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School Identity in the Context of Alberta Charter Schools

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Abstract

The central tenet of this investigation is that educational institutions possess their own school identity. Acknowledging that school identity is influenced by institutional mechanisms and personal dynamics, we examine school identity in the context of 13 Alberta charter schools. Narratives of 73 educational stakeholders across the network of Alberta charter schools reveal a heightening of trust and authenticity as related to school identity. We propose that lessons learned from this study can inform stakeholders within other school settings. In particular, that an explicitly articulated vision of school identity may challenge the entrenched norms and practices typical of large bureaucratic organizations.
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Journal of School Choice
International Research and Reform
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School Identity in the Context of Alberta Charter
Schools
Merlin Thompson, Dianne Gereluk & Eugene Kowch
To cite this article: Merlin Thompson, Dianne Gereluk & Eugene Kowch (2016) School Identity
in the Context of Alberta Charter Schools, Journal of School Choice, 10:1, 112-128, DOI:
10.1080/15582159.2015.1132934
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15582159.2015.1132934
Published online: 11 Mar 2016.
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School Identity in the Context of Alberta Charter Schools
Merlin Thompson, Dianne Gereluk, and Eugene Kowch
Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
ABSTRACT
The central tenet of this investigation is that educational
institutions possess their own school identity. Acknowledging
that school identity is influenced by institutional mechan-
isms and personal dynamics, we examine school identity in
the context of 13 Alberta charter schools. Narratives of 73
educational stakeholders across the network of Alberta
charter schools reveal a heightening of trust and authenti-
city as related to school identity. We propose that lessons
learned from this study can inform stakeholders within
other school settings. In particular, that an explicitly articu-
lated vision of school identity may challenge the
entrenched norms and practices typical of large bureau-
cratic organizations.
KEYWORDS
authenticity; charter schools;
school identity; trust;
vulnerability
The central tenet of this investigation is that educational institutions pos-
sess their own school identity (Blumenfeld, 2006;Bryk,Lee,&Holland,
1993;Clark,1960,1973; Wardekker & Miedema, 2001). School identity
refers to the way in which a school works, what it is about, and what it
requires of people as a reflection of the individual schoolsmultidimen-
sional functioning, mission, or position. School identity acknowledges the
fusion of people, ideas, historical considerations, aims, and purposes that
develop in relation to a schools internal environment and its surrounding
social context. In this article, we examine school identity as evident within
the small but sustainable educational environment of 13 Alberta charter
schools. To shed light on school identity, our research is guided by the
following central questions:
(1) What formal institutional mechanisms contribute to school identity in
Alberta charter schools?
(2) What informal personal dynamics of school identity are evident in
Alberta charter schools?
(3) What are the implications of this research for other school
settings?
CONTACT Merlin Thompson merlin._thompson@shaw.ca Werklund School of Education, University of
Calgary, Calgary, 2500 University Dr. NW, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada.
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE
2016, VOL. 10, NO. 1, 112128
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15582159.2015.1132934
© 2016 Taylor & Francis
School identity
One of the most important lessons regarding the impact of schools on
studentseducational achievements is that effective schooling depends on
the social and cultural characteristics of the school as a total entity
(Brookover, Beady, Flood, Schweitzer, & Wisenbaker, 1979). The overall
functioning of the school as a social organization affects student attendance,
behavior, and attitudes toward their educational process as a whole
(Goodlad, 1984; Rutter, 1983). In a study of 20,000 students, teachers, and
principals, Chubb and Moe (1990) concluded that school organization is
the second most important influence on student achievementthat in a
normal 4-year high school experience an effectively organized school may
increase the achievement of its students by more than one full year(p. 140).
Examining schools from across various public and private environments,
Chubb and Moe argue that autonomy has the strongest influence on the
overall quality of school organization, especially in the example of private
schools who forge their own school identities in terms of policy, organiza-
tion, and personnel. Bryk (2008) noted that Catholic educational institutions
demonstrate the notion of school identity based on a unifying inspirational
ideology.With an internal social organization of voluntary association,
Catholic students and teachers create important social resources for their
own school improvement. Referring to the example of charter schools, Finn,
Manno, and Vanourek (2000) regard school identity as mission driven and
built around a unifying vision. Everybody associated with a [charter] school
can see what it stands for and what it promises to deliver(p. 265). Lopez,
Wells, and Holme (2002) described charter school operators’“identity-
buildingefforts to form distinct school communities as grounded in shared
values and beliefs (p. 130).
School identity may be understood as the synthesis of an educational
institutions organization, vision, mission, beliefs, and history into a consis-
tent and operational image (Clark, 1960,1973; Sullivan, 2003). Identity on a
school level emerges as the organizational function of goals, values, and
beliefs to which the institution is unequivocally committed, as well as the
sense of direction, meaning, and purpose the institution derives from those
same goals, values, and beliefs. School identity shapes an organizations
practices and policies, while drawing from the artifacts of its own organiza-
tion. It helps organizations determine both their clientele and their person-
nel, how to set goals and resolve conflicts, and develop the narratives that
demonstrate what they stand for. School identity takes into consideration the
people within the schoolstaff, students, faculty, parents, board members
as well as the programs offered by the school and its instructional mandate. It
involves how schools deliver their mandate, the various processes and stra-
tegies used, and the ways in which individuals within and external to the
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE 113
school perceive and interact with it. Finally, school identity takes into
account an entanglement of historical, geographical, and cultural contexts
that interpenetrate each other as schools participate in numerous cultural
practices and traditions that form neither a harmonic nor static ensemble. In
this way, school identity functions as a fusion of formal institutional mechan-
isms in terms of policy, mission, structures, and procedures, while encom-
passing personal dynamics through interpersonal relationships and the
attitudes of educational stakeholders throughout the institution. These refer-
ences to formal institutional mechanisms and personal dynamics are indica-
tive of an important point: namely, that school identity is best understood
from more than one vantage point.
