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Kowch, E., Gereluk, D., & Thompson, M. (2014). The Impact, Capacity, and Adaptability of the Alberta Public Charter School System. Calgary, AB: TAAPCS

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Abstract and Figures

The executive committee of the Association of Alberta Public Charter Schools (TAAPCS) held a number of meetings to evaluate the current Alberta Public Charter School system, contacting researchers from the University of Calgary Dr. Dianne Gereluk and Dr. Eugene Kowch. We were approached to conduct a system wide analysis of the current capacities, adaptability and impacts of Alberta Public Charter School system. The research would be conducted at an arm’s length from the Association in order to create an open and transparent analysis of current strengths, challenges, and opportunities for the future sustainability and growth of Alberta Public Charter Schools. Specifically, three overarching questions frame the research: 1. What are the current impacts of the Alberta Public Charter School system in terms of the capacity and autonomy of its collaborative networks spanning the individual, school, and school community networks? 2. What potentials, strengths, and opportunities for change exist at all levels in this school system? 3. What impacts have charter schools created in the broader public education system in Alberta? This research provides a knowledge base – examining a deep and wide snapshot of this school system’s capacity, adaptability and impact in 2013. We found a medium to low capacity for leadership networks organizing difficult key issues, primarily because leader relations are constrained to school institutional boundaries, seldom spanning beyond a school. Along with a discovery that quite weak reciprocal relations exist between its governments and the association, we found a low autonomy system with good potentials for evolving with renewed relations extending beyond and across the Association. Adaptability is a function of the system’s potential to emerge (transform), along with its innovation capabilities. We found the Association to have a low potential to transform because of a high turnover rate among leaders and low redundancy in the system. This is offset somewhat by a high potential to lead a good suite of diverse specializations, values and ideals strongly held among very experienced senior leadership. Deep sociocultural and pedagogical innovation is found in about 20% of the association schools focused on school level innovations, so we suggest a return to innovative pedagogy engaging Association members across the system to share and learn forward. Overall, these features coupled with a low capacity to organize key interests (presently very focused on facilities management) could improve with new projects and innovations in pedagogy, teaching and governance that leverage existing innovations in a couple of the schools. This will also add to the low impact the Association is found to have in its education ecosystem locally, regionally, provincially and internationally.
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The Impact, Capacity, and
Adaptability of the Alberta Public
Charter School System
Final Report
Co-Principal Investigators:
Eugene Kowch & Diane Gereluk
Research Assistant:
Merlin B. Thompson.
© 2014
This research identifies the Alberta Public Charter School system’s impact and capacity
for future growth and sustainability within the broader education system in the Province
of Alberta.
ii
The views and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the
researchers and not necessarily those of The Association of Alberta Public Charter
Schools.
iii
Table of Contents
Table of Contents ............................................................................................................... iii
List of Figures ................................................................................................................... vii
List of Tables ...................................................................................................................... x
Executive Summary ........................................................................................................... xi
CHAPTER ONE ................................................................................................................. 1
Overview of Alberta Public Charter Schools ...................................................... 2
The Context of School and School System Change ............................................ 3
Minding Simultaneous Micro, Meso, and Macro Level Change .................... 4
A Shift in School Leadership Thinking .......................................................... 5
Identifying a System’s Capacity to Organize Itself ........................................ 8
Identifying a School or School System’s Aggregate Potential ..................... 10
Method .............................................................................................................. 11
Conceptual Framework ..................................................................................... 13
CHAPTER TWO: CAPACITY & AUTONOMY ............................................................ 18
Findings related to Capacity and Autonomy ..................................................... 19
Rationale for Issues being a lens for this research ............................................ 19
What are the most important issues in Alberta Public Charter Schools? .......... 22
What attracts Charter School leaders to issues? ................................................ 24
Who is identified as influential persons? .......................................................... 26
Attributes of Leaders’ Capacity to Lead across the Association ...................... 26
Ability to rise above self-interest .................................................................. 29
Clear concept of one’s role in the work ........................................................ 30
Ability to generate new information ............................................................. 31
Ability to manage complex tasks .................................................................. 31
iv
Professional ethos or value system ............................................................... 31
Ability to cohere in the system ..................................................................... 32
Relationships between Leaders across the Association .................................... 33
Summary of Findings ........................................................................................ 48
ANALYSIS ....................................................................................................... 49
