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Title: Authority in Urban School Governance: Stasis and Change in New Haven Public Schools
Authors: Kenney, Allison Whitney
Advisors: Jennings, Jennifer L
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: Authority
Education Reform
School districts
Urban Education
Subjects: Sociology
Educational sociology
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: What does it take to sustain meaningful education reform in urban school districts? Many well-known school reform districts are governed by consolidated state or mayoral control. But most struggling urban districts across the country are implementing improvement plans in systems that are at once massive bureaucracies and democratically governed public goods. In this dissertation, based on thirty months of fieldwork in New Haven Public Schools (NHPS), I detail the interpersonal work done by district leaders and stakeholders to negotiate continued school improvement in this hybrid organizational configuration. School district leaders and stakeholders all have authority as bureaucratic officeholders, professional experts, and/or democratically-motivated constituents. I examine the consequences of these different logics for authority in a complex district governance system. Individuals in leadership roles first have to negotiate their decision-making authority within the organization to bring stability before they can collaborate for school change. In four empirical chapters based on observations of and interviews about public routines of school governance in NHPS, I examine case studies of governance at the micro-level. First, I describe how negotiations of authority diverted resources and efforts away from organizational change in a period of leadership upheaval. In a second chapter, I provide a case study of a proposed budget change that highlights the negotiation of authority in the performances of formal organizational roles and rules. Third, I explore the emotional and symbolic aspects of the public meeting ritual chain as additional mechanisms for the negotiation of authority in governance. In a final empirical chapter, I describe how the silencing of problematic negotiations of authority led to a culture of avoidance and dysfunction in NHPS governance, culminating in a disastrous search for a new superintendent. In a concluding chapter, I present the theoretical frameworks available for understanding school reform and suggest that these theories need to be updated to reflect the on-the-ground complexities of public school governance. Through an in-depth examination of authority and governance in one urban district, I aim to contribute to broader debates about educational reform and organizational change.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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