Quality_ school effectiveness and school improvement

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					      MA in Education: Amsterdam Centre

         Strategic Management in
                Education

      Quality, school effectiveness and
            school improvement




This booklet has been written by a number of tutors at the Westminster
Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes University. Special thanks to
Marion Shaw, Linet Arthur and Helen Fail for their contributions.




                                    1
Quality, school effectiveness and school improvement

The educational debate world-wide has focused in recent years on making
schools more accountable to parents and to society generally for what goes on
in the name of education. International schools have been ahead of national
schools in many respects, as they have had to exist solely on their reputation for
producing what parents want. Schools have their own systems to check on
quality through
monitoring and evaluation. Properly carried out, these practices have the
added advantage of helping people to recognise where their accountability
lies, and hence to take more responsibility for the job they are doing.
Nevertheless, we can only monitor effectively, and learn from experience to
improve quality, if we first have a clear idea about what we are aiming at,
and what precisely counts as quality.

QUALITY

As society becomes more mobile, and as globalisation leads to common
expectations, we need a common understanding of what we mean by quality. Is
it just good exam results? Or is it more than this?

We will look first at the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM), and then at
whether it is realistic to apply TQM to life in schools.

Total Quality Management (TQM)
TQM is an holistic approach to management which permeates every aspect of
an organisation, every relationship and every process. It therefore offers an
integrity and coherence which is lacking in most other models. It is value driven
– placing fundamental significance on values and purpose.

It is about managing the interpersonal components of all organisations and
equally acknowledges the interdependence between an organisation and its
environment.

History
Deming (1986) and Juran (1979) in the USA were central to the TQM
movement, which subsequently evolved rapidly. Both approached quality from a
background of statistics used in manufacturing processes in the engineering
industry. Widely adopted by the Japanese and re-discovered by the USA in the
1970s and by Britain in the 1980s, TQM has become widespread in
manufacturing, commerce and public services across the world – though some
might argue that schools are quite different. Further reading: West-Burnham
(1992) gives a useful summary relating to schools.




                                        2
 Why Total Quality Management?
 The reasons are largely pragmatic – because it works – rather than ideological.
 But there are values implicit in the TQM model which appeal to the modern
 democratic mind – that of valuing people and encouraging their initiative; and to
 the educational manager – who believes in the capacity for everyone to grow
 and develop. There is also a moral component implicit in TQM: where everyone
 in the organisation performs to the highest possible standard, because they
 want to, they achieve job satisfaction.

 Key concepts
       Quality has traditionally been defined as Excellence, but is now defined
       in terms of what the customer requires. A TQM organisation seeks
       evidence of what the customer expects and then sets out to exceed
       those expectations.

        In an organisation where there is only Quality control, defects are
        expected: products are rejected at the end of the line or services are
        improved only when they have failed to give customer satisfaction. It is
        historical, taking place after the event. It removes the responsibility from
        the person who made the product.

        Quality assurance moves one step beyond quality control. It is
        anticipatory. Under quality assurance, management seeks to define
        standards and procedures which will unfailingly produce quality products
        or services.



                            INSPECTION




      PLANNING
                                                      REPORT
   FOR DEVELOPMENT




                             REACTION
                            TO REPORT

Fig 8. Model to illustrate quality CONTROL




                                          3
                               QUALITY
                              ASSURANCE


           REACTION
           TO REPORT                                EFFECTIVE
                                                    PROCESSES
                                                     IN PLACE
            REPORT




                               INSPECTION




Fig 9. Model to illustrate quality ASSURANCE




   (Taken from Ormston and Shaw, 1994, p.11)

   Quality is about:
    Fitness for purpose
    Shared understanding and purposes among all partners
    Regularly questioning and challenging assumptions
    Turning rhetoric into policies for action
    Planning and making decisions on the basis of accurate information
    Empowering teams and individuals

   Quality assurance is an essential feature of educational development planning.
   Total Quality Management builds on quality assurance by extending the
   principles to every aspect of organisational life and not just the manufacturing or
   service process.

   In a TQM organisation:-

      People are trusted to work as professionals
      There is a strong emphasis on teamwork
      There is a weak emphasis on hierarchy
      Goals are clear
      Communications are good
      Everyone has high expectations of themselves and others
      The organisation is “fit for purpose”




                                            4
The essential components of TQM.

The customer or client is central to TQM. The customer may be external to the
organisation or internal. The customer is defined as the person or group in
receipt of a product or service. The organisation only exists for the customer;
there is no other purpose. TQM organisations are obsessive about customer
care and satisfaction. They aim for zero defect.

Values: Members of a TQM organisation have explicit and shared values which
are not moral abstractions but the basis for decision making and action.
Mission is central to Total Quality Management in that it:
 provides a sense of direction and purpose
 acts as a unifying factor
 provides criteria for decision making
 articulates values
 ensures consistency of purpose
 defines customers
 characterises the organisation to its community
 provides challenge and motivation

Discussion:

To what extent does TQM relate to the complex job of education?
(How) can the concept be applied?
What are the standards that we need to measure?
Who judges?



Inspection vs. self-evaluation

These two ways of checking on performance each have their merits, and each
their
disadvantages:


               INSPECTION                             SELF-EVALUATION

 Principle: to inspect often, tell people   Principle: organisation continuously
 what they are doing wrong, and hope        examines its own processes and
 for improvement next time                  outcomes, and seeks ways to improve
                                            them as a matter of course

 Advantages: objective view gained;         Advantages: involves the staff, giving
 useful data to compare cross-region or     better ownership and understanding of
 cross-nation, allowing holistic            goal, common vision is established;
 monitoring; “experts” know what they       organisation improves from within with
 are looking for                            the will of the people; releases creativity
                                            in employees, and improves teamwork



                                        5
 Potential problems; temptation to               Potential problems: needs a new way
 measure what is easily measurable               of looking at measuring outcomes
 rather than what is useful; people can          before it can work; may not be
 be made to feel failures if identified;         considered to be objective or rigorous;
 likelihood of wastage through rejection;        may be hard to establish overview.
 people are passive recipients and may
 discredit the outcomes




The self-evaluation model, then, fits well with the notion of Quality Assurance
and TQM, while the inspection model fits with the Quality Control (more
traditional) way of checking up.

What is the ideal balance?

International schools have a particularly difficult time trying to pin down where
accountability lies. On paper, it may seem straightforward. But consider the
following:


    Board members who stay for short lengths of time
    Board members and teachers who inhabit the same social circle
    Board members, senior school managers and teachers who live close to each
       other
    Schools with children (and parents) from a range of cultural backgrounds
    Schools with staff on short-term contracts
    Schools which find it difficult to recruit staff
    Schools which are owned by individuals
    Schools which are profit centres for individuals
    Parents with a perspective based on “Survival in the world”
    Teachers with a perspective based on “Educating the whole child”
    Parents who disagree about how to survive in the world
    Teaches who disagree about how to educate the whole child
     ....and that‟s without discussing different understandings of “international
         education”......

External Accountability

The assessment of learning outcomes bridges the gap between internal and
external accountability measures. Because pupils – and particularly young
pupils – are cared for and represented by others, the information from



                                           6
assessment is to one degree or another publicly available. It becomes,
therefore, both a measure against which one important group of stakeholders,
the parents, make a judgement about a school and a way in which schools
can discharge part of their accountability. In the often close, incestuous
setting of many international schools, of course, assessment results become
a part of the accountability process to more than just parents.

Increasingly, the past twenty years have seen external accountability increase
as the gate to the secret garden of education has been opened wider and
wider. “Who pays the piper calls the tune” is now one of the mantras of
governments and other interested groups, including Boards, owners and
others connected to international schools.

At the same time a number of other factors have caused stakeholders to lose
confidence, rightly or wrongly, in teachers and schools. These include:

   the increasing politicisation of education
   increasing demands on school leavers
   disagreements within the teaching profession
   an increase in small scale democratic expression
   a perceived failure of schools to deliver
   comparison of school systems across the world
   tensions amongst internationally mobile parents about the future of their
    children.

The combination of all of these has led to the use of external accountability
procedures. No longer are schools expected to accept accountability to
external stakeholders and to organise their response to it. Now, external
organisations are used to provide accountability to those stakeholders through
a process of independent review and inspection.