Alberta charter schools
In the Canadian educational context, Alberta is the only province to allow
the establishment of charter schools. On March 31, 1994, Alberta Minister of
Education Halvar C. Jonson introduced Bill 19, the School Amendment Act
for the establishment of Canadas first charter schoolsautonomous public
schools that would provide innovative or enhanced means of delivering
education in order to improve student learning across the Province of
Alberta (Alberta Learning, 2002). Currently, a total of 13 charter schools
are situated primarily in the major urban centers of Edmonton and Calgary
with additional schools operating in Stony Plain, Medicine Hat, Androssan,
and Valhalla Centre. These various charter schools offer diverse educational
mandates including specialties in arts-based education, gifted education, First
Nations education, English as a second language, single sex education, among
other approaches.
Alberta charter schools operate under charter agreements from 515 years
in duration between the Minister of Education and a nonprofit society.
Calgary Arts Academy, Calgary GirlsSchool, Foundations for the Future
Charter Academy, Connect Charter School (formerly Calgary Science
School), and Edmonton Suzuki Charter School currently operate under 15-
year charter agreements. These individual charter agreements describe the
unique educational service each school will provide, how the school will
function, and the intended student outcomes. Similar to other public school
jurisdictions, charter schools submit a 3-year education plan and education
results on a yearly basis. In contrast to the extensive central office control in
other Alberta public schools jurisdictions, the governance of charter schools
is decentralized in order to promote increased flexibility. While specific
governance arrangements vary from school to school, virtually all important
decisions are made at the level of individual charter schools. Once a charter
school has been granted operational status, it may apply to the Minister for a
charter renewal before the end of its term. Previous to October 2013, charter
114 M. THOMPSON ET AL.
schools were required to undergo a school-wide evaluation conducted by
external educational experts in order to assess multiple aspects of individual
charter schools operations prior to the end of their 5-year term. In
October 2013, this external review process was reformatted to a smaller
internal evaluative report completed during the third year of 5-year charters
or the 12th year of 15-year charters and submitted for review, recommenda-
tions, and requirements by a cohort of four Zone Services managers.
According to August 2013/2014 statistics, Albertas 13 charter schools have
an enrollment of 8,732 students with long waiting lists and an extreme
demand for access to charter school education (Alberta Education, 2014;
Lukaszuk, 2012). Previous studies of Alberta charter schools have looked at
opportunities and challenges in creating charter schools (Bosetti, 2000;Da
Costa, Peters, & Violato, 2002) as well as the systems overall impact,
capacity, and adaptability (Gereluk, Kowch, & Thompson, 2014).
Data and research design
From 20122014, our team conducted a comprehensive examination of
Alberta charter schools, collecting data on the impact, capacity, and adapt-
ability of Alberta charter schools. Using a structured interview format, we
interviewed 73 stakeholders spanning the network of Alberta charter schools
during the first 6 months of 2013. We published the results of our research in
a 180-page report in January 2014 (Gereluk et al., 2014). Subsequent to the
publication of research results, we returned to the data, noting the emergence
of school identity as a prominent and recurrent theme. Although none of our
questions during the structured interview were directed towards school
identity, charter school superintendents, board members, principals, and
teachers consistently brought forward their own personal and collective
narratives related to their schools identity. The unexpected theme of school
identity caught us off guard. Of course, all schools have an identity. That
conclusion appeared obvious to us. Yet, analyzing the data seemed to require
something more than framing the prevalence of school identity in a summary
of statistical evidence.
In this case, our analysis of data serves not to confirm or dispute a
particular quantifiable hypothesis; it endeavors to prompt explorative and
interpretive scholarly inquiry. Our aim is to initiate a fresh line of thought on
school identity and to uncover understandings that might strike others as
worth hypothesizing about or testing. Consequently, we pull together chunks
of data to create generalizations rather than quantifications(Fenno, 1978).
Sifting through the data and sorting out the pieces, we juxtapose our growing
understanding against a background of related research to draw conclusions
and suggest implications. As Smith (1999) indicated, our research is con-
cerned with the question of human meaning and how we make sense of our
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE 115
lives in such a way that life can go on(p. 41). Through this process, our goal
is to contribute to the insights of educational stakeholders who seek to
improve the current educational climate and generate the educational com-
munities we have yet to imagine.
In the following section, we respond to the first of our central research
questions: What formal institutional mechanisms contribute to school iden-
tity in Alberta charter schools?
School identity: Formal institutional mechanisms in Alberta charter
schools
Alberta charter schools develop, demonstrate, and communicate a clear sense
of school identity in response to two formal institutional mechanisms man-
dated by the provincial government. The first mechanismapplication for
charter school statusincorporates the crafting of a distinctive and purpose-
ful educational image. The second mechanismadministration of the charter
schoolrefers to specific operational procedures that ensure individual
charter schools compliance with its own specific educational mandate.
From the outset of application for charter school status, organizers must
demonstrate a clear sense of identity in terms of what the proposed charter
school will look like, how it will operate, and how it will demonstrate
improved student learning.
The philosophy, purpose and goals define a charter schools reason for existence.
These statements show how the school meets an educational need that is not being
met by the local school board. The statements should be measurable, tied to
improved student learning, and should form the basis for educational decision
making. (Alberta Learning, 2002,p.6)
The expectation for the educational services offered by Alberta charter
schools is that they will be different from what is locally available.
Applications must include a body of independent research in support of
the assertion that the proposed educational program will potentially improve
student learning in a way that can be measured against other schools.
Applications must also include significant support from the community in
which the school is to be located, especially from local parents and students.
Alberta charter schools purposefully continue to attend to their explicit
school identity through multilayered ongoing administrative, operational,
and accountability procedures. With increased flexibility and autonomy as
the means to improve student learning beyond the local school boards
services, charter schools report directly to the Minister of Education. Under
such circumstances, bureaucratic wheels turn more quickly and charter
schools operate with great nimbleness than their counterparts within larger
jurisdictions beholden to standardization throughout a centralized
116 M. THOMPSON ET AL.
bureaucracy. Increased flexibility and autonomy means that charter schools
can respond more easily to the needs and particularisms of their stakeholders
at all levelsstudents, parents, teachers, board, and community. As a con-
sequence, charter schools must demonstrate accountability by providing
evidence of student achievement, fiscal responsibility, compliance with pro-
vincial regulations and policies, in addition to the importance of meeting
their self-mandated educational goals through annual reports.
