Organizational sense making : responsibilities to the MCAS reform in the Massachusetts public schools
Author(s)Goldman, Janice J., 1953-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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Educational reform has become a central concern of public policy debates at both the state and federal level. The policy trend both nationally and locally is towards uniform standards in education, with testing as the single metric of assessment of public school performance. But can a one size fits all reform really fit all? This dissertation addresses this question through a study of the organizational responses of two public high schools to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) a system of standards and accountability passed by the Massachusetts state legislature as part of the Education Reform Act, 1993. Conceptually the dissertation draws from foundational studies of public schooling, which establish education as a social institution, illustrated in historical and contemporary case studies in the education literature. It builds links from this literature to the field of institutionalism and organizational studies. To understand the divergent responses of the schools to the MCAS reform, two theoretical concepts, that of organizational identity and sense making are fused to create the concept of organizational sense making. Organizational sense making is comprised of three inter-related activities in which the schools engage: discernment, enactment and strategizing. My theoretical finding is that each school's response reflects a unique process of sense making which is driven by its organizational identity. This comparative case study finds that Lowell High School, a low income, ethnically diverse urban high school adopts a strategy of 'Compliant Engagement' and draws upon its bureaucratic strengths to meet the reform's mandate.(cont.) The MCAS reform and test become mistaken for classroom pedagogy, which derails the school's efforts to shift away from a transmission model of education. Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, a wealthy, suburban school renowned for its capacity to deliver good education, adopts a strategy of 'Antagonistic Compliance', engaging in actions of resistance. The school perceives the MCAS reform to be a threat to its identity: its social values, academic programs as well as the professional autonomy of its teachers. The findings of this dissertation challenge the efficacy of uniform, centralized policies to achieve public school reform.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2005.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 235-249).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.