Site-based Management Creates Opportunities – Part 1
Site-based management can be defined as the formal alteration of school governance arrangements. Site-based management is a form of decentralization. Site-based management has three distinctive features:
(1) Some formal authority to make decisions in the central domains of budget, personnel and program is delegated to the school site.
(2) The formal authority to make decisions may be delegated to the principal, or distributed among principals, teachers, parents and others. In most cases, the formal authority to make decisions is broadly distributed.
(3) While the formal authority granted site participants may be circumscribed by existing statutes, regulations or contractual agreements, site participants are afforded substantial discretion.
Essentially, site-based management is supposed to:
– enable site participants, notably teachers and parents, to exert substantial influence on school policy decisions.
– enhance employee morale and motivation.
– strengthen the quality of school-wide planning processes.
– stimulate instructional improvements
– foster the development of characteristics associated with effective schools.
The available information casts doubt on the ability of site-based management plans to achieve these objectives. A variety of factors offset the ability of site-based management to fulfill the promises set forth by proponents of this reform.
Since there is little evidence that site-based management plans have achieved their objectives, policy makers and educators need to consider the viability of site- based management as a reform strategy, the factors that restrict the ability of site- based management to achieve its objectives and the need for continuous, systematic assessment of site-based management programs.
It may be that site-based management is not an effect approach to education reform. Thus policy makers and educators need to carefully consider whether they wish to invest in a reform strategy that has not been able to achieve its objectives in the vast majority of settings in which it has been attempted.
It is also possible, however, that site-based management has not been given a full or fair test. It may be premature to dismiss the substantive potential of site-based management on the basis of only eight systematic studies, particularly when some of these studies indicate there may be isolated instances where site-based management appears to be approaching, if not achieving its stated objectives. Thus policy makers and educators may decide to give site-based management a more full and fair test by designing plans that attend to the factors that affect the viability of this reform. It may be that if these factors were addressed, site-based management could become an effective approach to education reform.
Numerous factors inhibit the ability of site-based management to achieve its objectives. The viability of this reform may depend on the willingness of policy makers and educators to confront all these factors. The literature offers the following general guidelines:
(1) Site-based management plans must specify what authority is delegated to site participants, how that authority is distributed and the manner in which the discretion of site participants is conditioned and constrained by contractual agreements, by district, state or federal policies, procedures and/or accountability provisions.
(2) Site-based management plans must provide site participants adequate resources, namely time, training, technical assistance and supplemental funds.
(3) Site-based management plans must incorporate strategies for changing participant orientations and organizational norms.
While the existing literature on site-based management identifies factors that impede the ability of this reform to achieve its stated objectives there are no guarantees that site-based management will fulfill its promises even if some of all of these factors are addressed. Therefore, continuous, systematic assessments of site-based management programs must be conducted to determine the conditions under which site-based management might be able to achieve its objectives and operate to improve the performance of schools.
Site-based management has resurfaced as a prominent education reform. Numerous states and districts are discussing, instituting or reinstituting a variety of site-based management provisions. In Utah, state policy makers, district officials and education organizations have expressed interest in site-based management as a potential education reform.
The purpose of this paper is to provide information on site-based management and discuss issues that warrant attention as policy makers and educators consider this reform. Following a brief description of data sources, this paper addresses four central questions:
(1) What is site-based management?
(2) What is site-based management supposed to accomplish?
(3) Have site-based management plans achieved their objectives?
(4) What issues warrant special attention as policy makers and educators consider site- based management as a reform option?
Project description/status reports describe both current and previous attempts to institute site-based management. These accounts tend to sketch the general features of site-based management plans, identify the rationales used to advance these plans, and offer judgments regarding the impact of these plans. These documents tend to focus on the activities spawned, the adjustment made or the achievements attained in a small number of the most successful pilot schools.
Position papers set forth arguments for and against site-based management. Nearly all position papers are advocacy pieces. They issue a call for a seek to build a case for greater autonomy at the school level, identify conditions under which various decentralization ventures might accomplish their intended objectives and prescribe procedures that districts might follow to implement site-based management. Position papers tend to focus on the exceptional cases, the most successful schools. These documents also tend to rely on testimonials from single individuals associated with model site-based management projects or general references to effective schools research, participatory decision making research, or unspecified theories of modern management.
