«Brian J. Caldwell 1 The purpose of this paper is to describe and illustrate a new framework for leadership in education that moves to the foreground ...»
WHY NOT THE BEST SCHOOLS: WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED
ABOUT LEADERSHIP FOR TRANSFORMATION
Brian J. Caldwell 1
The purpose of this paper is to describe and illustrate a new framework for leadership in education that moves to the
foreground some key elements of the process which have hitherto been excluded or considered of minor importance.
The framework is based on research in six countries (Australia, China, England, Finland, United States and Wales) in the International Project to Frame the Transformation of Schools. Transformation is defined as significant, systematic and sustained change that secures success for all students in all settings. The findings of the project as a whole are reported by Caldwell & Harris (2008) with separate reports containing the findings for each country (Douglas & Harris, 2008 for Australia; Egan, 2008 for Wales; Goodfellow & Walton, 2008 for England; Saarivirta, 2008 for Finland;
Zhao et al 2008a for China; and Zhao et al 2008b for the United States). This paper describes the breakthrough in understanding leadership that was made in the project.
The centre piece of the project was a study of secondary schools that had been transformed or were progressing well in their pursuit of transformation. It was found that each school was adept at creating and strengthening four kinds of capital – intellectual, social, spiritual and financial – and aligning and sustaining them to achieve its mission. Creating, strengthening, aligning and sustaining the four forms of capital do not occur by themselves, outstanding governance is required. Central to the purpose of this paper, outstanding governance calls for outstanding leadership.
The starting point is a description of the International Project to Frame the Transformation of Schools with particular attention being given to indicators of the four forms of capital and to noteworthy illustrative practices in different countries. The concept of ‘capital formation’ is explained. A detailed illustration is provided of an exemplary school in Victoria, Australia. The framework for leadership as capital formation is compared to other frameworks and its relevance to current efforts to set standards for school leadership is explained. Principles of sustainability in capital formation are illustrated in reference to Australia’s Futures Focused School Project. The paper concludes on an optimistic note by contending that all schools can be transformed, with leadership as capital formation being central to the effort.
International Project to Frame the Transformation of Schools The purpose of the International Project to Frame the Transformation of Schools was to explore how schools that had been transformed or had sustained high performance had built strength in each of four kinds of capital and aligned them through effective governance to secure success for their students. The project was framed by the model in Figure 1, developed earlier from 2004 to 2006 (Caldwell & Spinks, 2008). Particular attention was given to secondary schools in systems where there was a relatively high level of school autonomy.
Intellectual capital refers to the level of knowledge and skill of those who work in or for the school. Social capital refers to the strength of formal and informal partnerships and networks involving the school and all individuals, agencies, organisations and institutions that have the potential to support and be supported by the school. Spiritual capital refers to the strength of moral purpose and the degree of coherence among values, beliefs and attitudes about life and learning (for some schools, spiritual capital has a foundation in religion; in other schools, spiritual capital may refer to ethics and values shared by members of the school and its community). Financial capital refers to the money available to support the school. Governance is the process through which the school builds its intellectual, social, financial and spiritual capital and aligns them to achieve its goals.
The model in Figure 1 was the starting point for the project that was conducted in 2007. There were two stages. The first called for a review of literature on the four kinds of capital and how they are aligned through effective governance.
An outcome of this review was the identification of 10 indicators for each form of capital and for governance. The second called for case studies in five secondary schools in each of six countries: Australia, China, England, Finland, United States and Wales (the Australian component also included a primary school and a network of primary and secondary schools). The project was carried out by Melbourne-based Educational Transformations with different components conducted by international partners with funding from the Australian Government and the Welsh Assembly Government.
1 Brian J. Caldwell is managing director of Educational Transformations, professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne and associate director (iNet), Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. This paper was presented in a keynote address at the 2nd iNet International Conference for School Principals on the theme ‘Transformation and Innovation’, Hilton Hotel, Mauritius, 1 June 2009.
Figure 1: A model to frame the transformation of schools (Caldwell & Spinks, 2008; Caldwell & Harris, 2008).
Capital formation The concept of ‘capital formation’ is proposed as a helpful way of describing the work of the leader in achieving transformation. It is a concise way of describing the framework for leadership that emerged in the international project. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, capital refers to ‘accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods’ or ‘a store of useful assets or advantages’. Intellectual capital, for example, may be viewed as ‘accumulated goods’ (‘the level of knowledge and skill of those who work in or for the school’) devoted to the ‘production of other goods’ (state-of-the-art curriculum and pedagogy leading to ‘success for all students in all settings’). High levels of capital in each of the four domains constitute ‘a store of useful assets or advantages’.
The focus of this paper is the role of the leader in creating, strengthening, aligning and sustaining the four forms of capital. ‘Formation’ is a single word that captures the essence of the role, with the Merriam-Webster online dictionary referring to ‘an arrangement of a body or group of persons or things in some prescribed manner or for a particular purpose’. The Merriam-Webster online thesaurus refers to ‘the way in which something is sized, arranged or organised’. The purpose is the transformation of schools.
