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'Muddy Definitions' Confuse Rather Than Clarify Networks

To the Editor:

I applaud your recent article on and summary of school-reform networks (See related story ). But, having read the lead paragraph regarding the "School Networks at a Glance" feature to follow, I was disappointed. You included many of the large, well-publicized school-reform organizations, but there were a limited few in the chart that would qualify as "networks." As a result, I believe you confuse rather than shed light on the nature of what a network is and what networks can contribute to reform.

I think a definition of "network" will help. A network is the voluntary linking together of individuals or organizations that (a) share a common purpose or vision for systemic school change and (b) work collaboratively through shared governance and mutual support to assist each other to achieve the purpose or vision at school sites and in school districts.

This definition does not include organizations whose primary or sole function is to disseminate research, provide training that is not systemic, give grants, "partner," do research, or consult with schools. Worthy as these services are for enabling school reform, they do not constitute networking. If they did, Phi Delta Kappa's National Dissemination Center, Professional Development Center, and publications, as well as the National Diffusion Network, and the many federally sponsored regional labs each might do more in quantity, quality, or effect than a number of the organizations you listed as "networks."

If you were to use a clearer and more discerning set of criteria that accurately delimited the concept of network, and maintained a focus on networks that give priority to whole-school reform and serve a national audience, your list would be reduced to the following: the Accelerated Schools Project; the American Association of School Administrators' Total Quality Network; the Center for Leadership in(See Education Association's School Renewal Network (not the National Center); the Quality Education for Minorities Network; and the Social Development Program.

In addition to these, the following networks not only exist, but also meet the above definition and work nationally for whole-school reform: the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Networks (multiple networks of smaller size, each with a specific focus determined by its members); the Network of Mindful Schools; the Total Quality in Education Network.

If you were to add the reform organizations listed in your chart that have plans for networking in the future, you could add the New American Schools Development Corporation projects and Turning Points. Not on your list but due to start are the following networks: the Multiple Intelligences Network, the School Trainer's Network, and the Cognitive Education Network.

School reform and restructuring are difficult enough without creating confusion with definitions that are muddy. I would urge you to classify organizations by the services they provide. This will make it easier and more productive for the many who are trying to see networking as a helpful reform strategy.

James A. Bellanca
Executive Director
International Renewal Institute Inc.
Palantine, Ill.

Religious-Right'Scapegoating' Obscures Secular Threats

To the Editor:

George R. Kaplan's piece on the "Deceptions and Fallacies of the Religious Right" (See related story

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