All citizens -- not only educators but parents, corporate and other
community members, banking and foundation staffs, and politicians -- have been
urged to become involved in America's schools, as schools address the needs of
an increasingly diverse population of children. Large percentages of these
children, for a variety of reasons, are at risk of leaving school unprepared
for a productive adult life. Schools must change to meet these new demands,
and educational leadership will be required as never before. Clearly, an
understanding of leadership for change is of the utmost importance to the
profession and the public alike.
This paper challenges the assumption that invoking policy mandates
alone, albeit well intended and directed toward increasing success for all
students, is enough to realize such outcomes as increased student success.
Cuban (1988) asserts that educational reform has failed because of lack of
attention to implementation; this paper presents research-based evidence that
the process of change has been a neglected area in policy implementation and
that time and energy need to be devoted to it. The key factor in addressing
this issue is facilitative leadership, provided by individuals in a variety of
positions both within and outside the school and the district, who assume
responsibility to guide and support the important work of instituting policies
and practices to meet the needs of all children, most particularly those at
risk. Therefore, this paper addresses the strategies that such leaders use in
efforts to facilitate implementation of school change.
This monograph is one of three in a series of literature reviews
focusing on topics that influence school change. Two other reviews, by
Méndez-Morse (1992) and Boyd (1992), provide insights relative to leader
characteristics and contextual variables especially significant in addressing
school change for the benefit of at-risk students. Méndez-Morse reports
that there are six characteristics that are common in leaders of educational
change. These include "having vision, believing that schools are for
learning, valuing human resources, being a skilled communicator and listener,
acting proactively, and taking risks" (1992, in press). The paper reports
about leaders' professional experiences as well.
Boyd maintains that leaders need special understanding of the
contextual factors that impinge on at-risk students, on staff, and on their
school in order to plan change with staff, parents, and community. Boyd
enumerates environmental and cultural factors that constitute the school's
context. Without accurate perceptions about the environmental and cultural
factors that interact with students and staff in at-risk settings, successful
change in these sites may not result.
Whether in sites of high ethnic/minority populations, in settings of
language-deficient students, in schools where children come from poverty
level, one-parent families -- or from middle-class suburbia -- the strategies
that leaders use to bring about change are generic. School leaders may shape
their actions and behaviors to their own personal characteristics and belief
systems, and deliver them in ways that account for the cultural and
environmental factors of the staff, school, and community. But their
strategies, operationalized by their actions and behaviors, remain consistent,
as revealed by the research conducted at widely varying school sites.
For example, a leader in an economically disadvantaged school may
introduce the idea of school change in a way different from the approach of
the leader who introduces improvement to an economically comfortable school
with a high number of merit scholars. But in either case, a key strategy for
initiating change is development of a vision of improved effectiveness.
This review and synthesis of the literature begins with a brief
history of approaches to change and the emergence of the need for change
facilitation. The second section explores the actions of successful school
leaders in the past decade and indicates how these leaders attended to and
contributed significantly to successful change. A third section examines how
leaders are currently addressing systemic change or "restructuring," as it is
popularly called in schools.
The change research does little to differentiate the strategies that
leaders use in efforts for populations of at-risk children as opposed to
strategies for those not at risk. The important issue, of course, is to
understand the requirements for effectively guiding change in behalf of all