Perceptions of the Reform Agenda from Selected Superintendents in the Keystone Area Education Agency I of the State of Iowa
Whitlatch, P. Allen
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The problem. Beginning with the Nation at Risk report, there has been a continuous stream of public recommendations, national and state goals, business initiatives, and local efforts to reform America's public schools. Although educational change appears simple from the perspective of the popular press, reform (transformation, restructuring, or improvement) of schools is a complex and time consuming task. Iowa's 379 school districts are at different stages in the process of reform and have embraced different reform initiatives. Little data presently exist to show where Iowa schools are in the reform process. To properly assess the current state of affairs and to provide data usable at the practitioner level, it was necessary to limit the size of the group studied. Procedures. I developed and used a survey instrument and interview protocol to determine what Iowa school superintendents perceived as the status of reform (transformation, restructuring, improvement) efforts (perceived state of implementation) in Northeast Iowa. The survey and interview protocol included the four broad categories and the 24 subcategories of transformation identified by superintendents in a 1993 survey conducted by the Keystone AEA. I followed a qualitative methodology. I recorded the perceptions (views, opinions) of informed professional educators. Findinqs. I reviewed, analyzed, and recorded the data derived from the written surveys and the 10 on-site interviews. The resulting narratives provide a summarized compilation of the perceived state of school reform in the 22 responding districts. The most significant individual in the implementation of the various school reforms in Northeast Iowa is the superintendent. The superintendent has control of the financial and human resources that are available and, with small exceptions, was the person responsible for school reform activities. The Area Education Agency is the one single factor that surfaces in the drive to implement school reform activities in Northeast Iowa. All superintendents rely on the expertise and assistance from the AEA. Conclusions. The results of this study support the conclusion that schools in Northeast Iowa are actively involved in transformation activities. The individual superintendent determines the emphasis on reform activities in any given school district.
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