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IJER Vol 10-N1

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The mission of the International Journal of Educational Reform (IJER) is to keep readers up-to-date with worldwide developments in education reform by providing scholarly information and practical analysis from recognized international authorities. As the only peer-reviewed scholarly publication that combines authors’ voices without regard for the political affiliations perspectives, or research methodologies, IJER provides readers with a balanced view of all sides of the political and educational mainstream. To this end, IJER includes, but is not limited to, inquiry based and opinion pieces on developments in such areas as policy, administration, curriculum, instruction, law, and research.
IJER should thus be of interest to professional educators with decision-making roles and policymakers at all levels turn since it provides a broad-based conversation between and among policymakers, practitioners, and academicians about reform goals, objectives, and methods for success throughout the world.
Readers can call on IJER to learn from an international group of reform implementers by discovering what they can do that has actually worked. IJER can also help readers to understand the pitfalls of current reforms in order to avoid making similar mistakes. Finally, it is the mission of IJER to help readers to learn about key issues in school reform from movers and shakers who help to study and shape the power base directing educational reform in the U.S. and the world.

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9 Articles

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Teachers’ Perspectives on Outcomes-Based Education in South Africa

ePub

Jean Baxen

In 1994, South Africa emerged from an oppressive system based along racial lines of separation and domination, to be faced with reconstruction and social recovery. This involves a reconfiguration of the political, economic, and social arrangements, and a necessary repositioning from an apartheid ideology that legitimated racial and cultural segregation, to a democratic system in which equality, access, and equity are features accessible to all, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or creed.

During the apartheid regime, education was used to maintain social separation and reinforce white Afrikaner hegemony. Within the old regime the hidden and explicit curricula were delineated to produce, reproduce, and validate the legitimacy of separation and hierarchy. Suppositions of European superiority and African inferiority were presumed and established as modern truths about human progress and development. These supposed truths provided the ideological foundations on which apartheid education was built (Soudien & Baxen, 1997).

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Rural Education Reform in China since the 1980s: An Examination of the New Policies, Approaches, and Implications

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Junhao Hong

For decades, China’s education, especially in the nation’s rural areas, was among the poorest in the world. The nation had one of the world’s largest illiterate populations, and 90 percent of the illiterates were living in rural areas. The lack of education kept many peasants in poverty, and their poor economic situations further impeded them from receiving an education. In the early 1980s, when China began to implement a modernization campaign, the problems in education appeared as a major obstacle to the modernization drive. To a certain extent, China’s case reflected a global phenomenon.

In the last few years, China, along with many other developing countries, has gradually realized that education is crucial to ending poverty and promoting social change and economic development (Adams & Gottlieb, 1993; Asian Social Problems, 1975; Ghosh & Zachariah, 1987; K. Huang, 1995; Morales-Gomes & Torres, 1992). More recently, representatives at several meetings of Third World nations declared that to foster a new educated generation, the first step is to provide all citizens with easy access to education and to improve the quality of education via new technologies (Yan, 1995).

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Toward Collaborative School Leadership in Thailand: The Relationship between Thai Cultural Identity and Teacher-Administrator Interactions

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Forrest W. Parkay and Wirat Thummarpon

With the assistance of: Hansa Nilvichien, Chumsak Intarak, Kingfa Sintoovongse, Wirot Sanrattana, and Merrill M. Oaks

To prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, Thailand, like many other countries, is intensifying its efforts to promote fundamental educational reform. These efforts are predicated on the belief that strengthening the country’s educational system is essential to the collective and individual well-being of Thai citizens. As in the United States, a common element of educational reform in Thailand involves “empowering] those closest to students in the classroom [and] creat[ing] new roles and responsibilities for all the players in the system” (Hallinger, Murphy, & Hausman, 1992, p. 330). For example, a key element of Thailand’s Eighth National Education Development Plan (1997–2001) is the gradual decentralization of the Thai educational system. As a result, “there are currently many opportunities for Thai teachers to assume important leadership roles in transforming their profession” (Parkay, Potisook, Chantharasakul, & Chunsakorn, 1999a, p. 68).

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Nurturing School Culture and Raising Academic Achievement through Dialogue: A Case Study in Middle School Reform

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Mark L’Esperance, David Strahan, and Vernon Farrington

The school and everybody in it is like one big bowl of Jell-O; if you touch it, the whole thing jiggles.

—W. Purkey and D. Strahan, Positive Discipline

School improvement efforts have become a part of the educational landscape Almost every faculty is involved m some form of selfstudy, sometimes structured by the process of accreditation, sometimes by district mandate, sometimes by the shared desire to improve learning and teaching. As school improvement efforts have proliferated, a growing number of studies have documented the complexity of educational change (Fullan, 1990; Fullan & Steigelbauer, 1991; L’Esperance, 1998; Strahan, 1994; Van Tassel-Baska, Hall, & Bailey, 1996). Part of this complexity is the connectedness of everything associated with schooling. As has been suggested by the “Jell-0 principle,” when change touches any one place, the whole school jiggles.

Based on his review of research, Fullan (1990, p. 17) suggested that meaningful school improvement connects four essential dimensions of growth:

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The Value of Shared Perspectives: A Case Study of Community Involvement in School Reform

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Sheila J. Conway

This article discusses the story of administrators in a school district whose plan for school reorganization was undermined by hostile community reaction. Their struggle teaches a lesson about the importance of including various levels of the school community in the process of implementing change and offers useful information to future school reformers who might be engaged in similar efforts.

Names of schools and individuals have been changed to ensure confidentiality.