Two of the most frequently used procedures are the CIS School Accreditation
and Evaluation programme and the Framework for the Inspection of Schools
from the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) in the UK. In South and
Central America the Latin American Headteachers Conference (LAHC)
operates. Other organisations and countries have models of external
accountability which are similar.

The CIS model is characterised by:

   defined criteria
   action following a school‟s expressed desire to take part in the
    accreditation process
   a preparatory visit to explain the process
   a long period of school self-evaluation and self study
   the preparation of documentation for the visiting accreditation team
   a review of the self-study by the accreditation team
   no adherence to particular models of curriculum delivery or school
    organisation


                                       7
   an award of accreditation; or an award of accreditation following certain
    action; or no award

The OFSTED model is characterised by:

   defined criteria, which specifically focus on pupil attainment and progress
   a formal, imposed inspection every 4 or 6 years
   a preparatory visit to explain the process
   a period of preparation of documents by the school
   a review of the school by the team, focusing on classroom learning and
    teaching and using documentation to support this
   no adherence to particular models of curriculum delivery or school
    organisation
   a publicly available report on the work of the school which can describe
    schools as ranging from “excellent” to “failing”.

The LAHC model has many similarities with the CIS process, but here the
“inspectors” are headteachers (or other senior leaders) from LAHC-
membership schools, all proven in their own school leadership, and are
therefore experienced in (and empathetic with) the special conditions
associated with schools which are largely bicultural.

Whatever the model used, schools need indicators of how they are doing in
order to monitor progress.


Education indicators
One problem with the development of indicators is that schools may not be
able to measure what is important in education. A US report, Education
Counts (1991, quoted in MacGilchrist et al, 1997, p.3) suggested that we
should learn to measure what we value, rather than value what we can easily
measure. White and Barber (1997, p.51) state: “Most of the educational aims
which parents, teachers and ordinary citizens think important – happiness,
personal autonomy, moral goodness, imaginativeness, civic-mindedness … -
do not appear to be measurable.”

Another problem is that performance indicators can be manipulated. Gray (in
Preedy, 1993) draws attention to the „Cannell‟ controversy. Cannell looked at
the reports of all 50 US states, describing pupil performance in 1987, and
discovered that all of them claimed to be above the national average. The
reason for this proved to be that all the states were „teaching to the test‟,
either by aligning their curricula to their chosen test, or choosing a test that
was aligned to their curricula.

Riley (in Riley and Nuttall, 1994, p. 94) suggests that the following principles
should underlie an indicator framework:

   “Education indicators must be meaningful to everyone interested in
    education.



                                        8
     They should help us compare one school with another.
     They should focus on issues about which we should gather information
      and on which we can act.
     An individual school/college should be able to measure itself against what
      it thinks is important, as well as more general indicators.
     Education is about social as well as academic development and indicators
      must include both.” (p. 94)

Macbeath (in Riley and Nuttall, 1994) describes the use of indicators in
Scotland and gives some very useful practical advice about developing
indicators. Parents, teachers and pupils were all asked how they would judge
whether a school is effective. From their responses, twelve indicators were
developed:

    Scottish indicators for self-evaluation
          pupil morale
          teacher morale
          teachers‟ job satisfaction
          the physical environment
          the learning context
          teacher-pupil relationships
          discipline
          equality and justice
          extra-curricular activities
          school leadership
          information to parents
          parent-teacher consultation.

Questionnaires were then developed to monitor these indicators. The
questionnaires put forward statements, against which people had to tick
„strongly agree‟, „agree‟, „disagree‟ or „strongly disagree‟. Sample questions
are given in the box below (taken from Macbeath, in Riley and Nuttall, 1994,
pp 104-105):

                                                strongly   agree   disagree   strongly
                                                 agree                        disagree
Questions to parents
“I really feel they know my child as an
individual.”
“I know that if my child is having difficulty
he/she will be helped.”
“I am confident that if there‟s a problem,
they‟ll let me know immediately.”
Questions to pupils
THINGS THAT MIGHT HAPPEN
A teacher made fun of someone in front
of the class.
A pupil cracked a joke about the teacher



                                                 9
and the teacher took it in good part.
A pupil didn‟t understand the class work
but was too afraid to ask for help.
Questions to teachers
“I often feel my abilities have not been
recognised.”
“I get the feeling that I am listened to and
my views are taken seriously by
promoted staff.”
“It is difficult to talk to anyone in the
school about problems in my teaching.”



