There are many forces and factors that impact school reform. Forces include all stakeholders such as students, staff members, parents, and community members. Factors refer to internal and external aspects of planning and implementation. Combined, forces and factors can positively affect school change when done with transparency, inclusion, and analysis. Forces within a school comprise students, teachers, administrators, non certified personnel, parents, district leaders, and community members. Student involvement in school improvement is critical to the process of change. Students will feel more a part of the school and will develop more ownership in improvement. Similarly, staff members who are informed of the rationale for change and given an opportunity to examine school data are better able to assist with effective decision-making during the goal setting process. Leadership that is effective in guiding an inclusive process of conducting a needs assessment, communicating issues and facilitating development of a strategic plan for reform is necessary for success. Perspectives from all stakeholders are considered and involvement of district personnel is sought for support.
Lessons learned from Olsen and Sexton (2009) in their qualitative study of threat rigidity show that a school’s reform climate affects teachers and in turn, teachers affect the reform climate. Restricting the flow of information while applying pressure to conform without transparency and open communication leads to negative feelings toward reform. Understanding group dynamics can offset potential intergroup and intra-group tensions that may result when divisiveness occurs. Encouraging and participating in collaborative sessions where all members are held accountable, including administration, for implementing agreed upon strategies can lead to successful implementation. Teachers are included in all phases of reform and trust is established.
Beach and Lindahl (2004) suggest that development of a specific knowledge base for school improvement is necessary for positive change. Leaders can benefit from knowing about planning philosophies, systems theory, leadership, and group dynamics. The leader’s knowledge of change, motivation, and staff development on implementation can impact the effort. People are at the heart of all reform. Astuto, Clark, Read, McGree and Fernandez (1994) assert that people are the reason for the failure or success of the organization. Given this notion, leaders must be aware of the needs of all members of the organization and will need to scaffold conversations with all stakeholders in order to learn the needs and determine obstacles.
Planning is a key role for leadership. Through critical conversations leaders can ascertain the school’s capacity and willingness to engage in reform. Implementation requires identification of strategies necessary to reap the desired results. Energetic motivation can drive teams to successful...