Analysis and implications from the Leader Issues and Attractor Findings....... 50
Demographics of Superintendents and Principals in the Leader Network........ 51
Features, Characteristics and Attributes of Leaders across Leader Networks .. 54
Autonomy .......................................................................................................... 57
Leader Network Analysis .................................................................................. 59
Structural features of the leader issue network – network analysis .............. 61
Structural Features of the Issue Organizing Networks ................................. 66
Patterns of Relationships............................................................................... 69
Strengths and Directions of Relationships .................................................... 71
Density, Centrality and Between-ness .......................................................... 78
Leader Network Centrality ........................................................................... 78
Leader Network Between-ness ..................................................................... 79
Types of Relationships .................................................................................. 82
Structural Alignment of the leader issue network ......................................... 88
Typology of the leader issue network – Classifying Network Types ........... 89
Summary: Capacity and Autonomy Findings and Analysis ............................. 93
Appendix 1 ........................................................................................................ 95
CHAPTER THREE: ADAPTABILITY of the ASSOCIATION ..................................... 98
Findings ............................................................................................................. 98
Innovation and the Alberta Public Charter School System ............................... 98
v
Innovation: Conceptual Framework .................................................................. 98
Old Innovation: Linear Ideas ........................................................................ 99
Emergence via Innovation .......................................................................... 103
Ecologies of Innovation .................................................................................. 105
Potentials for Emergence ................................................................................ 109
Innovation: Findings & Analysis .................................................................... 116
A1 Attractors or status quo innovation leaders: Findings ............................... 120
Tensions, Novelties and Experiments ......................................................... 120
A2 or Deep Innovation Leaders: Findings ...................................................... 121
Potential of this Organization for Adaptation: Findings and Analysis ........... 125
Potential of the Organization to Emerge its Network Teams.......................... 126
Diversity .......................................................................................................... 127
Redundancy ..................................................................................................... 131
Summary of Findings and Analysis on Adaptability ...................................... 135
CHAPTER FOUR: IMPACT of the ASSOCIATION ................................................... 138
Internal Impact ................................................................................................ 138
Internal Impacts: Key Stakeholders ............................................................ 139
Kinds of Internal Impact ............................................................................. 140
External Impact ............................................................................................... 144
Association External Influence Networks .................................................. 148
Findings....................................................................................................... 148
Summary: Internal and External Impact ......................................................... 159
Internal Impact ............................................................................................ 159
External Impact ........................................................................................... 159
External Influence Network Analysis Summary: ....................................... 160
vi
Appendix 2: The Association External Influence Network ............................ 162
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS ................................ 165
Distributed Leadership and Governance ..................................................... 166
Inspiring Education and the Emerging Association.................................... 171
BIBLIOGRAPHY ........................................................................................................... 175
vii
List of Figures
Figure 1.1: How Inter-District Partners Conceptualized Their Organization ..................... 7
Figure 2.1: Understanding Charter Schools as a Network of Leaders Organizing Issues 21
Figure 2.2: Findings – Charter School System Leader Issues .......................................... 23
Figure 2.3: Findings – Charter School Leader Attractions to Issues – Occurrences &
Proportion ....................................................................................................................... 154
Figure 2.4: Distribution of Job Titles ................................................................................ 26
Figure 2.5: Individual Leader Capacities to Lead Across the Association ....................... 29
Figure 2.6: Distribution of Roles Leaders Take: Issue Organization ............................... 30
Figure 2.7: Leadership Values .......................................................................................... 32
Figure 2.8: Issue Organization Leader Network – Alberta Public Charter Schools ......... 34
Figure 2.9: First Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 Ranked Issue Organizing
Leaders .............................................................................................................................. 37
Figure 2.10: First and Second Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 and #2 ranked
Issue Organizing Leaders. ................................................................................................. 38
Figure 2.11: Maps of the Alberta Public Charter School Leader Issue Organization Sub-
Networks ........................................................................................................................... 39
Figure 2.1: Alberta Public Charter School System Leader Networks – 3D Perspective .. 50
