equitable and inclusive, increasing the number of students that were qualified to secondary education, and also to raise the average qualification value of the students and their well-being.
Pinehill school was one of the two schools that participated in the program. Pinehill school is a junior public high school with about 300 students located in a suburban municipality, in a neighborhood of about 16 thousand inhabitants. The employment rate in the area is about 84 % and 17 % of the population have an immigrant background. Pinehill school has a district commissioned special unit for students with special educational needs.
The situation of the school at the beginning and some of the development and changes that occurred and were manifested at Pinehill school during three years are described and analyzed in this paper.
Adcroft, A. & Willis, R. (2005) The (un)intended outcome of public sector performance measurement, International Journal of Public Sector Management, 18(5): 386-400. Allodi, M. W. (2007). Assessing the quality of learning environments in Swedish schools: Development and analysis of a theory-based instrument. Learning Environments Research, 10(3), 157-175. Allodi, M. W. (2010). Goals and values in school: A model developed for describing, evaluating and changing the social climate of learning environments. Social Psychology of Education, 13(2), 207-235. Allodi, M.W. (in press). Simple-minded Accountability Measures Create Failure Schools in Disadvantaged Contexts. A Case Study of a Swedish Junior-High School. Policy Futures in Education,11, 5, 2013. Diefenbach, T. (2009). New Public Management in Public Sector Organizations: the Dark Sides of Managerialistic ‘enlightenment’. Public Administration, 87(4), 892-909. Kaplan, R. (2007) Creating Strategy-Focused Public Sector Enterprises. Lecture: Göteborg October, 19, 2007. Leithwood, K. (2010). Characteristics of school districts that are exceptionally effective in closing the achievement gap. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 9(3), 245-291. McEachin, A., & Polikoff, M. S. (2012). We are the 5%: Which schools would be held accountable under a proposed revision of the elementary and secondary education act? Educational Researcher, 41(7), 243-251. Mintzberg, H. (1983). Power in and around organizations. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. NAE (2013). Mapping the School Market. http://www.skolverket.se/publikationer?id=2946 Rutter, M.&, Maughan, B. (2002). School effectiveness findings 1979-2002. Journal of School Psychology, 40, 6, 451-475. Senge, P.M. (2006). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. London: Random House Business. Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In: M. P. Zanna (Ed.) Advances in Experimental Psychology. London: Academic Press. Teddlie, C. & Tashakkori, A. (2010) (Eds) Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioural Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
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