School Based Management Research Paper Starter

School Based Management

(Research Starters)

School-based management (SBM) is a policy used in public schools to decentralize decision-making power. In this strategy, management decisions move from a larger, more centralized authority such as the school district, to smaller units that are closely adjacent to the school, such as teachers, parents, and administrators. Currently, the data on the relationship between school-based management and increasing students' learning is mixed, with uncertain conclusions. Nevertheless, the policy is growing and stakeholders including teachers, administrators, and community members are supportive of the concept.

Keywords Administrative Decentralization; Autonomous School Concept; Decentralization; Participatory Decision-Making; Restructuring; School Autonomy; School-Based Governance; School Empowerment; Shared Governance

School Administration


School-based management (SBM) is a policy used in public schools to decentralize decision-making power. In this strategy, management decisions move from a larger, more centralized authority such as the school district, to smaller units that are closely adjacent to the school, such as teachers, parents, and administrators. Historically, public schools in the United States have been run by both the centralized power of state and district control, as well as smaller entities such as community school boards or parents (Darling-Hammond, 1988). While there have been many predecessors to school-based management as we know it today in American schools, the strategy became more defined out of the 1980s school reform movement. While there are many similarities between this policy and previous attempts at decentralization, school-based management is much more complex and requires more of an overhaul of organization at both the district and individual school levels than previous concepts of decentralization (Cotton, 1992).

In school-based management, the roles of different groups in and around a school may change drastically. The district and state lend more discretion in certain areas directly to the school, while still finding ways to support their endeavors. Principals tend to become facilitators rather than decision makers. Teachers, community members, and students may be called upon for input. It is important to understand that school based management is more than a change in the way schools work. It fundamentally alters traditional roles, while shifting responsibilities and authority (Cotton, 1992).

The logic behind school-based management originally lies in research from the business world. Studies found that when the decision-making process was restructured to include all levels of employees, worker satisfaction increased. Researchers found the process especially appropriate for work places that were evolving, fast paced, and required individuals to work together (Banicky, Rodney & Foss, 2000). The proliferation of school-based management in schools has increased rapidly across the United States and internationally in recent years.

Throughout the late 1980s, school based management was often seen as a political reform to shift power from central entities to those within the school community. Supporters hoped that the policy would engender a sense of community within those who were closest to the school, driving improvement and creating a sense of cooperation and ownership. Implementing the strategy of school-based management was the end goal in driving change when the policy first gained popularity. Today however, in the climate of accountability, SBM has increasingly come under question regarding how it affects student achievement (Briggs & Wohlstetter, 2003).

Proponents of school-based management today see it as a strategy to improve many aspects of schools. The topics for discussion as decentralization occurs may include budgeting, curriculum and instruction, and plans for student discipline (Oswald, 1995). Stakeholders that may be affected include administrators, teachers, parents, students, community members, school boards, and state and district offices. The core ideals behind this approach are rooted in the belief that school decisions should be made by those who are the closest to the impact of those decisions. Consequently, school-based management brings all of these stakeholders together in a more cooperative approach to solve problems and improve schools (Banicky, Rodney & Foss, 2000).

Because school-based management requires extensive changes, it is a challenging management strategy to implement, and requires the cooperation between various entities (Banicky, Rodney & Foss, 2000).



Under school-based management, students, especially older students, may participate in the decision making process for their individual school. Students may serve on committees discussing topics from discipline to curriculum or data collection. When this method is employed, student satisfaction with schools has been shown to increase (Oswald, 1995). However, the statistics regarding student achievement and outcomes remains unclear.

Multiple studies have attempted to measure the effect of school-based management on student achievement. Outcomes have generally been very mixed, with no persistent link found between implementation of SBM and gains in academic achievement, attendance rates, or disciplinary issues (Oswald, 1995).

Increasing student achievement was not necessarily a primary goal of the original school-based management models. Rather than aiming to enhance student performance, school-based management was employed to shift the balance of decision-making power from centralized authority to individual schools (Banicky, Rodney, & Foss, 2000). Oswald (1995) states that some schools who implement SBM do not make instruction their top priority. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that research has not found a persistent relationship that school-based management positively or negatively affects student learning.

While school-based management may not contribute directly to increased student achievement, several outcomes from successful implementation have the potential to improve grades and test scores of students. Drury and Levin (1994) found the following improvements: better use of time and resources, more involvement from the community, and improvements in curriculum. They also noted increased professionalism among teachers in the schools. However, the research as it stands today does not indicate school-based management largely affects student achievement.


Teachers in schools have a variety of roles. In school-based management, these roles shift more towards working in teams with others. School-based management systems have focused on changing a variety of aspects in the management of a school, related or not to classroom practice. In some models, schools focus on classroom-based changes. In others, more administrative matters are addressed. Cotton (1992) concludes that research shows teachers want to be involved in decision-making regarding what to teach and how to teach it in their schools. However, school-based management systems that do not address these issues have often produced negative reactions from teachers. Nir (2002) conducted a longitudinal study in which he measured how school-based management implementation affects different areas of teacher work. He found that teachers felt the policy and implementation had both negative and positive aspects. Nir (2002) indicated that freedom in the classroom coupled with satisfactory rewards were imperative for teacher satisfaction and commitment in implementing a school-based management model. Without these elements, teacher commitment to their school and their students may actually wane. The topics which school-based management address are an important ingredient or barrier to success in the eyes of teachers.

While teachers are most interested in changes in curriculum and instruction, this is the sphere in which district and state policymakers are often least willing to give up control (Banicky, Rodney, & Foss, 2000). However, this area may be the one that stands to gain the most from school-based management. Studies conducted examining the relationship between teacher participation in decision-making and student outcomes indicate that the two are positively correlated – when teachers are more involved in decision-making, students tend to perform better (Banicky, Rodney, & Foss, 2000).


School principals and other administrators may see their job descriptions undergo enormous changes under school-based management. A school principal, in particular, often plays a crucial role in the implementation's success. In school-based management, the role of the school principal changes from supervisor and manager to facilitator. The job function becomes much more collaborative and involves increased interaction with staff, students and the community (Banicky, Rodney, & Foss, 2000). Gaul, Underwood, and Fortune (1994) found that while school administrator's work hours increased during and after implementation of school-based management, administrators were most likely to embrace the...

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