Figure 2.10: Superintendent Experience: Charter School & Previous ............................. 52
Figure 2.11: Superintendents’ Charter School Years ....................................................... 52
Figure 2.12: Principal’s Charter School & Previous Experience ..................................... 53
Figure 2.13: Kinds of Network Patterns ........................................................................... 66
Figure 2.14: Relationship Types among Leaders in the Association Issue Organizing
Networks ........................................................................................................................... 68
Figure 2.15 Leader Issue Organization Relationships – Institutional boundaries mapped
on TAAPCS ...................................................................................................................... 70
viii
Figure 2.16: Strength of Links in the Association Issue Leader Networks ..................... 73
Figure 2.17: First Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 Ranked Issue Organizing
Leaders .............................................................................................................................. 76
Figure 2.18: First and Second Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 and #2 ranked
Issue Organizing Readers. ................................................................................................ 77
Figure 2.19: Leader Issue Organization Centrality/Between-ness in the Alberta Public
Charter Schools Organization ........................................................................................... 80
Figure 2.20: Sub-network Analysis: The Schools/Government Cluster .......................... 82
Figure 2.21: Issue-Organizing Leader Networks .............................................................. 84
Figure 2.22: Bureaucratic Leader Network Relationships Across the Association .......... 85
Figure 2.23: Pedagogical Leader Network Relationships Across the Association .......... 85
Figure 2.24: Technical Leader Network Relationships found Across the Association .... 86
Figure 2.25: Social Leader Network Relations found across the Association .................. 87
Figure 2.26: Policy (Design) network typologies with Star indicating high capacity, high
autonomy........................................................................................................................... 90
Figure 3.1: Linear Approach to Innovation .................................................................... 101
Figure 3.2: Disruptive Innovation Model ....................................................................... 102
Figure 3.3: Redundancy & Diversity .............................................................................. 111
Figure 3.4: Characteristics of Complex Adapting Organizations that Learn .................. 113
Figure 3.5: Complex Organization Emergence Potentials .............................................. 114
Figure 3.6: Types of Innovations .................................................................................... 118
Figure 3.7: System Superintendents ............................................................................... 119
Figure 3.8: Distribution of Job Titles .............................................................................. 128
Figure 3.9: Charter School System Leader Issues .......................................................... 129
Figure 3.10: Charter School Leader Attractions to Issues .............................................. 129
Figure 3.11: Leadership Values ...................................................................................... 130
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Figure 3.12: Types of Innovations .................................................................................. 131
Figure 3.13: Superintendents’ Charter School Years ..................................................... 132
Figure 3.14: Characteristics of Complex Adapting Organizations that Learn ................ 134
Figure 4.1: Leader Roles in Internal Impact ................................................................... 139
Figure 4.2: Locus of Internal Impact at School and Association levels ......................... 140
Figure 4.3: Distribution of Internal Impact Types .......................................................... 141
Figure 4.4: Distribution of External Impact Types ......................................................... 145
Figure 4.5: External Impact Targets ............................................................................... 147
Figure 4.6: Association External Influence Network ..................................................... 149
Figure 4.7: Association External Influence Network Showing School Boundaries ....... 151
Figure 4.8: Association External Influence Network Between-ness .............................. 153
Figure 4.9: 3D Perspective: Association External Influence Networks ......................... 154
Figure 5.1: Competencies of An Educated Albertan ...................................................... 153
x
List of Tables
Table 2.1: Findings – Charter School System Leader Issues ............................................ 23
Table 2.2: Proportion of Charter School Superintendent Experience............................... 61
Table 2.3: The Characteristics of Relational Networks (of People) ................................. 63
Table 2.4: General Characteristics of Leader and Knowledge Networks ......................... 64
Table 2.5: Leader Network Centrality and Density .......................................................... 65
Table 2.6: The Degree of Structural Alignment and Action Implications for the Alberta
Public Charter Schools Network ....................................................................................... 88
Table 2.7: Characteristics of a Leadership Network Types .............................................. 90
Table 2.8: Complete Network Analysis Information by Leader by Link ......................... 95
Table 3.1: Attractor Attributes ........................................................................................ 117
Table 3.2: The Degree of Structural Alignment and Action Implications for the Alberta
Public Charter Schools Network. .................................................................................... 126
xi
Executive Summary
In May 2012, the executive committee of the Association of Alberta Public
Charter Schools (TAAPCS) held a number of meetings to evaluate the current Alberta
Public Charter School system. Researchers from the University of Calgary Dr. Dianne
Gereluk and Dr. Eugene Kowch were approached to conduct a system wide analysis of
the current capacities, adaptability and impacts of Alberta Public Charter School system.
