Purpose – Reformers, policymakers, and researchers have given considerable attention to organizational capacity in schools, especially in those schools that perpetuate or exacerbate achievement gaps among diverse student groups and reproduce social inequalities. There is an emerging consensus about key dimensions of school capacity and how they can help promote both equity and excellence in student learning. However, it is still not very clear how capacity building itself can be enhanced. This paper aims to address these issues. Design/methodology/approach – This paper addresses this critical disjuncture in the school reform literature through two main purposes: summarizing the key dimensions of school organizational capacity, and synthesizing the recent conceptual and empirical work on the important mechanisms of policies and programs to influence and support a school's organizational development. The authors' recent research and practice related to one such intervention, leadership coaching for school improvement, are critically discussed. The paper explores a hybrid approach to building capacity in schools where elements of both the bureaucracy and the learning community are present. Findings – Different schools clearly need different kinds of support for teacher development and building their capacity. Policies need to be flexible enough to fit particular school contexts, and to allow for organizations to change in ways that support teacher development for improved practices that impact student learning. The work in the middle involves some sort of fluid hybrid of administrative control (instructional improvement must be the focus) and active, broad participation (in a learning community that advances the changes in instructional practices). Originality/value – This paper addresses the lack of clear knowledge on how capacity building itself can be enhanced, by summarizing the key dimensions of school organizational capacity, and synthesizing the recent conceptual and empirical work on the important mechanisms of policies and programs to influence and support a school's organizational development. The paper provides an overview of the dimensions of school organizational capacity, discusses barriers to building capacity in schools, and argues for hybrid models that combine elements of both learning communities and bureaucracies.
Journal of Educational Administration – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 27, 2011
Keywords: Organizational learning; School reform; Bureaucracy; Educational policy; Equality; Leadership
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