Through the formal institutional mechanisms of both the application
process and ongoing school administration, school identity in each of
Albertas charter schools effectively takes its functional and integrated
shape. To be a charter school means figuring out and committing to an
organizational uniqueness that draws from a specific educational philosophy,
addresses the needs of a defined target student demographic in the context of
historical and cultural influences, while not losing sight of demonstrable and
desirable student outcomes. Given the distinctive raison dêtre of each charter
school, significant differences in school identity exist across the network of
Alberta charter schools as related to diverse educational mandates. Further
differences are evident in charter school delivery options: 10 charter schools
function as a single campus operation, two charter schools operate on two
campuses divided between elementary and secondary level students, and one
charter school has six campuses situated across a broad urban context. Such
differences clearly indicate that school identity is not a matter of one size
fits all.
In the following section, we explicitly draw from the data in order to
respond to the second central question: What informal personal dynamics of
school identity are evident in Alberta charter schools?
School identity: Personal dynamics in Alberta charter schools
While governmental regulations and requirements might serve as a kind of
formal template for school identity in Alberta charter schools, we recognized
such formalized mechanisms might not fully capture the meaning of school
identity. Turning to the collective narratives of 73 Alberta charter school
stakeholders, we noticed something Jardine (1992) described as already
familiarin the telling of their personal and collective stories. Something
that prompted us as researchers to consider questions likeWhat do these
stakeholdersnarratives reveal about the nature of school identity? What do
these narratives have to say about the real life everyday experience of school
identity?
Listening to, reading through, and living with stakeholdersnarratives, it is
at this juncture that what Gadamer (2006) referred to as the fecundityof
the small but sustainable education environment of Alberta charter schools
comes into play. Hearing and seeing the same personal dimensions of school
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE 117
identity repeated throughout the interviews, we felt certain in the security of
our interpretations. Examining these personal dimensions, deeper insights
into school identity begin to emerge in terms of trust and authenticity. These
insights do not add up to a whole school, rather, they shed light on the
characteristics of school identity.
The stakeholdersnarratives revealed a heightening of trust and authen-
ticity as informal personal dynamics related to school identity. The
dimension of trust, as the anchor to the goals, values, and beliefs that
fuel school identity, is required among participants in such interpersona-
lized contexts in order to envision, develop, protect, and sustain the
charter schools identity. Trust provides the stabilizing underpinning for
the charter schools participants to come together in spite of evident
differences in history, background, and outlook. Yet, trust also has strong
relationstovulnerabilityandrisk.The dimension of authenticity refers to
the consistency in alignment between a schools core beliefs and values
andthewayitsoperationstaystrueto such beliefs and values.
Authenticity aligns the whybehind a schoolsoperationswiththecon-
sistency of howit operates. School identity takes on a meaning that goes
beyond the mission statement featuredonanorganizations Web site or
inscribed on a wall plaque; rather, the authenticity of a schoolsidentityis
embodied in the experiences and thoughts of its current and past parti-
cipants. In the following sections, we examine how the dimensions of
trust and authenticity help shape the notion of school identity in Alberta
charter schools.
Trust & its counterparts of vulnerability & risk
Trust is readily acknowledged as essential to effective educational endeavors
involving interpersonal exchanges between teachers, students, and parents
(Brookfield, 2006; Bryk et al., 1993). Looking at trust as a dimension of
school identity, trust takes on significance because when individuals interact
with one another around the work of schooling, they constantly contribute to
and draw from the trajectory of a schools identity. Trust is grounded in the
interpersonal interactions that take place across an educational community.
Trust is determined through the seemingly contradictive approaches of
rational deliberation and emotional understanding (Corrigan, Klein, &
Isaacs, 2010; Govier, 1992; Holton, 1994; McGeer, 2008; McLeod, 2011;
Pettit, 1995; Rempel, Ross, & Holmes, 2001). As a rational outcome, trust
may be seen as the purposeful outcome of objective analysis, verifiable by
observable facts and rational deliberation. I trust someone because of what I
know about them because of what I am clearly able to identity or recognize.
Whereas, trust as an emotional or intuitive disposition is different from
rationalization in that it is distinguished by a willingness or desire for
118 M. THOMPSON ET AL.
connection with others. I trust someone because of an internal feeling of
congruence or alignment, because it feels like the right thing to do.
A primary feature of trust can be found in the element of reliance or
dependability on other people (Becker, 1996). Underlying this sense of trust
is the belief or expectation that an individual can trust others because they
are persons of integrity, capable of reliable action and possessing a proper
concern and respect of others(Applebaum, 1995, p. 445). Annette,
1
a
charter school education consultant, builds on this notion of dependability
and reliability, articulating features of trust in terms of its strengthening and
collective impact:
Our organization functions on strong relationships and a very high degree of trust
and working very collaboratively together. Were in it together to provide the
best educational experience for students possible. Its not just about the individual.
Its about what does each have to offer and contribute to the benefit of all.
(Annette, personal interview, February 23, 2013)
According to Applebaum (1995), trust involves optimism and the notion of
good will—“trust implies that certain motives are assumed by the one trust-
ing to underlie the good will of the one trusted(p. 445). Rempel and
colleagues (2001) described this attribute of trust as the confidence an
individual has that another will act in ways that promote fulfillment of
desired goals(p. 57). In this depiction of trust, the trusting individual allows
others to become involved in ones undertakings. There is anticipation that
others will respond with care and treat the individual as a person, a senti-
ment that is frequently evident in parents who seek out charter school
expertise. As Danielle, a charter school superintendent, recalls from her
conversation with a prospective parent:
The reason I want my child in Central Watkins is because I came to Calgary,
particularly because I heard from my home country that Central Watkins was the
best school I could give my child in terms of English as a second language, from
Pakistan (Danielle, personal interview, January 30, 2013)
Trust as a dimension of school identity refers to the central characteristic
of optimism in interpersonal relationships demonstrated through the indivi-
duals hopeful expectation of good will, reliability, and integrity. In such
situations, individuals trust that an organizations actions, well-intended
actions, are motivated by a commonality of shared values or norms. There
is the idea of security to the point of being able to place ones self in an
organizations hands.
Genuinely connecting who they are with what they do, charter schools put
their philosophy, purpose, and goals on par with concerns regarding the
effectiveness and efficiency of schoolsorganizational administration. In such
genuine contexts, the identity of charter schools prompts an immediacy and
intimacy of educational relationships that bear a strong resemblance to
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE 119
family relations. Here, trust accrues because school stakeholdersstudents,
teachers, and parentschoose to be there, to be part of an extended charter
school family. However, the dimension of trust is not without its drawbacks,
as indicated in the philosophical literature.
Discussion in the literature reveals trust to be a double-edged sword
because trust as optimism, reliability, and good will cannot be separated
from trust as vulnerability, uncertainty, and risk (Applebaum, 1995; Baier,
1986; Becker, 1996; Jones, 1996; Lahno, 2001). The person who trusts
another makes himself vulnerable because he perceives [the other person]
as being connected to himself by shared aims or values(Lahno, 2001,
p. 171). With an openness to trust and optimism, individuals let go of a
certain amount of control, allowing for risk and the uncertainty of others
being in control. In trusting someone else, vulnerability and risk cannot be
pushed to the side. They are part of the equation because when an individual
depends on or has trust in another person, that individual is necessarily
vulnerable to the limits of that good will(Baier, 1986, p. 235). McGeer
(2008) asserted, if we decide to trust, such trusting is not pretense in the
sense that we hold back from making ourselves vulnerable to the other
(p. 241).
Data from this study revealed the impact of vulnerability on charter
schoolsidentity as significant in three interconnected areas: facilities, per-
manence, and equitable treatment. Sixty percent of participants across the
entire network of Alberta charter schools identified these three areas as the
most important issues their organizations currently face (Gereluk et al.,
2014).
In terms of facilities, as autonomous schools within a public school net-
work, charter schools depend on the major local public school jurisdiction
for the allocation of facilities. For example, charter schools in Calgary and
Edmonton acquire their schools space from the Calgary Board of Education
and the Edmonton Public School Board respectively. Yet, these centralized
jurisdictions may be perceived as having adversarial rather than trusting
relationships with charter schools. As superintendent Danielle stated,
We leased our facilities for 5 years from Calgary Catholic [School District] and
Calgary Public [Board of Education], and the increasing enrollment has put
heavier and heavier demand on facilities and at this point were extremely vulner-
able. (Danielle, Ibid.)
Arnold, another charter school superintendent, continued in a similar
vein,
We dont have facilities, you cant grow without facilities. We dont really create a
choice for families in Alberta to go to charter schools because there is no available
space there to come into. (Arnold, personal interview, April 15, 2013)
120 M. THOMPSON ET AL.
In this regard, there is a perception among charter schools that they are
vulnerable to treatment as second-class citizens(Lorraine, personal inter-
view, February 25, 2013) who are not on par with other public schools.
In another example, a Calgary charter schools solution to their ongoing
vulnerability regarding school facilities resulted in taking an unprecedented
risk. In this case, the charter school leadership proposed setting up a relation-
ship with a prominent local business. Sharon, a teacher at the charter school,
provided her insight into the process.
So, part of our issue is that having a public [charter] school and a private partner-
shipits never been done before. So theres a lot of attention to it. Theres a lot of
[animosity towards] charter schools and by getting the attention that weve been
getting in this unique partnership it has increased what we see happening so
theres a lot of tension. (Sharon, personal interview, March 25, 2013)
This arrangement between a charter school and a private institution is extra-
ordinary in its demonstration of the interplay between trust and risk that can
occur when two organizations come together to collaborate on a project that will
take both of them into unexplored territory. Albert, the charter schoolsprincipal,
affirmed the importance of taking a risk as part of innovative solutions to
educational challenges: Thesameistrueforourorganizationdirectlybecause
it would be a lot easier not to rock the boat, than it has been to rock the boat and
make a quest for change(Albert, personal interview, February 13, 2013).
As a dimension of school identity, trust and risk operate much like a team
of whistleblowers that question, agitate, prompt, and realize an organizations
meaning, purpose, and direction. Risk challenges an organization to distance
itself from the status quo, a theme proposed by government official Nicholas
in reference to charter schools: We shouldnt be promoting the status quo.
We should be promoting the opportunity to take a risk, a calculated risk
(Nicholas, personal interview, April 19, 2013). A final example of the inter-
play between trust and risk is evident in a Calgary charter schools modifica-
tion of student assessment from a grades-based report to a nongraded
narrative summary. Lisa, one of the teachers involved, described the tension
in her own journey as a learning individual:
I feel like were pioneers on this crazy journey that were taking. I tell teachers that
I work with that are in other schools what were doing, and they think its insane
Its scary, but we ourselves have become learners again and thats a good thing for
every teacher to experience. (Lisa, personal interview, February 14, 2013)
Another teacher articulated the undercurrent of stress, The biggest tension
of all is teachers knowing whats best for education and parents thinking they
know whats best for education. And in between, there is the student
(Candace, personal interview, February 22, 2013).
A tension that Candace explained as requiring trustful interaction, affirm-
ing, Collaboration means we trust each of us to do our job. We come
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE 121
together and we converse to solve(p. 10). Risk in this setting was not
interpreted as a danger to be avoided; rather, the charter school teachers
recognized and accepted risk as the acceptable, natural, and welcomed out-
come of change in a trusted teaching and learning environment.