The research would be conducted at an arm’s length from the Association in order to
create an open and transparent analysis of current strengths, challenges, and opportunities
for the future sustainability and growth of Alberta Public Charter Schools.
Specifically, three overarching questions frame the research:
1. What are the current impacts of the Alberta Public Charter School system in terms of the
capacity and autonomy of its collaborative networks spanning the individual, school, and
school community networks?
2. What potentials, strengths, and opportunities for change exist at all levels in this school
system?
3. What impacts have charter schools created in the broader public education system in
Alberta?
This research provides a knowledge base – examining a deep and wide snapshot of
this school system’s capacity, adaptability and impact in 2013.
We found a medium to low capacity for leadership networks organizing difficult key
issues, primarily because leader relations are constrained to school institutional
boundaries, seldom spanning beyond a school. Along with a discovery that quite weak
reciprocal relations exist between its governments and the association, we found a low
autonomy system with good potentials for evolving with renewed relations extending
beyond and across the Association.
Adaptability is a function of the system’s potential to emerge (transform), along with
its innovation capabilities. We found the Association to have a low potential to transform
because of a high turnover rate among leaders and low redundancy in the system. This is
offset somewhat by a high potential to lead a good suite of diverse specializations, values
and ideals strongly held among very experienced senior leadership. Deep sociocultural
and pedagogical innovation is found in about 20% of the association schools focused on
school level innovations, so we suggest a return to innovative pedagogy engaging
Association members across the system to share and learn forward. Overall, these
features coupled with a low capacity to organize key interests (presently very focused on
facilities management) could improve with new projects and innovations in pedagogy,
teaching and governance that leverage existing innovations in a couple of the schools.
This will also add to the low impact the Association is found to have in its education
ecosystem locally, regionally, provincially and internationally.
ii
A concise list of recommendations from conclusions arising through a thorough analysis
of the Association is offered in Chapter 5.
1
CHAPTER ONE
Charter schools in the Province of Alberta have remained a small, but sustainable
educational movement since their establishment in 1994. Currently, thirteen charter
schools1 provide various educational mandates alongside other alternative educational
provisions within the public school districts, with the majority located in the two major
urban centers of Edmonton and Calgary. An initial study of Alberta Public Charter
Schools conducted by Bosetti et al (2000) looked at the opportunities and challenges of
creating charter schools in Alberta with a particular emphasis on the micro-perspectives
of parents and teachers within each of the charter schools. A subsequent study in 2002
considered charter schools (Da Costa, Peters, & Violato, 2002). Further numerous
studies have been conducted within individual charter schools over the last fifteen years,
but with a clear emphasis at the micro-level within each of the particular charter schools2.
Little subsequent research has been conducted at the macro-level considering the
organization in a holistic and complex manner in which it is situated against the larger
Alberta educational landscape.
While much charter school research has been conducted in the United States, the
development and implementation of Alberta Public Charter Schools suggest different
contextual opportunities, issues and barriers that may not parallel some of the American
charter school research. Despite numerous studies conducted over the past twenty years
in the United States, and the initial studies conducted on Alberta Public Charter Schools
(Bosetti, 2000; Da Costa et al, 2002), a need exists to consider the current impact and
capacities of the constellation of charter schools in the Province of Alberta. This study
responds to the need for further research into the Alberta Public Charter School system
through an extensive examination of the system’s impacts and capacities. The layout of
Chapter One is as follows:
Overview of Alberta Public Charter Schools
The Context of School and School System Change
1 The number of current charters is thirteen, although some charters have multiple campuses, multi- grades,
which together comprise of twenty charter schools.
