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Educational Leadership: Policy Dimensions in the 21st Century

reviewed by Jane Clark Lindle - 2002

coverTitle: Educational Leadership: Policy Dimensions in the 21st Century
Author(s): Bruce Anthony Jones (Editor)
Publisher: ABLEX Publishing Company, Westport, CT
ISBN: 1567504892, Pages: 176, Year: 2000
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Projecting the future is an ambitious task because of limits on extrapolations from current trends. In fact, business and government planning has reduced its scope from five-years or more to one-year or even six-month plans (e.g. Dixit & Nalebuff, 1991).

Given such constraints, Bruce Anthony Jones, who writes with colleagues from the National Policy Board for Educational Administration’s Policy Circle, has edited a volume that tackles two slippery aspects of 21st century educational policy, (1) educational leadership and (2) the dimensions of future policy itself. In doing so, Jones and his colleagues have contributed to the body of school leadership analyses that starts with Tyack and Hansot’s (1982) Managers of Virtue, proceeds through the 1980s "tidal" years for "bully pulpit" education reforms (Bacharach, 1990; Griffiths, Stout, & Forsyth, 1988; Hannaway & Crowson, 1989; Jacobson & Conway, 1990), and continues into the 1990s standards and accountability movement (Murphy, 1992; Murphy & Louis, 1999; Tucker & Codding, 1998). The question is: Does this volume project new directions for policy on school leadership or will the persistent "grammar of schooling" (Tyack & Cuban, 1995, p. 85) maintain its resilience over yet another century?

The first chapter by Cibulka explores the new century’s prospects for resolving contests over governance of educational policy. Cibulka notes six contests: (1) centralization v. decentralization, (2) school boards v. mayoral or other municipal control, (3) public v. private ownership of schools, (4) professional autonomy v. civic accountability, (5) family v. community control, and (6) shared v. hierarchical leadership. These six contests reverberate in the nine subsequent chapters.

McCarthy’s chapter illustrates the variety of private ventures into education over the last two decades. She discusses the various versions of public school choice tested in charters and vouchers. She notes the varying forays into public schools by private management companies. Throughout her analysis she raises the thorny question of in what ways pursuit of economic interest diminishes the preservation of democratic principles embodied through public schools.

Interagency collaboration provides the hub of Galvin and Fauske’s chapter. They apply an economic theory of transaction costs to emerging wrap-around service collaboratives among schools and community agencies. Pursuant to problems for school leaders, Galvin and Fauske uncover "intermediate hierarchies" (p. 57) in the collaboratives.

Kelley further problematizes the work of school leaders in her analysis of the associations between teacher performance and student achievement. She presents an elaborate model of factors impacting teacher performance and argues for district-level policy leveraging these factors. Nevertheless teacher performance policy implementation is in the hands of principals, which exposes an imperfect, indirect route to higher student achievement.

Lest the changing demographics of student populations remain an under-recognized factor in school leadership policy, Merchant’s chapter lays out the particulars. In a chain of differences, that is, students are different from teachers, and teachers different from administrators, it is clear that administrators are most different from students. Ergo, administrators are also very different from the communities they serve.

Herrington’s chapter offers a proposition. If professionalism remains a prescribed set of processes and norms that are neither adaptable nor responsive to community diversity and identity, then schools are as irrelevant as they are unresponsive. Herrington argues that more political acuity among educational leaders means greater community service. At the center of Herrington’s argument are two of the contests delineated by Cibulka, professional autonomy v. political accountability and shared v. hierarchical leadership.

Bull continues the charge for responsiveness in addressing the interpretation of national policy at the local level. Bull points out that national standards may miss the mark given local social conditions. Teachers must negotiate the distance between national standards and local resources more as responsive service providers than as elite professionals. To meet a national civic responsibility, teachers must develop local social capacity. Development is an individualized process that cannot be rigidly controlled. Federal policy needs to leverage local capital in developing local capacity.

Jones and Otterbourg remind of us business’s enduring and historic interest in schools. Although they review the history of this involvement from the 1980s, they note little or no systematic evaluation of impact.

According to Ward’s chapter, issues of adequacy compound equity questions surrounding school finance. Education financing depends on the economy – local, national, and global. Because recent high tech ventures emphasize more individual than collective achievements, issues of equity may have faded into the background. Equity and adequacy are issues tied to tenets of the commonwealth.

