Teachers, Administrators Should Strive To Improve Relations, Report Urges
By Ann Bradley
The relationships between New York State's teachers and administrators must be changed before meaningful school reform can be accomplished, argues a new report on labor-management issues in the state's public schools.
"A School is a Workplace," which was prepared by the state Industrial Cooperation Council, calls on educators to follow the lead of private-sector businesses in striving to improve performance by fostering labor-management cooperation.
The council was established by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo to analyze ways in which joint labor-management efforts can address public-policy questions. Its report on the schools, released last month, incorporates comments made by business people and educators at a colloquium on education reform held last December.
A key thrust of the report is that all those involved with the state's schools should endeavor to shed traditional assumptions about the roles of management and employees.
Many educators still view corporate models as unsuitable for education, the report says. But corporations in recent years have turned away from the assembly-line model and an overriding emphasis on efficiency, it notes.
Companies now see themselves as "people organizations, with management of human resources as their most important activity," according to the report.
Educators generally have not accepted this emphasis on personnel, the report concludes.
Instead, the document maintains, educational literature contains "sometimes rapturous descriptions of alternative educational modes that find their intellectual homes in humanistic, idealistic, or social-democratic models."
"In a deteriorating environment, with increasing social despair, these models may not prove to be practical," it warns.
Despite evidence of a link between student achievement and schools that have a positive climate, strong leadership, and established goals, "these components are the ones least addressed by reform mandates," the report says.
In many schools, the report notes, reform initiatives have involved asking teachers to perform many new duties without adequate training. At the same time, administrators have felt threatened by a loss of power, it says.
To move educational reform forward in New York, the report recom4mends that the state education department sponsor conferences to bring the various school constituencies together to define the educational agenda.
Innovative models for decisionmaking developed in Dade County, Fla.; Rochester; Cincinnati; and elsewhere should be studied for examples of new school-workplace structures and systems, it recommends.
Training and continued support is essential, the report argues, for school districts that choose to give teachers more responsibility for making decisions.
The state, moreover, must play an active role in establishing and monitoring pilot programs to document the effectiveness of new approaches to school management and organization, the report maintains. It suggests establishment of a statewide policy-research and analysis group similar to Policy Analysis for California Education.
Copies of the report are available for $8 each from the New York State Industrial Cooperation Council, 1515 Broadway, 52nd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10036.