Site-based management has been adopted by many school systems to increase school autonomy and to share decision-making with teachers and sometimes parents, students, and community members. Spurred by a growing body of research from the private sector on the benefits of participatory decision-making, school leaders believe that SBM is a promising strategy for improving the quality of educational decision-making because it engages those closest to the action (Cohen, 1989). Site-based management typically involves the formation of a school-based committee or council that, through legislative or board action, is empowered to make decisions. These decisionsusually fall within three areas: budget, personnel and staffing, and curriculum/programs (Clune & White, 1988).
The scope of local empowerment varies greatly across school districts. For example, in Chicago, all schools are governed by Local School Councils (LSCs), each comprising two teachers, four parents, two community representatives, and a principal. The LSCs have broad authority over budgeting, principal selection, and curriculum and program selection. Detroit's Empowered Schools employ School Empowerment Councils/Teams. In these schools, students, parents, administrators, and staff control the use of allocated funds, exercise initiative and independence in determining and executing instructional improvements, expand student selection, define the types of support services needed, and choose the providers of those services. In Des Moines, school-based management through shared decision-making is evolving through a plan that establishes school-based councils empowered to develop a school improvement plan and make decisions about curriculum, scheduling, and staff development.
Under site-based management, teachers are asked to assume leadership roles in staff development, mentoring, and curriculum development, and become key partners in school and staff supervision and evaluation. Such programs are designed to elevate the professionalism of teachers, increase morale, add prestige and recognition, and provide ongoing opportunities for professional development. Teacher collaboration is a major theme in the implementation of site-based management.
One characteristic that sharply distinguishes one district's implementation of site-based management from that of another is the extent to which parents and community are involved as true partners in school decision-making. In Rochester, NY, school-based planning committees give teachers a dominant voice in decision-making. By contrast, in Chicago, decentralization aims to engage parents and community members, along with teachers and principals, as major decision-makers in school change. Building on school restructuring models pioneered in Dade County, FL, and Hammond, IN, school reform in Chicago is the most comprehensive version of community involvement in critical school-based decision-making.
Posted on April 26, 1995