Related literature sources report or review research on topics closely associated with site- based management. Because research on effective schools, decentralization, participatory decision-making and other topics has been used to support arguments offered by advocates of site-based management, literature regarding each of these subjects was examined. The sources consulted for this paper were confined to those most frequently cited in writings on site-based management.
Information acquired from these data sources must be viewed with caution for several reasons. First, the literature on site-based management is characterized by a preponderance of project descriptions/status reports and position papers. Most of these sources focus on exceptional cases and rely on the impressions of a single individual. Second, the eight systematic studies of site-based management rely on the experiences of a relatively small number of elementary and secondary schools in diverse settings. These studies examine different versions of site-based management, focus on different dimensions of site-based management, and employ different research designs.
Despite these limitations, the information acquired from these sources provides a basis for addressing a number of important questions and a basis for identifying the issues that warrant special attention as policy makers and educators consider site- based management as a reform option.
In this section, we offer a definition of site-based management and identify the distinctive features of this reform. We illustrate the manner in which these features are treated in various site- based management plans.
While there are different uses of the terms, site-based management can be defined as a formal alteration of school governance arrangements. Site-based management is a form of decentralization.
Although site-based management plans embody the three distinctive features noted above, these plans often address the distinctive features of this reform in highly ambiguous ways. In many instances, it is difficult to determine whether site- based management plans fundamentally alter the formal decision making arrangements in school systems. Plans do not specify what authority has been delegated in the domain of budget, personnel and program or how that authority is distributed among principals, teachers, parents and others. Moreover, plans do not demonstrate that site participants have been granted any greater discretion. Where these features are more explicitly addressed, they are treated in a variety of ways. Existing site-based management plans differ on what authority is delegated to the site, how that authority is distributed among various participants at the site, and the degree of discretion afforded site participants.
Site-based management plans emphasize different domains. For example, some plans emphasize greater authority over budgets and include as a secondary concern, greater authority in personnel and program areas. Other plans emphasize program but give less attention to matters of budget and personnel. For example, some emphasize authority over discretionary funds versus entire operating budgets, or authority over staff development versus staff selection.
Site-based management plans distribute decision making authority differently. In some plans, authority is lodged with the principal, who may be encouraged but not required to involve others. More often, authority is lodged with councils of professional and/or patrons. However, councils within and across settings may be constituted quite differently. In some instances, teachers and patrons hold the formal power advantage since they can hire and fire the principal.
Generally speaking, influence refers to the ability of participants to affect decisions on issues that are central to the organization and/or salient to the individuals. Proponents argue that if site-based management is instituted, site participants, notably teachers and parents, will be able to exert significant influence on significant issues. They will be able to do so because formal authority to make decisions in the central domains of budget, personnel and program is delegated to the school level and distributed among teachers and parents as well as principals.
The available data indicate that this promise is rarely realized. Although site-based management creates opportunities for principals, teachers and parents to be involved in school-wide decision making through interactions on school councils or committees, there is little evidence that teachers and parents exert substantial influence on school policy decisions.
Project descriptions/status reports and systematic studies suggest that, while there may be a few exceptions, school councils rarely address central, salient issues in their school councils or committee meetings.
Councils do address a variety of topics related to the operation of the building or the implementation of district directives. One systematic study documents that, on occasion, school councils may take on a caucus function.
The available data indicate that while site-based management creates opportunities for teachers and parents to be involved in decision making, it does not enable them to exert substantial influence on school policy decisions. A wide range of factors shape influence relationships in school systems. Since site-based management adjusts only one factor, the formal governance structures, it may be unable to fundamentally alter influence relationships.
The dominant theme is that site participants, notably teachers and parents, rarely exerted influence in the core domains of budget, personnel and program through community school boards, through advisory councils, or through other participatory decision making arrangement. In some cases, these structural adjustments operated to diffuse conflict and calm the system. For reasons similar to, albeit not limited to, those identified above, these sources conclude that the formal alteration of governance arrangements did not enable teachers and parents to exert significant influence on significant issues at the school level.
Site-based management appears to have an initial, positive impact on the morale- motivation of some participants. However, a variety of factors restrict the ability of site-based management to produce a substantial or sustained improvement in the morale/motivation of a significant number of participants.
Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of https://Ebookschoice.com. Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.