Jones’s final chapter reveals the meat of the volume concerning policy for educational leadership. Not surprisingly, Jones shows that school leadership is a complex job persistently dogged by politics, cronyism, and conflicting community demands. Community demands can be exceedingly fractious including traumatic exchanges over individual desires. Naturally, the complexity of the community increases the complexity of the job. Jones reiterates job constraints that might explain shortages in the line positions of principals and superintendents. Jones suggests that perceptions about school administration provide most of the information about aspirations, viability of candidates and performance of school leaders. Perceptions and demographics on who aspires or not to educational leadership simply are insufficient for drawing conclusions about school leaders' work and its effects on potential or practicing school leaders. Notwithstanding the considerable charts and diagrams in this last chapter, the problem of school leaders’ work design and the coherence of policy affecting school leaders’ selection and preparation remains ill informed. A straightforward, systematic job analysis seems more likely to expose the content and structure of school leaders’ work (Castetter & Young, 2000). Such a complete and systematic analysis has not been produced since Wolcott’s (1973) seminal work in the late 1960s. Although Jones and associates did not attempt a comprehensive job analysis, their delineation of the policy dimensions parses the "grammar of schooling" (Tyack & Cuban, 1995, p.85).

Each of the authors makes cogent claims concerning the policy influences on school leadership. Ward’s and Jones’ final chapters expand Cibulka’s initial delineation of six contests to eight policy dimensions:

  1. Degree of centralization or decentralization
  2. Extent of control by school boards or other municipal control
  3. Choices among public and private ownership of schools
  4. Balance of professional autonomy and civic accountability
  5. Reconciliation between family and community control
  6. Scale of shared or hierarchical leadership
  7. Scope of school management or instructional leadership
  8. Negotiation of economic constraints with equitable/adequate resources for schools

Jones issues a clarion challenge for policy on tomorrow’s school leaders to address student achievement by dealing with these eight dimensions of school policy. Despite this book’s contribution in clarifying that these eight dimensions of policy insinuate themselves into the work of school leaders, the mechanisms by which school leaders’ work is affected are not that clear. In effect, Jones and company have laid the contextual and conceptual groundwork for a comprehensive job analysis that could lead to promising policy on work design and selection for school leaders of the 21st century.


Bacharach, S. B. (Ed.). (1990). Education reform: Making sense of it all. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Castetter, W.B. & Young, I.P. (2000). The human resources function in educational administration (7th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Dixit, A. K. & Nalebuff, B. J. (1991). Thinking strategically: The competitive edge in business, politics, and everyday life. New York: W.W. Norton &Co.

Griffiths, D. E., Stout, R. T. & Forsyth, P. B. (1988). Leaders for America’s schools: The report and papers of the National Commission on Excellencein Educational Administration. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

Hannaway, J. & Crowson, R. (Eds.)(1989). The politics of reforming school administration. NY: Falmer Press.

Jacobson, S.L. & Conway, J.A. (Eds.) (1990). Educational Leadership in an age of reform. NY: Longman.

Murphy, J. (1992). The landscape of leadership preparation: Reframing the education of school administrators. NY: Corwin Press.

Murphy, J. & Louis, K.S. (Eds.). (1999). Handbook of research on Educational Administration (2nd ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tucker, M.S. & Codding, J.B. (1998). Standards for our schools: How to set them, measure them, and reach them. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tyack, D. & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Press.

Tyack, D. & Hansot, E. (1982). Managers of virtue: Public school leadership in America, 1820-1980. NY: Basic Books.

Wolcott, H.F. (1973). The man in the principal’s office: An ethnography. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 5, 2002, p. 879-882
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10819, Date Accessed: 12/6/2021 3:58:12 PM

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About the Author
  • Jane Lindle
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    Jane Clark Lindle, Ph.D., is Professor of Administration & Supervision in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky. She is Co-Director of the University of Kentucky/University of Louisville Joint Center for the Study of Educational Policy and Director of Graduate Studies for her department. Professor Lindle focuses her research on micropolitical processes affecting school policy implementation. Recently Professor Lindle spent a year as a public middle school principal serving UKs land-grant mission as a scholar-practitioner.
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