The Self-Organizing School: Chapter 2

The Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was probably created with the best of intentions and needed a “NEXT” step. If you have never read thoroughly on KERA, I highly suggest doing so. There’s some highly interesting literature out there. Here’s a link to a literature review (see the .pdf download button on the right) if you are interested:

After having finished Chapter One and realizing that systemic changes are less effective than local (teacher/classroom), I had to question myself about how much I know about reforms that have happened over the years in Kentucky schools. I’m not sure that I’ve ever actively pursued the research that supported reform and now find myself wondering why stakeholders would implement systemic changes without the individualizing piece in it. Chapter two took me where I expected, and that way the what now place. To begin developing a plan to implement reforms at the school level, the nine targets for the design and implementation of those reforms must be carefully considered.

In my mind, the targets are not separate entities but part of a larger overall design. Perhaps Bain (2007) said it best when he said, “The goal of comprehensive school reform is to make the many parts work together as a self-reinforcing whole (p. 21). Detailed design cannot be achieved without addressing all areas (targets), and a comprehensive approach is more likely to be sustainable.

Bain’s first target is educational power where he explains the importance of “…magnifying the effect of successful teachers and classrooms at scale” (p. 23) and addressing the imbalance between money, time, and effort spent in today’s systems in comparison to achievements. Educational power might be useful when discussed in the context of self-assessment in the areas where there may be an imbalance. To me, this concept seems to almost serve as an umbrella for the others mentioned. This concept is directly related to the idea of comprehensiveness which discusses many aspects including professional development and feedback methods that work (p. 24). This idea contributes to the idea of magnifying the effect of teachers and classrooms mentioned above. The feedback is also linked to the “…implementation of comprehensive school reforms…” (p. 25) and contributes to the ability of a school to self-monitor and implement changes. Systemic technology is my personal favorite of the nine targets as it deals with the deployment of technology for learning and teaching (p. 27).

I feel like this is something that is happening at our school, but it seems independent of other issues. Professional lives is an essential topic as Bain communicates by saying that lack of focus on the professional lives of teachers may “…diminished implementation integrity and difficulties in sustaining comprehensive school reform (as cited in Bain, 20017, p. 29). School-Level design for School-Level Influence considers more than just curriculum and classroom practice. Instead, it focuses on the whole. Effective adoption requires “…staff’s belief that the program is good and can work – and ownership-[the] staff’s belief that it’s their program and they need to make it work” is an essential element and a problem where I work. Many times, organizations make decisions at the highest levels without including the teachers (stakeholders) on the planning process. Implementation integrity stands out to me for many reasons. One is that integrity is difficult to maintain over time without belief in the program and that it can be difficult to identify as many times integrity declines slowly.

My dissertation work has included program integrity in a Montessori curriculum. I suspect that Montessori is not the only type of school that has implementation issues. Theoretical structures are necessary to properly plan, implement, and to maintain integrity in all areas. The stronger the construct of the theory (in theory), the program may be stronger (of course, this depends on many other factors involved in the planning and implementation process).

The graphics shown picks out 3 of the nine areas that I felt most applied to my workplace.

Risks of change can mount but can also be manageable in my humble opinion. Time and funding seem to be our most significant issues. I spend hours upon hours grading papers, so I know what limited time feels like on the job. I have about 59 essays currently awaiting my attention. However, time management at our school level in terms of giving us time to catch up on Fridays can help offset some of the time that might be spent engaging in planning and implementing. Funding is also a problem. As funds get cut and the trend skews even future to performance-based funding, new funding sources may become a necessity. Marketing to alumni and marketing in new ways may bring in new revenue for new ways of doing things. I think my takeaway from this chapter is that change can be difficult, but it is doable.

Bain, A. (2007). The self-organizing school. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: