What are the
organizational characteristics that seem to make schools effective?
general characteristics most distinguish effective school organizations from
ineffective ones. The first is school goals. The objectives of effective schools
are clearer and more consistently perceived that the goals of ineffective
schools. The objectives of the more successful schools are also more
academically ambitious. More than twice as many effective schools as ineffective
ones make "academic excellence" their top priority. In contrast, the
unsuccessful schools place more priority than do the successful ones on such
objectives as basic literacy skills, good work habits, citizenship, and specific
occupational skills. Overall, effective organizations seem more likely to
possess a sense of "mission," something that many other observers of effective
schools have also noted.
second distinctive characteristic of effective organizations is leadership. The
better schools have principals who are stronger educational leaders.
Specifically, effective organizations are led by principals who, according to
their teachers, have a clear vision of where they want to take the school and
the firm knowledge to get the school there. This is consistent with the sense of
mission that characterizes school goals. But there is more to effective
leadership. There is a strength in the better principals that comes through in
their reasons for wanting to head a school. Principals in effective schools are
much more likely than their counterparts in effective schools to report that
they took the job of principal to gain control over the educational performance
of the school – over personnel, curriculum, and other school policies – and much
less likely to admit that they simply preferred administration to teaching. In
much the same vein, the successful school principals had more teaching
experience and less ambition to leave the school for a higher administrative
post. Overall, the principals in the successful schools seemed to be more
oriented by teaching and less by administration. The successful principals
seemed more like leaders, the less successful ones more like managers.
organizations were more professional in all of the best senses of that much
abused term. Principals in the effective schools held their teachers III higher
esteem and treated them more as equals. Teachers were more involved in decisions
about various school policies and they were given more freedom within their
classrooms. Teachers also treated each other more like colleagues. They
cooperated with one another and coordinated their teaching more regularly, and
held each other in relatively high regard. The teachers in effective schools
behaved in another important way like professionals too: they came to school
regularly and presented less of an absenteeism problem for principals. Finally,
the teachers in effective schools exhibited stronger feelings of efficacy,
beliefs that they could really make a difference in the lives of their students.
And it is no wonder. In a school where everyone is pulling together, working as
a team – the concept we think best captures the effective school – and in which
teachers are trusted and respected to do their best, it stands to reason that
teachers would tend to believe that they can actually succeed.