Contemporary educational literature abounds in such phrases as “shared decision making,” “common values,” and “community participation.” Although this vocabulary is commonplace in many practitioners’ conversations, these collaborative concepts challenge the professional autonomy of many administrators who are accustomed to making decisions, developing action plans, and implementing change independently. A meaningful shift from autonomous to collaborative problem solving involves a sometimes painful transition to developmental change.

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Toward Integrated Public Schools in Middletown and Beyond

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Brian L. Fife

Since the Depression, a significant amount of scholarship and popular literature has been created based on the identification of Muncie, Indiana, as a typical U.S. city. Referred to as “Middletown,” such studies have enhanced knowledge in a plethora of disciplines. This article distinguishes between the concepts of desegregation and integration, using Middletown as an illustration of a desegregated school district where officials may consider various strategies to integrate schools.

Since the publication of the seminal works Middletown: A Study in Contemporary American Culture (Lynd & Lynd, 1929) and Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts (Lynd & Lynd, 1937), a significant amount of scholarship and popular literature has been created based on the identification of Muncie as a typical U.S. city. More than a decade ago, Tambo, Hoover, and Hewitt’s (1988) content analysis of Middletown literature identified almost 800 works on the theme. Two main considerations aided the Lynds in selecting Muncie as the focus of their initial study: it was representative of contemporary U.S. life and it was manageable in terms of size (Lynd & Lynd, 1929, p. 7). In examining six areas of life in Muncie (making a living; buying a home; training the young; using leisure in various forms; engaging in religious practices; and engaging in community activities), Lynd and Lynd (1929, p. 9) determined that their anthropological investigation of Muncie was not prima facie evidence that Middletown was representative of the average U.S. city:

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Including a Spiritual Voice in the Educational Leadership and School Reform Discourse

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Michael E. Dantley and Judy L. Rogers

Educational leadership literature is rife with recommendations intending to produce change and reform in schools. Many fully believe that such a project is essential to the salvation or even the total reconstruction of schools. However, we maintain that spirituality, a relatively unknown and perhaps an even suspect voice, must enter the leadership and reform discourse of schools.

The spirit is that essential innate part of us that Stewart (1999, p. 2) says mediates, informs, and transforms a human being’s capacity to create, adapt, and transcend the realities of human existence. Spirituality is that part of life and community through which we make meaning and understanding of our world. It is our source of value, principles, and influences that we implicitly exhibit in our behavior and interactions with people (Fairholm, 1997, p. 25). The spirit also informs our sense of resistance. What this suggests is that inherent in the resistance motif, which we believe is essential to the nature of reform, is the spiritual impetus to create projects and agendas that transcend present realities of domestication and oppression. In fact, it is the spirit that informs our exogamous relationship to a transformed future rather than our being wed to the hegemony of the present. Our spirituality provides the fodder for self and communal transformation. It allows us to create the project that transforms the vestiges of our “as is” situations into the vagaries of our “not yet” hopes and dreams. Vision, reform, transformation, or any other notions of altering a present paradigm or condition emanate from a creative, imaginative spirituality that critically reflects and then constructs actions that bring about change in us as well as our environment. It is indeed this spiritual element, that part of us that actually defines who we are, compels us to make meaning, and motivates our actions, that must now be allowed to help inform the educational leadership discourse. In fact, the entrance of spirituality into the dialogue will bring about three results. First, spirituality will afford leaders the opportunity to unashamedly engage in critical reflection, an essential prerequisite to transformation. Second, spirituality will cause school leaders to deconstruct or demystify their present situation and construct a project for change. Finally, this insertion of our spiritual selves will allow leaders to make real meaning and sense out of their professional lives. Indeed, reform and transformation of schools will be grounded in something more lasting than a functionalist, positivist theoretical construction and real school reform will have a holistic framework within which it can take place.

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School Violence: Legal Obligations, Prevention, and Dealing with Threats

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Alan Demmitt and Charles J. Russo

As witnessed by recent school shootings throughout the United States (Cloud, 1997; Furlong & Morrison, 2000), increasing numbers of educators have uttered the fateful words that if his or her school could experience violence, it could happen anywhere. With the realization that no one is immune from violence, educational leaders are confronted with a variety of questions, including: What constitutes a threat and to whom should it be reported? What are the limits to confidentiality between students and school personnel in view of the duty that educators have to report concerns over school violence? And what are the responsibilities of educators in the event of a violence-related emergency?

In light of growing concerns over school violence, regardless of where school personnel work, this article is divided into two sections. The first part provides educational leaders with an overview of legal issues surrounding their “duty to warn.” The second section offers practical suggestions for dealing with and preventing threats of violence.

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Contradictions in Educational Reform and Accountability

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Arthur Shapiro

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.

—H. L. Mencken, “The Divine Afflatus,” The Mencken Chrestomathy

One size fits all?

—Arthur Shapiro

The paramount U.S. educational initiative of the 1990s and surely into the third millennium was and will be the issue of school reform. Like the Roman god Janus, who had two faces looking in opposite directions (the term “two-faced” comes from that clever statue), we Americans speak out of both sides of our mouths on this issue (Clinchy, 1998). Clinchy noted that two major contradictory and subsuming national movements characterize the U.S. drive toward educational reform. The first is characterized as the centralizing Nation at Risk/Goals 2000 initiative, and the second comprises the decentralizing/small schools/constructivist movement. The former dominates state and national standards that vigorously promote “accountability” through the enforcing mechanism of state-mandated, top-down “high stakes testing,” humorously termed “voluntary” but in reality as coercive as any centralized bureaucracy can manage. The latter focuses on local autonomy in the form of decentralization with small units endowed with authority to determine their own unique destinies. Illustrations of this second movement are the constructivist movement, the magnet school movement, the small schools movement, site-based decision-making initiatives, charter schools, the voucher movement, home schooling, learning communities, schools-within-a-school, hall plans, block models, and the like.

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