This information is then used to make appropriate changes to the school.

Generalised lists of questions for a school to ask can be summarised as:
1. How is our school currently performing?
2. Are some parts of the school more effective than others? If so, why? What
   can we do about it?
3. Are some groups of pupils doing better than others? If so, why? What can
   we do about it?
4. How does the school‟s achievement now compare with its previous
   achievement?
5. How does the school‟s performance compare with that of other schools?
   What can we do about it?

Possible means of monitoring are:
    Audit
    Report of activities (including both quality and quantity)
    Research
    Observation
    Inspection
    School-based review
    Appraisal/performance management.

Response to deficiencies

The response to deficiencies will vary, depending on the type of deficiency
and how serious it is. Possible responses might include:

       In-service training
       External support in solving problems (partnerships, consultancy,
        parental involvement, fundraising etc)
       Target-setting for improvement, together with close monitoring
       Disciplinary action
       Dismissal.




                                               10
              School Effectiveness vs. School Improvement
                  Two movements - how convergent?

The two movements - school effectiveness and school improvement -
developed relatively independently, each acquiring its own body of
researchers and sets of theory. Over the last eight years or so, there has
been a move to bring these together, as clearly they have, or should have,
impact on each other.

In summary:

      School Effectiveness (SE) is about analysis. It seeks to answer the
       question: what characterises effective schools? It is based on
       features of organisations as opposed to the actual processes that go
       on inside them.

      School Improvement (SI) is about processes, action and change. It
       seeks to answer the question: how can schools improve?

Links are developing between these two movements, but as yet they are fairly
tenuous (Harris, 2001)

School Effectiveness (SE)
School effectiveness tends to examine the nature of the school organisation.
For example, do different resources make a difference? Does the type of
organisation itself have any impact on the educational outcome? If so, how?

The movement started from the premise, over 30 years ago, that the socio-
economic background of pupils makes more difference to the educational
outcomes than the nature of schooling itself (Coleman et al, 1966; Jencks et
al, 1972). This research set up a wave of research studies focusing on such
aspects of schools as student attitude, student behaviour, the nature of
leadership, etc.

If you should wish to delve deeper into this topic, Harris (2001, p.10) lists
some of the research focuses of contemporary studies:
     "The size of school effects (Gray et al, 1990; Daly, 1991: Thomas et al
        1997)
     The continuity of school effects (Sammons et al 1995)
     The nature of differential effects (Goldstein et al, 1993)
     The characteristics of differently effective departments and teachers
        (Creemers, 1994; Sammons et al, 1997; Harris, 1999)
     The consistency of school effects on different outcomes (Thomas et al
        1997; Goldstein and Sammons, 1994)"

School effectiveness studies are becoming more widespread throughout the
world, and the overwhelming conclusions are that:
   1. schools do make a difference




                                      11
   2. than less effective ones. They operate more as an organic whole and
      less as a loose collection of disparate sub-systems" ( Harris, 2001, p.
      11)
   3. "Teachers are important determinants of children's educational and
      social achievements" (Harris, 2001, p. 11)

HayMcber (2000) identified the following key aspects of teacher effectiveness,
based on a study of 34 „outstanding‟ teachers:

      Professionalism
      Challenge and Support
      Confidence
      Creating trust
      Respect for others

      Thinking
      Analytical thinking
      Conceptual thinking

      Planning and setting expectations
      Drive for improvement
      Information seeking
      Initiative

      Leading
      Flexibility
      Holding people accountable
      Managing pupils
      Passion for learning

      Relating to others
      Impact and influence
      Teamworking
      Understanding others.

Yet research in primary schools in England and Wales found that outstanding
teachers made no significant difference to their pupils‟ progress (Flecknoe,
2005).

