School Management in Transition: Schooling on the edge

Anthony H. Normore (College of Education, Florida International University, Florida, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




Normore, A.H. (2004), "School Management in Transition: Schooling on the edge", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 42 No. 5, pp. 607-610.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

In his book, School Management in Transition: Schooling on the edge, Shuttleworth provides an insightful and invaluable contribution to the field of educational policy and practice. As a consultant and lead author for a study of innovations in school management conducted by the Organization for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) Shuttleworth (2003, p. viii) traces the “evolution of school administration from the nineteenth century…to the emerging knowledge economy as we enter the twenty‐first century” with focus on nine countries in the industrialized world: Belgium, United Kingdom, United States, Mexico, The Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, Japan, and Greece. In addition to the insights and data gathered from the OECD study, the chapters are derived also from the author's research in the field and personal experiences as a teacher, school administrator, and superintendent of education. The intent of the book is to capture experiences gained from preparing school leaders among nine OECD countries at a time when school leaders face crises and despair as educational managers in a changing social, political and economic age.

The book contains 15 chapters that highlight ongoing debate issues that are brilliantly interwoven into the fabric of the educational arena. Each chapter centers on a particular topic and ends with reflections by the author. The book begins with a brief overview of the central topics to be discussed and concludes with profiles of each participating nation in the OECD study. The profiles provide a survey of the innovations and best practices which the author claims to be making a difference as school management training courses and social, political, and economic forces struggle for understanding the nature of leadership. Chapter one sets the stage for the book by providing a review of the transformation of schooling in the 19th and 20th centuries with focus on how Frederick Winslow Taylor's principles of scientific management (p. 2) “jumped from factory floor to the classroom”. Shuttleworth emphasizes the irony of the language of educational reform and schooling for a new economy by alluding to Arthur Andersen accounting scandals and stock market failures of industry giants such as Enron, WorldCom and Vivendi. Chapter two examines the policy changes that catapulted the radical transformation of school leader's role from an (p. 8) “administrative technician, implementing policies mandated from central authority, to a semi‐autonomous manager/instructional leader and developer of human resources”. Chapter three presents issues of decentralization and deregulation of decision‐making power, including financial, personnel and facilities management. Shuttleworth provides examples of the effects of decentralization and deregulation among several nations who participated in the OECD study. In many countries, both decentralization and deregulation are considered to be (p. 22) “appropriate strategies for a neo‐conservative government bent on reducing public spending and shifting accountability to a more grass roots level”.

The next three chapters focus on issues relative to top‐down reform. Chapters four and five deal with what the author refers to as “test‐score Olympics” whereby academic test results of nations around the world are contrasted to see who performs best in areas of math, science and literacy. Examples of the power of top‐down academic assessment are provided throughout this chapter to demonstrate how stringent educational accountability mechanisms have been put in place in hopes to increase student achievement. Meanwhile, according to Shuttleworth (p. 28) “a revolt against standardized testing as a single measure of effectiveness and accountability is growing worldwide”. Additionally, the author provides a comprehensive sampling of national performance testing experience in nations who participated in the OECD study and demonstrates the impact that some of these procedures may have on classroom practice and the morale and self‐esteem of teachers, administrators, parents and students. Chapter six focuses on the outsourcing agendas or “contracting out” of neo‐conservative regimes for purposes of balanced budgets and deficit reductions. Shuttleworth emphasizes that these outsourcing agendas have often impacted dramatically the quality of education in countries such as Hungary, Belgium, Great Britain and the US.

In chapters seven and eight the author focuses his attention on “renewal approaches” to school improvement. Throughout these chapters are examples of “educational renewal in action” that demonstrate how countries are engaged in “bottom‐up” processes that allow for strategies to improve practice and enhance quality of schools. According to Shuttleworth, these processes (p. 49) “advance fundamental issues such as social justice, racism, sexism, and economic inequality to equip citizens for a productive life in a democratic society”. In chapter eight, a community education partnership is recognized as an essential component in school improvement in a number of countries to meet the human service needs, particularly in disadvantaged socio‐economic areas. Reference is made to the impact of social inclusion units in British schools and the New Paradigm Partners Inc. (NPP) in several schools in the US.

Chapter nine describes several models for governance in school education that were developed by Ron Glatter at the Centre for Educational policy and Management at the Open University in the United Kingdom. These models include: competitive market (i.e. business in a commercial market place), school empowerment (i.e. top‐down policy makers seeking to empower school level stakeholders), local empowerment (i.e. decision‐making involves a locality as a collection of social and educational units such as LEA in the United Kingdom), and quality control (i.e. top‐down rules, controls and monitoring, bureaucratic in nature such as the Hungarian Ministry of Education). With all four models differing in nature the understanding of micropolitics and governance mandated by these models is becoming a necessary means of survival for school leaders and other educators.

Chapter ten identifies a common set of concerns about student behavior that school administrators face in and out of school. As indicated by the OECD countries, these behaviors include: a rise in vandalism, bullying, robbery, drug and weapon offences, and assaults against students and school personnel. The chapter presents some innovative programs used in several countries to address these issues (e.g. Ghent Health Services Institute in Belgium and Hans Brinker College in The Netherlands).

Chapters eleven and twelve focus on the importance of information and communication technologies (ICT) for school administrators and teachers who continue to be challenged in preparing learners to be productive citizens in the 21st century. Issues arise in certain areas for people causing the creation of a “digital divide” due to the inaccessibility to ICT skills and knowledge. As Shuttleworth asserts (p. 87), “many are incapable of participating in a society and an economy that is more and more dependent on technology”. Several of the nine nations in the OECD study on New School Management identify ICT as one of their priorities. Judging from the data collected in the OECD study, there is little doubt that computer literacy is becoming a necessity for preparing students for future employment. Chapter twelve takes this concept a step further by looking at how schools, as “houses of knowledge”, and school leaders need to lead and manage schools in a knowledge‐based economy where ICT and the entertainment sectors are its competitors. The author reiterates how (p. 101) “some parents, politicians and employers are calling for higher productivity by ‘working smarter’…to improve knowledge creation and application”. Shuttleworth presents a series of questions from the Center for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) concerning the role of educational institutions for tomorrow's schools, and introduces several themes to relate school management to knowledge management including: developing a commitment, expanding the role of practitioners, establishing and using networks, use of ICT, new roles for researchers and practitioners, new forms of professional development, and integrating social capital.

Chapter thirteen capitalizes on tracking innovations in the school management practices. The author summarizes and critiques the best practices in the participating nations and leaves a series of comments for the reader to ponder. Chapter fourteen focuses on management for a learning society where (p. 134) “people of all ages share the opportunities and access to resources required to improve knowledge and skills”. Several examples of in‐service and pre‐service training of school administrators are provided which attempt to combine both reform and renewal agendas. In the concluding chapter Shuttleworth offers thoughts and suggestions in the quest for leaders of the 21st century. He states (p. 137), “we are faced with a quandary in school leadership between what John Goodlad calls the ‘soft and tender’ versus the ‘hard and tough’. The hard and tough neo‐conservative reformers still promote Tayloresque top‐down scientific management to repair (privatize) schools which are broken. The soft and tender liberal renewers believe in New Age management, which espouses teamwork and affective leadership with flexible, self‐renewing learning organizations by Peter Senge and others”.

In reading this book it is imperative to bear in mind that educational leadership and management are expanding so rapidly that it becomes difficult to keep up‐especially at a time when public schooling finds itself striving to meet the social, political and economic challenges of the 21st century. This book, School Management in Transition: Schooling on the edge, provides a comprehensive picture of school leadership and management on an international level. It is very timely and well‐written for particular audiences. The book is a highly valuable, insightful and recommended volume, presented with great rigor and thought. It is especially recommended by the author of the paper for school leaders, school district personnel, teachers, parents, researchers and policy makers. It is also very likely to have appeal to college professors who study and work with aspiring and practicing school leaders in leadership preparation programs and policy studies.


Shuttleworth, D.E. (2003), School Management in Transition: Schooling on the Edge, RoutledgeFalmer Publications, New York, NY.

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