2 For a complete list of the internal research projects that have been conducted in Alberta’s Public Charter
Schools, please see: http://www.taapcs.ca/
2
Method
Conceptual Framework
Overview of Alberta Public Charter Schools
In 1994, Alberta Education established Alberta Public Charter Schools as the first
of its kind in Canada. Alberta Education described the nature and background of Alberta
Public Charter Schools as autonomous non-profit public schools designed to provide
innovative or enhanced education programs that improve the acquisition of student skills,
attitudes and knowledge in some measurable way (Alberta Education, 1996). The
rationale for the establishment of Alberta Public Charter Schools was to enhance choice
and innovation offered across the province. Currently, a total of fifteen charter schools
are allowed in the legislation.
Alberta Public Charter Schools operate under agreements or charters. A charter is
an agreement between the Minister of Education and a non-profit society regarding the
establishment and administration of a charter school. The charter describes the unique
educational service the school will provide, how the school will operate, and the intended
student outcomes. Charter schools may apply to the Minister for a renewal of the charter
before the end of the term and the Ministry conducts at least one evaluation of a charter
school within its term. Initially, charter schools received a five-year agreement by the
Minister of Education regarding the establishment and administration of that charter
school. More recently, charter schools have been permitted to apply for a fifteen-year
charter agreement.
Alberta Public Charter Schools are important to the Alberta Education
environment as indicated in former Minister Hancock’s Dialogue on Charter Schools of
June 2, 2011. At that time, thirty-nine education stakeholders met with Education
Minister Dave Hancock. The stakeholders represented the Association of Alberta Public
Charter Schools (TAAPCS), the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), Alberta School
Boards Association (ASBA), College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), Alberta
Association of Deans of Education (AADE), Alberta School Councils’ Association
(ASCA), the four metro school jurisdictions, Alberta Education and the Minister’s office.
The primary purpose of the discussion was to engage educational stakeholders in a
3
focused dialogue about the purpose of charter schools in a transformed educational
system, and discuss how charter schools can or should use research informed and
(unique) innovative approaches to improve teacher practice and student learning.
Stakeholders engaged in dialogue across seven tables each with a facilitator and note-
taker. The tables were organized to include participants from different organizations to
ensure that all issues could be discussed from a variety of perspectives. Minister of
Education Dave Hancock provided opening comments and every table reviewed the key
elements of his speech. Participants took away seven key messages:
1. Children are the primary focus. Every child should be able to maximize their
learning potential and we are looking for solutions to benefit students.
2. Charter schools are here to stay. They have a significant value in the education
system.
3. Charter schools must offer more than choice. They must add value through a
unique and different experience.
4. Charter schools have delivered on choice, and must now evolve to include
innovation in their mandate.
5. Charter schools will need to embrace research-informed best practice.
6. Charter schools may be provided with a greater sense of permanence, but it will
need to be earned.
7. Charter schools need to connect to the broader public education system and help
continue to transform public education.
The Context of School and School System Change
The context of Alberta Public Charter Schools is changing. Since the first charter
school opened in Minnesota in 1992, the charter school movement has grown in the USA
to more than 5,277 schools operating nationwide in 2010 – 2011, serving 1.7 million
students (NCSRC, 2012). Over a 1.3 children attend Cyber Charter Schools (online) in
the USA, growing 30% each year (Kowch, 2009). In Alberta today, there are thirteen
charter schools with an enrolment of 8,100 students and a “long waiting list” an
“extreme demand” (Gray, 2012) for access to the Charter School System (Lukaszuk,
2012; Alberta Education, 2012).
4
The education policy environment is shifting in Alberta. With legislation changes
currently on the table that have significant implications on the number and size of charter
schools in the province, Alberta could see charter school expansion rise as significantly
as in other countries. If we understand the contexts of our complex organizations first, we
can next define their qualities from a whole-system perspective to build on their
capabilities (Cilliers, 2000; Reigeluth & Duffy, 2008). Knowing the contexts and
qualities of any changing complex organization environment allows us to interpret and to
define critical potentials and capacities for change via these charter school stakeholders
and their networks of collaborations (Goldstein et al., 2010). The purpose of this study is
to define the contexts and qualities of Alberta Public Charter Schools, specifically
identifying the capacity to organize as relatively autonomous entities with specific
potentials impacting their likelihood for adaptation in a changing world.