School effectiveness tends to imply mechanistic solutions, assuming schools
to be rational organisations rather than the complex mix of cultures,
subcultures and interactions that they are. The consequences of this is that
having a list of what effective schools are/do, can develop a blame culture
(e.g. “we are not effective because we don't have/do X or Y”, or “if only you
would do this, we would be an effective school"). Eraut (1999) points out a
weakness of the search for effectiveness:

“The notion of effective methods has great political appeal, especially when
linked to ideas of evidence-based practice imported from the field of medicine.
But not more than 20 per cent of medical decisions and virtually no teaching


                                      12
decisions can be made on the basis of gold standard evidence from meta-
analyses and randomised control trials. Educational diagnoses and
treatments show so much natural variation that the construct of an effective
method is highly questionable” (Eraut, 1999, p.119).

School Improvement (SI)

School improvement tends to focus on school change processes rather than
outcomes per se. It aims to understand how schools change, and for this it
needs to address the cultural dimensions of schools (Hopkins et al, 1996).
School improvement implies an internal force from within the school, a
groundswell of wanting this to change at all levels, rather than an externally
imposed list of things they ought to do in order to improve.

School improvement assumes that schools have the capacity to improve
themselves through developing an organisational capacity for change and
growth.

There have been a great number of school improvement projects over the last
20 years, and Hopkins et al (1994) classify them as either "organic" or
"mechanistic". Organic school improvement work maps the parameters or
principles within which individual schools can take their own multi-level
perspective on a school development and change. Mechanistic school
improvement tends to "advocate or prescribe a particular approach to school
improvement" (Harris, 2001, p. 14).

Example of an organic school improvement project:
The International School improvement project (ISIP) involved 14
countries, co-ordinated by the OECD. The project lasted for four years (1982 -
1986) and took the school as the centre for change, having a goal of self-
renewal and growth at all levels in the school (classroom, departmental, whole
school).

A more recent example is the International School Bangkok, which has
implemented a systematic school improvement model, using data on student
learning as the basis for changes (Welch and Gerritz, 2004 – see the
Readings which accompany this module).




                                       13
Example of a mechanistic school improvement project:
The self-managing approach to school improvement developed by Caldwell
and Spinks (1988). This model defines a step-by-step approach to help
schools improve by giving proper responsibility to team functions. While it is
appropriate for many schools, not all schools find it successful, as it does not
take into account the variability of schools and the school context, and it
"presupposes a uniformity both within the organisation and across
organisations" (Harris, 2001, p. 15). Harris (2001) points out that there is
substantial evidence to suggest that highly mechanistic projects have a
positive impact on schools in the USA and in other countries (Slavin et al,
1996, 1994; Stringfield, 1995).

Whether organic or mechanistic, the school improvement movement is
characterised by school processes and actions being at the centre of change.
Important findings from the SI research include:
    The importance of teacher development in school level change
    The centrality of leadership in school level change
    Matching improvement strategy to school type (one size does not fit
      all!)
    Change efforts need to be linked to student outcomes
    School culture needs to be understood and worked within. The school
      that “promotes collegiallity, trust and collaborative working relationships
      and that focuses upon teaching and learning is more likely to be self-
      renewing and responsive to improvement efforts” (Hopkins, 1996 in
      Harris, 2001, p. 16).

The school improvement approach is limited by insufficient work on school
contextual factors, and lack of collaboration with the school effectiveness
focus.


Relationship between School Effectiveness and School Improvement

Certainly, it is easier to write with conviction if one can present clear
"evidence", such as exam results, as hard data lends credibility to a study.
Educationalists like formulae, and school improvement is shorter on these at
present than school effectiveness. Processes tend to be harder to define than
outcomes.

Nevertheless, there has been much recent clamouring for greater
collaboration between the two movements: "The future benefits of a merger
become […] clearer if one considers how central the two disciplines or
"paradigms" of scientific school effectiveness and humanistic school
improvement are to each other (Teddlie and Reynolds, 2000, p. 45). There is,
theoretically at least, a symbiotic relationship between the two: "on the one
hand, school improvement research offers an excellent testing ground for
school effectiveness theory and a means of exploring the links between
process and outcomes. On the other hand, school effectiveness research
offers school improvement a secure basis for making evaluative judgements
about programme impact. Yet, despite sound arguments for a merger


                                       14
between the two fields, progress towards this end has been limited, but
possibilities for collaboration clearly exist" (Harris, 2001, p. 17).

