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The beginning of intervention: A study of the working relationship between the state department of education and underperforming schools during the implementation of new school accountability policy

Susan Bowles Therriault, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Abstract

New school accountability policy alters how the state department of education (SDE) and underperforming school interact by creating a direct connection between the two. The "beginning of intervention" is when the SDE and the underperforming school commence their working relationship. Challenges to the development of a relationship include limited capacity at the SDE level and the local educators' perceptions of new school accountability as a deterrent policy. The working relationship is the vehicle for bridging the state's externally imposed and school's internally pre-existing accountability systems; to negotiate the implementation of the policy for the dual purpose of making sense of the policy for the school and the SDE and meeting the end goal of the policy by improving the educational outcomes of the school; and to alter educators' perceptions of new school accountability policy from that of a deterrent and threatening policy to one which is enabling and empowering of local educators. Document analysis, observations, and interviews of Massachusetts state education administrators, local district administrators and underperforming school educators were used to gain an understanding of how the state and local levels perceive one another during intervention. Results from the qualitative study were analyzed using Scheberle's (1997) "Working Relationship Typology" which uses trust and involvement levels as variables to determine the type of working relationship between organizations. Findings indicate that the working relationship between the SDE and the school improves during the beginning of intervention, but remains distant. The surprising finding is that the district is seen as the key lever for improvement by those in the underperforming school and SDE. The existing relationship between the district and school, however, was negative, as the elementary school educators blamed the district for neglecting their schools. Giving the district capacity to facilitate school improvement, the SDE designed a system of early intervention that places a "fixer" (Bardach, 1977) at the district level whose sole purpose is to work with underperforming schools. The findings indicate that this contributed to dramatic improvement in the working relationship between the district and the underperforming school as well as the relationship between the SDE and the district. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Political Science, Public Administration

Recommended Citation

Susan Bowles Therriault, "The beginning of intervention: A study of the working relationship between the state department of education and underperforming schools during the implementation of new school accountability policy" (January 1, 2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI3193946.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3193946

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