Vision of 21st Century Iowa Schools : Superintendents Speak Out
Verlengia, Vincent J.
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The problem: What the K-12 educational reform movement has done throughout the 1990s is to create a dialogue around the beliefs, values, and purposes of schooling in this country. Conversations among educators, legislators, federal and state policy makers, and members of the business community are well documented. What has not occurred is the consideration of the viewpoints of those who are actually implementing restructuring efforts. The purpose of this study was to add to existing research by examining what Iowa school superintendents hope for the future of K-12 schooling and to provide insights to other policy makers about what local district level leaders in the state consider important to current educational reform efforts. Procedures: From 25 nominated superintendents 12 were chosen and asked two research questions. The methodology based on naturalistic inquiry techniques included in-depth interviews and constant comparison analysis. Literature on visionary leadership was used in reaching conclusions, implications, and recommendation for further study. Findinqs: Superintendents characterized their vision of Iowa schools as caring communities of learners in which relationships were valued and nurtured, where democratic principles were modeled in all aspects of school life, and where conversation and development of human resources were valued. In addition, they hoped for a more flexible system in structure and daily functioning. The superintendents' explanation of what likely would get in the way of achieving this vision ot Iowa schools encompassed four major themes: (a) insufficient funding, (b) powerful childhood memories of their own schooling along with satisfaction with their current neighborhood schools, (c) personal and professional short-comings, (d) lack of understanding of the change process. Conclusions: As society changes schools must change as rapidly just to keep pace. Second, while superintendents can shape key factors to guide the future of schooling, other factors that are deeply embedded in the broader society will require broad community effort to help influence reform. Recommendations: 1. Similar research should be conducted with other local district stakeholders to better understand multiple viewpoints of what schools should be. 2. Research on how visions actually get implemented will be enormously important to the future of K-12 education in Iowa, as well as across the nation.
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