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An ecological approach to school reviews Going beyond verification and accountability to achieve real school improvement

Posted by ACU on 3 May 2021
An ecological approach to school reviews Going beyond verification and accountability to achieve real school improvement

Right around the world at present it seems that the more schools try to improve, more often than not, they fail to do so. Indeed, if you are part of a school community in which a formal school review has led to desired and sustainable improvements, then research shows that your school is one of a very small minority to have done so. This is despite the fact that national governments in all developed countries are placing enormous pressure on their schools to improve in order for the country to gain the highest rankings possible in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. It would seem that these national governments assume there is a cause-effect link between the nation's PISA test scores and the perceived economic success and sustainability of the country in the eyes of its population and its current and potential global trading partners. Hence, many of these governments want to see proof that their schools are getting much better at teaching the students. Moreover, such proof is thought to be provided by means of a formal school review. Essentially, the main function of the school review process is to capture the current picture of the school's quality in order to provide guidance and clarity in how the school can seek to improve. Based upon the report produced from the analysis of the data gathered during the review, schools are then routinely required to formulate a school improvement or development plan that focusses on student learning outcomes. Thus, in this climate of globalisation and international education comparisons, evaluation, verification and accountability within some form of school review have become key school issues in all developed countries. Hence, comprehensive school review processes, which incorporate a systematic, evaluative assessment of the conditions of work, working methods, and outcomes of the individual school, are now commonplace in most educational systems worldwide. The impetus to introduce school reviews came from the prior application of similar processes within the business world (Peck et al., 2014). However, what was not acknowledged in this 'cloning' process is the acceptance within the business world that such processes "do little to address the ongoing improvement of the organisation and thus provide only temporary effects to organisational improvement" (Mette, 2013, p.320).

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Author: ACU
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