Advocates for decentralization argue that it will have positive effects on the quality and outcomes of schooling. Specifically, proponents argue that decentralization will result in:
If decentralization recreates urban schools into autonomous, accountable units where quality education and high performance are the norm, citizens of the nation's large urban areas will be encouraged to believe more strongly in their public schools as necessary, vital institutions and, as a consequence, will be more willing to support them both financially and through active participation.
To date, however, surprisingly little empirical research is available on the effects of decentralization on school improvement, organizational change, and, most importantly, student outcomes. Thus far, investigations have focused primarily on teachers' perceptions of empowerment, professionalism, morale, and school climate. Researchers must examine the complex relationship between structural changes (e.g., decentralization of governance, budgeting, curriculum/program decisions) and (a) the quality of the educational offerings and (b) the contribution of these structural changes to improvements in student achievement. Only then will practitioners (e.g., superintendents, principals, school board members, state policymakers, et al.) get the empirically sound information necessary to guide their decisions about whether to decentralize, what functions to decentralize, and how to support decentralization so that children are better served.
Nonetheless, there are some findings from the research on decentralization that are useful to note. For example, researchers have found that SBM results in increased job satisfaction for teachers as well as stronger feelings of professionalism. Yet, studies also have documented that, if site-based management is to be successful, staff need time to develop new skills and knowledge (David, 1989). A few studies give evidence of more positive perceptions of school-community relationships as a result of decentralization, especially when parent involvement is at the core of the initiative (Crowson & Boyd, 1991). In a similar vein, several recent studies stress that parents express little satisfaction with decentralization unless they share a substantive role in decision-making (Malen & Ogawa, 1990; Goldring & Shapira, 1991). In contrast, other studies show no solid evidence of school organizational renewal as a result of decentralization (Malen & Ogawa, 1988; Wehlage, Smith, & Lipman, 1992).
Copyright © 1995, North Central Regional Educational Laboratory
Posted on April 26, 1995