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Decline, Crisis and Turnaround in the Swedish School Market:: the case of a school that has come through
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Special Education. (Lärandemiljöer och didaktisk utveckling)
2013 (English)In: Creativity and Innovation in Educational Research, 2013Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

he principles of New Public Management (Adcroft & Willis, 2005, Deifenbach, 2008) have inspired educational reforms in Sweden during the last 20 years with the introduction of a large array of reforms: educational standards, national assessments, new grading system, accountability, vouchers, independent schools, school inspectorate (Allodi, in press, NAE, 2013). One of the assumptions is that the schools will perform better if they are exposed to concurrence from other schools, through the parents’ free choice of school. The system requires therefore that inspectorate reports and various measures of school performance are made publicly available. Measures of students’ achievements, grades, qualification rates, are included in the accountability system, while measures of school performance on other shared educational goals, as inclusiveness, fairness and equity, are usually not considered.  It is inevitable that some schools will be identified as low performers, or as performing less well than expected - in models that take account of school composition. The models employed in the Swedish school accountability system, however, do not take account of students with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Schools that recruit large numbers of disadvantaged students or that recruit students with special educational needs from the whole districts to special units, risk getting lower results than expected, may get consequently a bad reputation and eventually smaller numbers of students, which may conduce to economic trouble and budget cuts. Schools like these may be penalized and risk ending up in a situation of demoralization and crisis (Allodi, in press).The school’s organizational climate has been identified as a factor that influences school performance and students’ well being and results (Rutter & Maughan, 2002; Leithwood, 2011). The aim of the intervention program Social climate participation and learning was to sustain changes in the schools’ organizational climate, by mean of activities for the staff as workshops, evaluations and planning, in collaboration with a researcher. The broad theoretical framework of the intervention includes theories of learning environments, universal human needs and values (Allodi, 2007, 2010 a, 2010b, Schwartz, 1995), organizational  learning and change (Mintzberg, 1983, Senge, 1995, Kaplan , 2007). The changes were expected to make the school more equitable and inclusive, increasing the number of students that were qualified to secondary education, and also to raise the average qualification value of the students and their well-being. Pinehill school was one of the two schools that participated in the program. Pinehill school is a junior public high school with about 300 students located in a suburban municipality, in a neighborhood of about 16 thousand inhabitants. The employment rate in the area is about 84 % and 17 % of the population have an immigrant background. Pinehill school has a district commissioned special unit for students with special educational needs. The situation of the school at the beginning and some of the development and changes that occurred and were manifested at Pinehill school during three years are described and analyzed in this paper.

The study is a case study of a school participating in a program aimed to change the school's organizational climate and performance. The school was recruited through the person in charge for development in the district, who identified it as a school in decline, a school that needed support to start a change. The principals, the teachers, the students and their parents were informed about the program and could avoid participating. The design of the program was approved by the regional ethical committee. The program adopted an approach that combined elements of research diffusion development and evidence-based practices. The key principles were: information on theories and research on social climate and supportive relationships in learning environments, evaluations of students’ experiences, reflection and analysis, flexible adaptations to local issues, long-term, sustainable development. The study has a mixed methods approach (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2010) and analyzes the data collected within the school during a three-year period. The data about the school organization and performance was collected through teacher surveys (organizational climate) student surveys (school climate) participation to meetings and workshops, and includes documents, reports, available official school statistics from the NAE, and the Swedish School Inspectorate.When the program started in Autumn 2009, Pine Hill school was in decline. After a period the crisis accentuated due to internal and external factors. Several developments and changes were introduced in the school organization during the following years. Pine Hill made a turnaround: the school has the best average qualification value among the municipal schools in the district and has consistently reduced the achievement gap between girls and boys. The students have better perceptions of the social climate (creativity, safety, helpfulness, participation and influence). At Pine Hill all the subjects are considered important and the esthetic-practical activities are highly valued. The students' number has increased, which make it possible to recruit new teachers. The mission of inclusive education and participation is important for the staff and they are involved in several new research projects. Besides the special unit for students with special educational needs Pine Hill plans to give place to recently immigrated students, a new commission from the school district. Nevertheless, a recent report of the Inspectorate found reason to yet give criticism to several aspects of the school functioning. The changes and development are analyzed and related to research and theories of organizational change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
learning environments, social climate, organizational change, accountability, school improvement
National Category
Didactics Public Administration Studies Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Pedagogy Learning
Research subject
Special Education; Special Education with a Focus on Educational Science; Didactics; Education; Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88838OAI: diva2:613913
ECER The European Conference on Educational Research Instanbul September 2013
Socialt klimat delaktighet och lärande
Swedish Research Council, 2008-4733
Available from: 2013-04-02 Created: 2013-04-02 Last updated: 2013-05-14

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Allodi Westling, Mara
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