In this respect, trust enables education stakeholders to purposefully con-
sider risk and vulnerability as essential characteristics of school identity.
Without trust, stakeholders are constrained in their ability to create a collec-
tive school identity. With the acknowledgement of trust in conjunction with
risk and vulnerability, stakeholderscapacity for constructing, adjusting, and
directing their ongoing school identity takes on a deeper meaning.
Authenticity
Most pertinent to this investigation is the observation that authenticity has
been recognized as an important and desirable educational element by North
American and European scholars (Calderwood & DAmico, 2008; Cranton,
2001; Halliday, 1998; Kreber, 2010,2013; Laursen, 2005; Malm, 2008).
Brookfield (2006) affirmed authenticity as one of two top traits students
desire in their teachers. Caine and Caine (1997) indicated that a strong
identity and sense of beingare essential ingredients in transformative
teaching and learning. Authenticitythe notion of being true to ones
self”—is considered synonymous with such terms as genuineness or realness
and is linked with the concepts of personhood, sense of self, and identity.
Dickens (2008) distinguished authenticity from such concepts as identity or
self through the matter of self-alignment, in that authenticity relates to the
consistency individuals have in aligning their actions or behavior with their
motivations or intentions(p. 194). Goldman (2006) took up a similar vein,
affirming that authenticity is experienced in the unimpeded operation of
ones core or true self in ones daily enterprise(p. 135). When individuals
are authentic, they connect with something fundamental to their purpose in
life. Being authentic provides individuals with a definition of who they really
are and how they implicitly and explicitly mean to get on with their lives.
Similar to authenticity from an individuals perspective, authenticity from a
collective perspective of school identity underscores how an organizations
values, beliefs, and history are recognizably aligned with its functional and
integrated operations.
To a certain extent, the provincially mandated application and reporting
processes for Alberta charter schools stimulate a formalized accountability in
terms of authenticity. While this formalized attention to authenticity is
significant, interview results from this research indicate that Alberta charter
schools encompass and instill a realization of authenticity that far exceeds the
mandate of bureaucratic reporting. All levels of charter school organization
board members, superintendent, principal, and teachersconsistently
122 M. THOMPSON ET AL.
articulated narratives of the schools vision and purpose that resonated with
their own personal values and educational beliefs. Josée, a charter school
board chair, described her commitment as follows:
We hope, and I believe the better job we do at giving students the foundational tools
the reading, the writing, and the math, and those basic skillsthe better they will be as
they get older to handle the more abstract ideas and thoughts. We see our job as
making sure the building blocks are in place. (Josée, personal interview, July 4, 2013)
Under such circumstances, the charter schools vision is constantly validated
by the meaning its members derive from the schools unique approach and
from the commitment they have to furthering the schools success.
While authenticity is lauded as essential to meaningful school identity, at
the opposite end of the spectrum, authenticity is frequently rejected for its
tendency to narcissistic, self-absorbed, and self-entitled outcomes (Barry,
Kerig, Stellwagen, & Barry, 2011; Hotchkiss, 2002). Aloni (2002) pointed
out a criticism of authenticity in its potential to create a nihilistic position
according to which everything is equally good and beautiful and just as long
as the individuals choice was authentic(p. 104). Alberta charter schools
seem particularly susceptible to the self-absorbed limitations associated with
the criticism of authenticity. On the one hand, the small size of charter
schools means that they operate within close-knit almost familial type rela-
tionships unhampered by an extensive bureaucratic hierarchy. Our research
data confirms that all 13 Alberta charter schools develop and maintain strong
organizations within the boundaries of each schools identity. While there is
an obvious strength in the closely bounded nature of Alberta charter schools
in terms of school identity, there is evidence of what might be perceived as an
alarming level of self-focus and isolation. Out of 13 charter schools, only five
demonstrated interschool connections, primarily as a result of facilities issues
with the government. An even smaller number of schools indicated connec-
tions beyond school boundaries with education consultants or academics in
postsecondary institutions. Further isolation in terms of school identity and
authenticity is evident in charter schools limited external impact. Although
interview participants indicated their primary external impact was to
improve education and demonstrate exemplary teaching practice, less than
25% of the external impact occurred outside the network of Alberta charter
schools. So, while Alberta charter schools may demonstrate a high degree of
authenticity, charter schools may be held hostage by their own sense of
school identity, unable to penetrate through the crust of being trueto the
schools sense of self, or throw off the blinders that prevent them from seeing
beyond the schools dynamic and cherished identity.
As a final aspect of authenticity, charter schools demonstrate an unde-
niable shield of self-protection in response to strong opposition by the
Alberta TeachersAssociation (ATA) and the Alberta School Boards
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE 123
Association (ASBA). Both the ATA and ASBA maintain hostile relation-
ships with charter schools wherein charter school, administrators, and
board members are denied full membership in these associations
(Bosetti, 2001,p.107).TheATAviewscharterschoolsasanAmerican
concept thrown into Albertas education landscape, asserting that across
North America the charter school movement is under fire for failing to
live up to its promises and that by allowing for the formation of charter
schools, the government diverts funding from the public education system
(Alberta Teachers Association, n.d.,pp.34).TheASBA,whichcreates
policies and bylaws for all Alberta school boards, except charter school
boards, has concerns over the fact charter schools spend public money,
but do not have publicly elected boards (Alberta School Boards
Association, n.d.,p.12).Mostdisconcertingforcharterschoolsisthe
antagonistic attitude of the ATA and ASBA as evident in the information
such organizations provide to the Alberta public. For example, ATA critics
assert that charter schools promote the segregation of children and create
social fragmentation, [and] charter schools have not actually demonstrated
any ability to increase academic achievement, nor have they led to the
development or implementation of innovative teaching practices(ATA,
n.d., para 3). Many claims asserted by the ATA are unsubstantiated.
Despite numerous studies of Alberta charter schools with results contrary
to the ATAsstance(seewww.taapcs.ca/documents), the organization
continues to promote a negative narrative of Alberta charter schools,
willfully portraying charter schools as detrimental to the spirit of public
education.