Minding Simultaneous Micro, Meso, and Macro Level Change in Education
Systems
Our concept of education change and the capabilities of education systems to
change are changing rapidly (Davis & Sumara, 2006). In today’s fast-changing world of
education, leaders need the evidence and the means for conceptualizing and enacting
change by using well understood, well contextualized whole-system ways of thinking.
Recently, systemic change and complexity thinking has emerged promising more than
“piecemeal” change thinking in education systems that otherwise continue struggle
because “whole systems views” were just “too complex” (Reigeluth & Duffy, 2008).
Charter school leaders know that changes made in one part of the education
system impact the entire system (Kowch, 2009). Accordingly, a whole-system view of
education organizations a new and critical mindset is something everyone must develop
(Levin, 2010). At a micro level, forces of change have impacts on individuals in
education systems (demographics, students, parents, teachers, family). At a meso level,
these forces directly impact school institutions (schools, school associations and school
networks) along with policy and regulation frameworks. At a macro level, different
forces shape the plans and issues we consider for change (legislation, history, economics,
demographic, social conscience, governance). At a macro level, charter schools are
5
changes in part of the broader education system. Bosetti found that, “Charter Schools
have become a wedge to leverage change in the public education system, rather than a
dynamic alternative in the education system” (Little Hoover Commission, 1996; p.6).
This is a call to systemic change, and a call to see how integrated charter school people,
partners, community and relationships are strong or need improvement. Thus, from a
good knowledge base of an organization’s capabilities, people and relationships, we can
study change efforts and measure the gains made from them in the future.
A Shift in School Leadership Thinking Conceptualizing Adaptable Education
People & Collaboration
When we review the trajectory of education leadership, we must consider that our
schools will be characterized by a mixture of constant change, relationships in learning,
capacities to organize and lead learning within the context of schools’ overall capacity to
collaborate and to innovate in more flexible, holistic ways as part of an ecosystem that
holds all stakeholders (Kowch, 2009; Fullan, 2010). Today, schools exist with a mixture
of (essential) ideologies, cultures, beliefs, and people found along the shifting continua of
conflict and necessary tensions. Leaders need evidence and understanding of elements
and dynamics in all their complexity, including a knowledge base in terms of: the people;
relationships and capacities in our schools to see how they get learning done; how they
achieve community goals, and; how they transform and innovate education for the
knowledge era. Complexity or whole-system thinking allows us to take a ‘snapshot’ of
the people and the relational work they do in schools and among them over time. It
allows us to understand how our ecosystem actually exists in various education projects,
not only how we hope it works, how regulations say it works, or how old hierarchical
mindsets prescribe it to work (Levin, 2010). This thinking has emerged from 100 years
of education leadership and policy learning where we evolved our thinking about school
systems based primarily as a series of reactions to a shortfall of leadership thinking that
preceded each new framework (Kowch, 2009). We have changed from a focus on
behavior to social systems sensibilities and from that to value-based wider community
models for education organizations. Finding that the community models often fell short
while they did consider people, values and organization structure, scholars suggested
6
transformation theory based on systems thinking and then distributed leadership to
include more of our entire context (ecosystem) in education settings. They use convenient
metaphors of networking, collaboration and shared leadership, but these are not providing
sufficient tactical, specific and strategic descriptions or advice for school leaders on the
processes and shifting patterns of relations (organization) we know exist in our more
partnered, changing schools (Gronn, 2002). The authors of this proposal have used the
methods shown here to map relational networks, show their capability to organize and to
get work done, and to interpret their dynamic capabilities to handle change and to adapt
as complex entities, not as ‘flow charts’ of expected relationships.