Ouston (1999) notes that school outcomes are quite similar when adjusted for
social factors (she quotes Croxford and Cowie‟s study, which showed a
difference of one grade between the average leaver in the most effective
school to the least effective after adjusting for social factors). She states that
“if schools don‟t differ, or we can‟t measure these differences reliably, then the
lists of the features of effective schools have little justification” (Ouston, 1999,
p.169).


“A trivial example to illustrate this issue is that of the house-plants. The effective
schools were pleasant places to be in. They were clean and cared for and had
plants in the classrooms. If one had cleaned the classrooms of the less effective
schools and given each teacher a house-plant, would the exam results have
improved? I doubt it: the house-plants would probably have died.”
                                                                     Ouston, 1999, p.168

Yet Ouston acknowledges the importance of striving for school improvement.
Even if student attainment does not rise, the experience of being in a lively,
comfortable, reassuring environment must be beneficial for pupils. Ouston
concludes:

“Schools – particularly those serving disadvantaged families – need to be
respectful, values-based, exciting environments for children to grow up in.
These may offer all kinds of positive outcomes in addition to the acquisition of
examination results. This is an important challenge for all teachers including
those with management responsibilities, and one that requires a high quality
of management knowledge, understanding and skills” (Ouston, 1999, p.176).


An excellent book by Harris and Bennett (2001) explores these issues in more
depth.

The following section now considers some of the features of both SE and SI.


Features associated with effective schools

There are features common to effective schools, identified by Sammons,
Hillman and Mortimore (1995). How do they relate to internationals schools in
general, or your own school in particular?

      High expectations by teachers of their learners. In less effective
       schools there is a tendency to blame the intake of learners for poor
       performance, whereas other schools with a similar intake of learners
       which had a more positive view of their learners‟ capabilities were more
       effective.



                                         15
   Academic emphasis: in these schools teachers give a high priority to
    preparation of learners, to giving helpful feedback to learners, and to
    monitoring and assessing/marking work.

   Shared vision and goals: effective schools had shared views on
    issues such as marking, homework. The goals were clear and shared
    by all the staff.

   Positive reinforcement: greater consistency of practice in learner
    behaviour and discipline was linked with more effective learning.

   Professional leadership at the level not only of principals, but also
    other levels throughout the school, eg. Departmental level. This gives
    strong emphasis to teamwork and involves teachers in
    decision-making, but provides a clear sense of direction and purpose.

   Quality in teaching: factors here include: work focus in lessons, clarity
    of goals in learning, planning, challenge for learners of all ability levels,
    teacher enthusiasm, prompt start/finish to lessons. Staff experience,
    qualifications and knowledge of the subject, monitoring progress, and
    involvement on curriculum development were also features of the more
    effective schools.

   A learning environment: an orderly atmosphere and an attractive
    working environment.

   Parental support/involvement: effective schools attempted to involve
    parents more than less effective schools, where parents were
    sometimes seen in a more negative light.

   Monitoring progress: monitoring pupil performance; evaluating school
    performance.

   Pupil rights and responsibilities: raising pupil self-esteem; positions
    of responsibility; control of work.

   A learning organisation: including school-based staff development.




                                      16
School improvement factors

Definitions of school improvement

 “A systematic, sustained effort aimed at change in learning conditions and other
 related internal conditions in one or more schools, with the ultimate aim of
 accomplishing goals more effectively.”
                                                              Van Velzen et al (1985)
 “...a distinct approach to educational change that enhances student outcomes as
 well as strengthening the school‟s capacity for managing change.”
                                                               Hopkins et al (1994)
 A series of concurrent and recurring processes in which a school:
     enhances learner outcomes
     focuses on teaching and learning
     assesses its current culture and works to develop positive cultural norms
     builds the capacity to take charge of change regardless of its source
     defines its own direction
     has strategies to achieve its goals
     addresses the internal conditions that enhance change
     maintains momentum during periods of turbulence
     monitors and evaluates its process, progress, achievement and
        development.
                                                              Stoll and Fink (1996)