In response to the proliferation of misinformation, Lorraine, a charter
school principal, articulates an impassionate plea for a better understanding
of what Alberta charter schools do.
Its hard for [charter school] teachers to go to places and hear some of the
unbelievably misinformed, unkind comments that are made about the schools that
they work in every day, and give their hearts and souls and bodies to, and they arent
true Charter schools in Canada are not like charter schools in the U.S., and I wish
people would quit comparing us. We arent the same. But nobody has bothered to
find out. Theyve judged. (Lorraine, personal interview, February 25, 2013)
Such hostile and adversarial treatment has resulted in a form of self-
imposed isolation on the part of Alberta charter schools. Under these cir-
cumstances, charter schools retreat into the seclusion of their own individual
mandates, protective of the authentic commitments they have made to their
stakeholders. Here, authenticity is guarded, shielded from the onslaught of
misinformation and misunderstanding. However, by protecting their schools
identity and therein deepening their own sense of authenticity, charter
schools pay a high price for self-isolating authenticity in terms of greater
124 M. THOMPSON ET AL.
alienation from the public education landscape that is vital and integral to the
realization of their school identity.
Implications for other school settings
Albertascharter schools demonstrate a remarkable capacity for weaving
together the various narratives of their own stakeholdersfrom board mem-
bers and superintendents to teaching staff and school personnel. Interviews
with participants throughout the charter school network consistently
revealed stakeholders as fiercely protective advocates whose individual nar-
ratives flourished within the overarching trajectory of their schools identity.
Charter school stakeholders offered personally and collectively meaningful
stories in which the personal dynamics of trust, risk, vulnerability, and
authenticity shed light on their schools identity. Despite charter school
stakeholdersperception that they have diminished assurances, resources,
and infrastructures, a kind of resilience emerged among stakeholders to
maintain their communal, ongoing, and evolving sense of school identity.
Our research reveals that school identity is heightened in Alberta charter
school environments by formal institution mechanisms and informal perso-
nal dynamics that actively emerge from the contributions of various invested
stakeholders. In charter school settings, school identity goes beyond centra-
lized policy mandates and institutional standardization to emerge as a parti-
cular positioning in which schoolsraison dêtre springs from and is
dependent upon meaningful personal and communal educational experi-
ences. From this perspective, school identity goes beyond the slogans and
mission statements of institutional branding to acknowledge the intersecting
and interpenetrative dimensions of trust, risk, vulnerability, and authenticity.
We propose that lessons learned from this study can inform stakeholders
within other school settings in fostering multiple nuances associated with
school identity. For superintendents, board members, principals, and tea-
chers, fostering a sense of school identity involves a multilayered attentive-
ness to: (a) stakeholdersrelation to the overarching philosophy, purpose,
and goals that define a schoolsraison dêtre; (b) stakeholderscollective and
individual capacity to develop trusting relationships; (c) stakeholders
embrace of vulnerability and risk; and (d) stakeholdersrecognition of the
isolating as well as empowering impact of authenticityof being personally
and communally true to ones self.School identity requires not only that
stakeholders be knowledgeable of their schools philosophical and pedagogi-
cal narrative; it also demands that stakeholders evaluate and respond to the
personal and interpersonal challenges of teaching and learning.
Furthermore, we propose that stakeholderscohesion and commitment to their
schoolsidentitydoesnotguaranteetheremoval of obstacles; nor does passive
submission and complacency contribute to a vibrant school identity. Rather, trust
JOURNAL OF SCHOOL CHOICE 125
in an explicitly articulated vision of school identity allows for the acknowledge-
ment of risk and vulnerability, for a rocking of the boatin challenging the
entrenched norms and practices typical of large bureaucratic organizations. Under
such circumstances, a kind of authentic involvement emergesone in which
superintendents, board members, principals, and teachers show up as purposeful
initiators, committed responders, and self-designated agitators engaged in the
active, ongoing, creative, and unanticipated possibilities of education.
Note
1. All personal names and school names have been assigned pseudonyms to preserve
confidentiality.
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... The parental voice has always been an aspect of Free school rhetoric (Gove, 2011) and it will be of importance within this study which looked at a school founded by the local community. What is clear though is that school identity is an eclectic mix of historical, geographical and cultural contexts and so needs to be viewed from more than one vantage point (Thompson et al., 2016). This study did this by focussing on the place and value of Physical Education and School Sport. ...
... This would suggest opportunities for innovation and freedom but Fitz et al. (1997) found that schools merely used the past to consolidate their identity, relevant, because Free schools as new institutions won't have a significant history. However, in contrast, Thompson et al. (2016) found in their study of Alberta's Charter schools that increased self-governance does help a school to develop its own identity through its philosophy, purpose and goals. The level of increased risk taking that came with these new freedoms meant that trust and authenticity within the school's leadership became important. ...
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This research looked at the management of identity change within Physical Education and School Sport (PESS) at one of the first Free schools in England. Opened as a new institution within an unfamiliar setting, the school had to contend with limited resources for an ambitious programme based upon a full complement of examination courses and an emphasis on prestigious team sports using a traditional public-school model. A single case study methodology revealed that subsequent changes in identity stemmed from staffing issues, alongside a shift in personal philosophies towards a more inclusive ideology. Both senior management and middle management agreed that PESS needed to offer more sports to more pupils while still contributing towards the school’s “knowledge rich” achievement-based ethos. Using Goffman’s concept of “impression management”, changes are explained by the analysis of a team “performance” communication to parents, identified by interviewees as key policy actors in the life of the school. This approach has been successful in justifying change, a finding that will help to understand the extent to which parental expectations are managed at Free schools. However, elements of traditionalism remain within the school’s games-based PESS programme and possibilities for innovation are interpreted by policy actors as necessitating changes in content rather than within pedagogy or curriculum design. Recommendations for future study include the need to fully understand the freedoms associated with Free schools, particularly expectations for curriculum innovation.