The framework does not replace existing frameworks that have stood the test of time or are currently showing promise for the leadership of schools in the 21st century. Rather, it complements and in some instances extends them, as shall be demonstrated in another section of the paper.
Indicators Indicators were devised for each kind of capital and of governance. They served as a guide to researchers in each of the six countries in the selection of schools and to help build a common understanding of what was meant by each concept (intellectual capital, social capital, spiritual capital, financial capital and governance).
The 50 indicators – 10 for each kind of capital and for governance – are listed below. Thirty were demonstrated in each of the 30 schools in the study; all were demonstrated in at least one school. General findings are briefly summarised after each list along with noteworthy approaches in particular countries.
1. The staff allocated to or selected by the school are at the forefront of knowledge and skill in required disciplines and pedagogies
2. The school identifies and implements outstanding practice observed in or reported by other schools Page 2
3. The school has built a substantial, systematic and sustained capacity for acquiring and sharing professional knowledge
4. Outstanding professional practice is recognised and rewarded
5. The school supports a comprehensive and coherent plan for the professional development of all staff that reflects its needs and priorities
6. When necessary, the school outsources to augment the professional talents of its staff
7. The school participates in networks with other schools and individuals, organisations, institutions and agencies, in education and other fields, to share knowledge, solve problems or pool resources
8. The school ensures that adequate funds are set aside in the budget to support the acquisition and dissemination of professional knowledge
9. The school provides opportunities for staff to innovate in their professional practice
10. The school supports a ‘no-blame’ culture which accepts that innovations often fail The study revealed a range of practices to build intellectual capital. The education system in Finland has been highly successful in its aim of providing equitable access to high quality education for all students in all settings. Not only does Finland perform at a high level in international tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), it also has one of the smallest gaps between the achievements of high and low performing students. Schools are focused on the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers. All have a capacity to select their own staff.
Principals are able to interview staff and recommend their selected candidate to the local education board, which is responsible for the employment of teachers. Schools in Australia and England are able to recruit, select and manage their own staff.
The level of qualifications for teachers and school leaders varied between the countries. In Australia, England and the United States, teachers are required to complete at least an undergraduate education qualification. Teachers in Finland are required to hold a master’s level degree. School leaders from each country are expected to have some practical knowledge and training in educational administration.
Schools from each country described mentoring programmes for newly qualified teachers. The Australian schools indicated that their long-serving staff are highly valued for their knowledge and experience. In many of the English schools, the mentoring of new teachers was one part of the staff professional development programme. These schools reported that less experienced teachers are able to develop personalised development programmes with their mentors.
It is immediately apparent from a review of the indicators listed above and the illustrative noteworthy practices that outstanding leadership that is deeply distributed at the school and system level is required. A pre-eminent capacity to create and sustain intellectual capital is a requirement for educational leadership in the 21st century. Symbolically, that is why intellectual capital is positioned at the top of the model in Figure 1.
1. There is a high level of alignment between the expectations of parents and other key stakeholders and the mission, vision, goals, policies, plans and programmes of the school
2. There is extensive and active engagement of parents and others in the community in the educational programme of the school
3. Parents and others in the community serve on the governing body of the school or contribute in other ways to the decision-making process
4. Parents and others in the community are advocates of the school and are prepared to take up its cause in challenging circumstances
5. The school draws cash or in-kind support from individuals, organisations, agencies and institutions in the public and private sectors, in education and other fields, including business and industry, philanthropists and social entrepreneurs
6. The school accepts that support from the community has a reciprocal obligation for the school to contribute to the building of community
7. The school draws from and contributes to networks to share knowledge, address problems and pool resources
8. Partnerships have been developed and sustained to the extent that each partner gains from the arrangement
9. Resources, both financial and human, have been allocated by the school to building partnerships that provide mutual support
10. The school is co-located with or located near other services in the community and these services are utilised in support of the school Schools in each country indicated the importance of involvement in networks, which may include relationships with other schools or education providers, including members of the local community, businesses and other organisations.
Page 3 The support and involvement of parents in school life is highly valued. Parents participate in a number of ways including school activities, parent-teacher meetings, in the school decision-making processes, volunteering and through the school’s provision of information sessions for parents.
Schools have fostered strong links with other schools. These may include schools in different countries, which may be linked through international ‘sister school’ programmes, as well as local networks. Links with other schools may include sharing teachers and resources. The sharing of teaching staff is common, especially in Finland, particularly in specialist subjects such as music and foreign language teaching.
Networking is included in the list of indicators for both intellectual capital (Indicator 7) and social capital (Indicator 7). While networks are often relatively informal in nature, with fluid membership and shifting purposes, leadership is required to create and sustain them. For the most part this leadership may be informal but it will be more formal when participation is included in roles and responsibilities and when money is committed in a budget.
1. Funds are raised from several sources including allocations by formula from the public purse, fees, contributions from the community, and other money raised from the public and private sectors
2. Annual planning occurs in the context of a multi-year development plan for the school
3. The financial plan has a multi-year outlook as well as an annual budget
4. Allocation of funds reflects priorities among educational needs that take account of data on student achievement, evidence-based practice, and targets to be achieved