Features associated with school improvement:

 Ten cultural norms linked with successful school improvement:

    1. shared goals: “we know where we‟re going”
    2. responsibility for success: “we cannot fail”
    3. collegiality: “we‟re in this together”
    4. continuous improvement: “we can get better”
    5. lifelong learning: “learning is for everyone”
    6. risk-taking: “we learn by trying something new”
    7. support: “there‟s always someone there to help”
    8. mutual respect: “everyone has something to offer”
    9. openness: “we can discuss our differences”
    10. celebration and humour: “we feel good about ourselves”
                                                           Stoll and Fink (1996)




                                      17
Stoll and Fink (1996) have identified ways in which both internal and external
factors generate school improvement. They call these “current doors to school
improvement”.


Current doors to school improvement
Internally generated:                            Externally generated:
     collegiality                                   inspection
     ethos                                          league tables
     studying and using research                    local value added approaches
     self-evaluation and action research            appraisal
     curriculum initiatives                         external support
     teaching and learning strategy                 national curriculum and associated
        development                                     assessments
     leadership                                     quality initiatives
     school development planning process
     partnership projects


The interesting aspect of these lists is how much a school can increase its
influence on the internally generated features, leading to a more QA
approach, and pushing the threat of the externally generated feature into the
background more.

“STAMP” is a generalised model for improvement which entails examining
what the school (or aspect) starts with, identifying where it needs to go and
then Setting Targets And Monitoring Performance (STAMP). This system is
generally applied to teams in any organisation, but can be equally well used
by/for individuals. In order to use it effectively, a set of criteria – or
performance indicators – for knowing when targets have been achieved need
to be agreed, and then the following cycle can be created:

Target-setting
     performance
         monitoring against targets according to performance indicators
              planning to do something differently
                adjustment of performance
                    further monitoring
                        new adjustments (this part of the cycle to be repeated several
                           times, as needed, then
                            evaluation
                                new target-setting




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                          TARGET-SETTING


    EVALUATION                                       PERFORMANCE



  Monitoring                                          MONITORING
    etc.




       PERFORMANCE
                                          PLAN TO ADJUST
                                           PERFORMANCE


Fig 10. STAMP


A cultural caution

As MacBeath and Mortimore remind us (2001), as SE and SI studies have
become more international, it is vital to recollect that not all concepts travel
across cultures easily. Some concepts, such as “purposeful teaching” and
“home-school partnerships” are fairly universal whatever the culture, but
others are more problematic. “Leadership”, for example, does not emerge as
a significant factor in Switzerland or in the Netherlands. When examined more
closely to find the reason, it becomes clear that the term means different
things in different educational cultures. Is the leadership invested mainly in
one person (the head) as in the UK, or does it imply a flatter structure with a
broader management team, as in Denmark?

Other factors affecting SE concern school structures, but the nature of school
structure itself is dependent on the degree of decentralisation operating.


Reynolds and Farrell (1997) identify some of the cultural factors that make a

difference from one country to another:

      The status of teachers in society, and whether or not high-achieving
       students are recruited into the teaching profession



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      Whether or not religious traditions and/or cultural aspirations place a
       high value on learning and education
      Whether there is a cultural norm of striving and working hard
      Whether parents have high aspirations for their children or not
      Where their children have a high level of commitment and are keen to
       do well
      Whether there is a prevalent belief that all children can acquire core
       skills.

Mortimore et al (2000, p.142) conclude from their study of Singapore and
London schools that:
    “There is no single recipe for turning the school around but there are
      common elements which include motivating staff, focusing on teaching
      and learning, enhancing the physical environment and changing the
      culture of the school.
      Improvements must fit in with the grain of society rather than go
       against it. Indiscriminate borrowing may not achieve the desired
       results.
      Resources in themselves do not guarantee improvement, but help
       convince staff, parents and students that society believes in the school
       and is willing to invest.
      Change has to be carried out by the school itself. Friends are
       important, but change has to come from within.”




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