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Cuốn sách “Giáo dục Phổ thông Việt Nam: Chuyển biến và Sáng tạo” - một sản phẩm trí tuệ của Mạng lưới Giáo dục (EduNet) thuộc Tổ chức Khoa học và Chuyên gia Việt Nam toàn cầu (AVSE Global) - bao gồm các bài viết lí luận và báo cáo nghiên cứu thực nghiệm, truyền tải thông điệp mà chúng tôi dành cho những người làm trong lĩnh vực chính sách, đặc biệt gửi tặng các thầy cô, các bậc phụ huynh cũng như toàn thể xã hội để cùng nhau tạo ra những cộng hưởng thay đổi tích cực trong giáo dục. Thay đổi từ chính chúng ta - những người đi trước - sẽ truyền cảm hứng và khát vọng thay đổi tới các em học sinh yêu thương. Quy tụ những chuyên gia, nhà khoa học tâm huyết ở cả trong và ngoài nước, EduNet tập trung nghiên cứu, đề xuất chính sách liên quan đến các vấn đề mang tính cốt lõi, những thách thức cũng như cơ hội của ngành giáo dục và toàn xã hội. Do đó, chúng tôi hy vọng cuốn sách này là cây cầu nối tri thức tiếp thêm động lực để các thầy cô liên tục sáng tạo trong những bài giảng cùng hoạt động giáo dục. Từ đó, thế hệ trẻ sẽ viết nên những giấc mơ của chính họ và tiếp nối sự nghiệp trồng người của dân tộc Việt Nam. Niềm vui chung của chúng ta là được nhìn thấy nhiều thế hệ người Việt trưởng thành với nền tảng giá trị cốt lõi, tri thức tiên phong, phong cách sống có trách nhiệm với xã hội và môi trường. Tôi và đồng nghiệp đã đóng góp một chương trong cuốn sách này. Chúng tôi viết về nỗ lực học tập, phát triển chuyên môn do một nhóm giáo viên THPT. Mời độc giả đón đọc Chương 8. Giáo viên cùng học - Mô hình học tập chuyên môn do giáo viên khởi xướng.
... Trên thế giới, cùng với sự gia tăng xu hướng phân cấp quản lí giáo dục từ những năm 1980 đến nay, các chính sách đổi mới giáo dục theo hướng tăng cường tự chủ trường học ngày càng được áp dụng rộng rãi ở nhiều quốc gia (Altrichter & Rürup, 2010;Caldwell & Spinks, 1988;Cheng & Mok, 2007;Grimaldi & Serpieri, 2014;Ng & Chan, 2008;Thompson, Gereluk, & Kowch, 2016;Trimmer, 2013). Trong khuôn khổ nghiên cứu này, tự chủ trường học được định nghĩa là sự tự do và quyền ra quyết định của nhà trường trong khuôn khổ các mục tiêu chung, chính sách, tiêu chuẩn, và trách nhiệm giải trình (Caldwell, 2013;Honingh & Urbanovic, 2013;Suggett, 2015). ...
... Nghiên cứu này tập trung tìm hiểu khía cạnh các giá trị văn hóa của nhà trường (tầng thứ hai trong văn hóa nhà trường). Các nghiên cứu quốc tế cho tới nay cho thấy, tác động của tự chủ trường học tới giá trị văn hóa nhà trường thường được thể hiện qua sự thay đổi về các mối quan hệ trong nhà trường như quan hệ giữa hiệu trưởng và giáo viên (Wylie, 1997) hoặc quan hệ đồng nghiệp giữa các giáo viên (Bezzina, 1989;Clune & White, 1988;White, 2016), tự chủ góp phần thúc đẩy quan hệ hợp tác giữa các trường (Hamilton Associates, 2015;Gobby, 2013;Busher & Hodgkinson, 1996;, tự chủ trường học tạo điều kiện cho những đổi mới và sáng tạo trong trường học (Chapman & Salokangas, 2012;Dillon, 2011;Miron & Nelson, 2000;Thompson, Gereluk, & Kowch, 2016), và tự chủ thúc đẩy trường học trở thành các tổ chức học hỏi (Cheng, 2017;Chapman & Salokangas, 2012;Fryer, 2012;Gleason, 2017;Wohlsteter & c.s., 1995). ...
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Cuốn sách “Giáo dục Phổ thông Việt Nam: Chuyển biến và Sáng tạo” - một sản phẩm trí tuệ của Mạng lưới Giáo dục (EduNet) thuộc Tổ chức Khoa học và Chuyên gia Việt Nam toàn cầu (AVSE Global) - bao gồm các bài viết lí luận và báo cáo nghiên cứu thực nghiệm, truyền tải thông điệp mà chúng tôi dành cho những người làm trong lĩnh vực chính sách, đặc biệt gửi tặng các thầy cô, các bậc phụ huynh cũng như toàn thể xã hội để cùng nhau tạo ra những cộng hưởng thay đổi tích cực trong giáo dục. Thay đổi từ chính chúng ta - những người đi trước - sẽ truyền cảm hứng và khát vọng thay đổi tới các em học sinh yêu thương.Quy tụ những chuyên gia, nhà khoa học tâm huyết ở cả trong và ngoài nước, EduNet tập trung nghiên cứu, đề xuất chính sách liên quan đến các vấn đề mang tính cốt lõi, những thách thức cũng như cơ hội của ngành giáo dục và toàn xã hội. Do đó, chúng tôi hy vọng cuốn sách này là cây cầu nối tri thức tiếp thêm động lực để các thầy cô liên tục sáng tạo trong những bài giảng cùng hoạt động giáo dục. Từ đó, thế hệ trẻ sẽ viết nên những giấc mơ của chính họ và tiếp nối sự nghiệp trồng người của dân tộc Việt Nam. Niềm vui chung của chúng ta là được nhìn thấy nhiều thế hệ người Việt trưởng thành với nền tảng giá trị cốt lõi, tri thức tiên phong, phong cách sống có trách nhiệm với xã hội và môi trường.
