There is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of
success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new
order of things. -- N. Machiavelli, 1984, p. 21
An initial issue addressed in this paper is the assumption by
educators at all levels that change in schools and the entire educational
system will happen quite naturally because a particular change is
deemed to be "a good thing." The "goodness theory," over the decades,
has proven inadequate. Even when power is added to the equation
through mandated policy from national, state, and/or district levels,
little change finds its way into schools and classrooms. Despite
the lack of change resulting from these prevailing assumptions,
the assumptions continue to be employed by many educational leaders
What emerges from a review of change efforts, both those successful
and unsuccessful, is the presence or absence respectively of person(s)
who assist others in the adoption and implementation of plans for
change. This "human interface" was revealed as a significant factor
in evaluations of early knowledge dissemination and utilization
programs. Persons who could link innovations and users, and provide
implementation help and assistance, were noted in the change literature
as a necessary condition for success.
Of these change agents, some external and some internal to the
system, none were given the amount of attention and reporting space
as school principals. They became the heroes and heroines of schools
that had "turned themselves around." Significant research studies
were conducted to learn about their work and to identify their strategies.
Out of these studies of principals and their colleagues, who frequently
formed a shared leadership for change, came six categories of actions
taken to assist the change process:
- Creating an atmosphere and culture for change
- Developing and communicating the vision
- Planning and providing resources
- Providing training and development
- Monitoring and checking progress
- Continuing to give assistance.
Furthermore, studies of districts successful in change revealed
that superintendents and their colleagues engaged the same strategies.
Thus, it seems appropriate to conclude that we know a great deal
about how to plan for, guide, and assist school change. And, in
such endeavors, a key factor persists -- the need for facilitative
leaders who assume responsibility for effecting change. Moreover,
it is clear that while positional leaders are important to the change
process, it is people who demonstrate functional leadership that
make a difference. In other words, anyone in any position can be
a facilitative leader who functions to supply the actions and strategies
needed to effect change.
Will this legacy work in current restructuring efforts?
Restructuring is a new way of thinking about educational reform.
Restructuring is, importantly, stimulated by highly challenging
outcomes for students that will prepare them to meet the world of
today and tomorrow. Research and experience suggest that these outcomes
cannot be accomplished by improving upon what schools are currently
doing. These outcomes will require a holistic approach, engaging
the entire system. Such systemic change addresses all parts of the
interconnected education enterprise.
Leaders who respond to this challenge can take advantage of what
is known about facilitating change. They can understand and build
on lessons from the change models of the past and their faulty assumptions.
They can build on the knowledge base gained from the experiences
of yesterday's leaders who achieved change and improvement in their
schools. And today's leaders can incorporate the early findings
of those who are pioneers in restructuring efforts.
Finally, but foremost, all leaders of educational change and improvement
can focus on results in behalf of children and young people, especially
those most at risk in our current society. What more worthy purpose
could there be?