Poster Paper: Collaboration in Response to Marketization and Bureaucratization: Toward a More Inclusive Research Framework for Studying Contemporary Education Policy

Monday, June 13, 2016
Clement House, Ground Floor, Hong Kong Theatre (London School of Economics)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Andrea J Bingham, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Patricia E. Burch, University of Southern California
Recent decades have seen expansion of education policies rooted in theories of instrumental rationality. A key outcome of this trend has been the call for more marketization and bureaucratization to address the perceived failings of public schools. Another less examined outcome has been the ascent of policies where principles of quantifiable school performance are structurally connected to democratic forms of accountability. As implementation researchers, we have come to think of reforms that cross principles of democratic engagement with principles of instrumental rationality as steering in the middle – embedded in a larger organizational context of instrumental rationality and in theories of democratic participation. These Middle of the Road reforms seem to be increasing rapidly within the United States (and internationally). As they do, so does the need for conceptual frameworks that help classify and differentiate these reforms. In this first section of our paper, our goals are to contribute to this classification and ultimately to research on these reforms by categorizing different Middle of the Road reforms under two major dimensions: Democratic Engagement and Instrumental Rationality. This is the first step toward developing and engaging more inclusive research frameworks for studying contemporary educational policy.

In this climate, schools are challenged to develop organizational forms that can support collaboration and community engagement, alongside the bureaucratic and accountability-driven reforms that demand more oversight, transparency, and demonstrable results. The second section of this paper begins to map emerging contradictions and opportunities presented by current reforms through a discussion of a case study of community building in a charter school. We do so by leveraging some basic features of current research from management science – specifically work from Adler, Heckscher, McCarthy, & Rubinstein (2015) – that draw directly on Weber’s ideas of instrumental rationality, in order to begin to understand how to prioritize the complicated role of local autonomy, collaboration, and community in implementation, while also taking into account the bureaucratic, and accountability- and market-driven nature of the current educational climate.