Flip-Flops in School Reform: An Evolutionary Theory of Decentralization

Research Report

Flip-Flops in School Reform: An Evolutionary Theory of Decentralization

Abstract

The appointment of Alan Bersin to Superintendent of San Diego City Schools marked a radical shift for the school system. His Blueprint for Student Success instituted deep changes in the productive culture across all schools. This chapter has two objectives, first being to describe the initial phase of implementation of the Blueprint reforms as a process of centralization, paving the way for a decentralization of authority later. Second, it seeks to make sense of the reforms in light of theoretical literature on centralization and decentralization, and how the San Diego reforms offer new insights in flip-flopping between the two approaches in education reform. Although it is too early to assess the outcomes, we also discuss the changes taking place as San Diego enters the second phase of reforms, where schools have been given greater autonomy to carry out the goals the Blueprint set forth. A third phase appears likely, though it remains to be seen whether it will involve another recentralization of authority or a further decentralization. (In Urban School Reform: Lessons from San Diego, edited by Frederick M. Hess (53-70). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. April 2005.)

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