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Cuốn sách “Giáo dục Phổ thông Việt Nam: Chuyển biến và Sáng tạo” - một sản phẩm trí tuệ của Mạng lưới Giáo dục (EduNet) thuộc Tổ chức Khoa học và Chuyên gia Việt Nam toàn cầu (AVSE Global) - bao gồm các bài viết lí luận và báo cáo nghiên cứu thực nghiệm, truyền tải thông điệp mà chúng tôi dành cho những người làm trong lĩnh vực chính sách, đặc biệt gửi tặng các thầy cô, các bậc phụ huynh cũng như toàn thể xã hội để cùng nhau tạo ra những cộng hưởng thay đổi tích cực trong giáo dục. Thay đổi từ chính chúng ta - những người đi trước - sẽ truyền cảm hứng và khát vọng thay đổi tới các em học sinh yêu thương. Quy tụ những chuyên gia, nhà khoa học tâm huyết ở cả trong và ngoài nước, EduNet tập trung nghiên cứu, đề xuất chính sách liên quan đến các vấn đề mang tính cốt lõi, những thách thức cũng như cơ hội của ngành giáo dục và toàn xã hội. Do đó, chúng tôi hy vọng cuốn sách này là cây cầu nối tri thức tiếp thêm động lực để các thầy cô liên tục sáng tạo trong những bài giảng cùng hoạt động giáo dục. Từ đó, thế hệ trẻ sẽ viết nên những giấc mơ của chính họ và tiếp nối sự nghiệp trồng người của dân tộc Việt Nam. Niềm vui chung của chúng ta là được nhìn thấy nhiều thế hệ người Việt trưởng thành với nền tảng giá trị cốt lõi, tri thức tiên phong, phong cách sống có trách nhiệm với xã hội và môi trường.
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Reflecting post-bureaucratic organisation theory, education reformers intended charter schools to empower school-level leaders, most typically principals, with autonomy to pursue clear, student-centred missions. Yet little research explores whether charter school principals have more power than traditional public school counterparts. We summarise the limited literature addressing the issue. Second, we present findings from interviews with nine charter leaders from six US states who have experience in leading both charter and traditional public schools, a unique data set. Both prior research and our findings suggest that generally, leaders feel more likely to be held accountable for results in charter schools than in traditional public schools. Furthermore, without oversight from school boards and central office administrators, charter leaders report having more power over budget and personnel, and more ability to collaborate with teachers. At the same time, standalone charter leaders report needing business support and training, while those from charter management organizations feel free to focus on academic success.
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Synthesising Martha Nussbaum’s study of the emotions and the capabilities approach to human development with Charles Taylor’s claim that authentic identities ought to be constructed dialogically against “horizons of significance,” the author identifies critical features of authenticity that are then applied to the context of adult educators, learners, and pedagogies. With the purpose of surfacing the context-transcendent structure underlying the experience of struggling for authenticity, the article takes as its point of departure the context of coming out about one’s sexual orientation. The metaphor of “coming out” is subsequently extended to the process of striving for authenticity also in other contexts. This striving involves overcoming complacency and compliance and engaging in contestation, has both a psychological and sociological dimension, and is associated with the civic virtues of courage and compassion. The author also speculates on why authenticity is perceived as a timely notion by many adult and higher education professionals.
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Using the theoretical lenses of Erik Erikson, Burton Clark, and Sonia Nieto, the author highlights the case of Colgate University-a private liberal arts university in central New York State-to consider larger issues of institutional identity by investigating points of crises bringing to the surface opposing forces, which struggle, on one hand, to maintain and permanently entrench the status quo, and on the other hand, to transform an institution to a new, qualitatively distinct developmental position. At the core of this investigation is Colgate University's questioning of its identity in terms of a prevailing “masculine” culture and its climate of heterosexism. This examination of Colgate University in microcosmic perspective exemplifies the clash of opposing forces surfacing in institutions of higher education across the United States.
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The attributional statements intimate partners communicate to one another were examined as a function of trust. In discussions by 35 married couples, 850 attributions and corresponding events were coded on dimensions of valence, globality, and locus. Results of regression and contingency analyses indicate that attributional statements expressed in high-trust relationships emphasized positive aspects of the relationship. Medium-trust couples actively engaged issues but focused more on negative events and explanations. Low-trust couples expressed more specific, less affectively extreme attributional statements that minimized the potential for increased conflict. Results could not be accounted for by relationship satisfaction. These findings also highlight the importance of focusing on features of the events for which attributions are expressed.
Book
In Jean PaulSartre's Nausea, Roquentin feels bound to listen to the sentimental ramblings about humanism and humanity by the Self Taught Man. "Is it my fault," muses Roquentin, "in all he tells me, I recognize the lack of the genuine article? Is it my fault if, as he speaks, I see all the humanists I have known rise up? I have known so many ofthem!" And then he lists the radical humanist, the so called"left" humanist, and Communist Humanist, the Catholic humanist, all claiming a passion for their fellow men. "But there are others, a swarm of others: the humanist philosopher who bends over his brothers like a wise older brother with a sense of his responsibility; the humanist who loves men as they are, the humanist who loves men as they ought to be, the one who wants to save them with their consent, and the one who will save them in spite of themselves. . . . " Quite naturally, the skeptical Roquentin ends by saying how "they all hate each other: as individuals, not as men. " Fully aware of the misuse and false comfort in the use of the term, Professor Aloni proceeds to restore meaning to the word as well as appropriate its educational significance. There is a freshness in this book, a restoration of a lost clarity, a regaining of authentic commitment.
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In this essay I examine a variety of approaches to the contemporary postmodern self. I argue that this diverse literature may be analytically distinguished along two general lines. The first concerns institutional or structural claims regarding what a self "is" or "is not." The second focuses instead on what a self "does" or "does not do." I conclude by recommending a more comprehensive approach that takes into account the salience of both of these analytical dimensions in the contemporary debates over the postmodern self.