All education systems are complex entities engaged in constant change, often at
the edge of chaos (Doll et al., 2005). So, we need flexible structure models that involve
both the important people and the collaborations they do to understand how organizations
develop (emerge), transform and get things done. Mitchell & Sackney (2011) suggest
going beyond community frames to describe, benchmark and to consider organizations
and leader capacity building as part of an ecosystem of more flexible structures.
This shift to thinking in toto about organizations, work, partnering and people in
education who are engaged via technology within a more organic and nonlinear way of
knowing uncertainty and unpredictability (Goldstein, 2010; Schlechty, 2009; Marion &
Uhl-Bein, 2001; Davis, 2004). Today, we can use complexity thinking to map and
interpret the people, their various kinds of links to one another and the work they do
across school systems at the micro, meso and macro levels (Kowch, 2003) all at once to
provide a robust, new form of organization description, analysis and capacity-for-change
interpretation (Kowch, 2009; Kowch, 2007; Kowch, 2012 in press). In concert with
traditional lenses for interpreting administration, instruction and curriculum, finance and
governance contexts, we can interpret those findings in a new knowledge base to offer
suggestions and answers to questions that arise.
Not long ago it was simply too difficult to describe and interpret the many
attributes of people and of peoples’ changing relationships in complex
systems/organizations all at once. Powerful new computing allows us to study the
patterns of seemingly incredibly complicated (but actually complex) influence relations,
organizing issues and other features that can tell us much more about the context and
7
dynamics of whole-system changes beyond micro (personal) and meso (institutional)
frames than social models alone (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005; Cilliers, 1998).
Understanding these complex relations is possible, but it takes a new set of ideas. For
example, Figure 1.1 indicates how people actually shared influence to get work done in a
$1.2M shared service innovation across southern Alberta (Kowch, 2007b).
Figure 1.1: How Inter-District Partners Conceptualized Their Organization
Ironically, these particular leaders didn’t know many of the influential (other)
participants and all of the leaders thought they organized themselves according to a
structuralist flow-chart model, when in truth, the work was done as in Figure 1.1. The
result was a less flexible, bureaucratic network where teachers and vendors stood apart
from the central administration clusters. This is because the network organized itself
(with complete freedom to do otherwise) as classical bureaucratic hierarchy (Figure 1.1).
Relative to its size, the Alberta Public Charter School system could experience
more change in the next decade than it has seen in its history - and far more change than
any other education system in the province. Alternative school systems have the potential
to realize the kinds of nimble change in learning that most systems only dream about –
but knowing their contexts and their capability for change is the most important first step
in that transformation (Kowch, 2009). If we can describe well who we are as people,
schools and school systems/communities, we know who we are, and who we depend
upon, and how we interplay ideas and work (collaborate), we are on more solid ground
for building capacity for any future no matter how uncertain (Cilliers, 1998). Change is
certain.
What was supposed to happen (Kowch, 2012)
8
First, we must understand the people, their relationships and their patterns of
collaboration within, perhaps among and beyond the traditional ‘school’ institutional
boundaries (Cilliers, 1998). We describe what actually happens, not what is thought to
happen.
Identifying a System’s Capacity to Organize Itself
If we see organization as an interconnected web of people working on something
that brings them together (an attractor), we have tools by which we can interpret the
aggregate abilities of these people to get work done (to organize their interests, to make
decisions) (Kowch, 2007). Getting work done together in a complex organization (that
learns) means also having the capacity to make decisions or to organize interests not as a
hierarchical structures per se, rather as relational networks.
Only a handful of education leadership scholars closely examine complex
organization relational “networks” beyond the use of such a “convenient” metaphor.
However, empirical studies are emerging to describe and analyze the ability, type and
potential of relational (leader networks) (Kowch, 2003; 2005, 2009). By adding the
dimension of interest organization capacity for our working networks, we can
characterize emergent learning system potentials for emergence (system wide change) to
get work done.
Kowch (2003) demonstrated that the complex emergence of ideas and policy
networks across large institutions and political ecologies across entire states could be
defined, interpreted and predicted using network and policy theory to identify six
characteristics of high capacity networks (Kowch, 2005; 2009):
1. a clear concept of role in collective work
2. a supporting value system.
3. a unique, professional ethos in the field.
4. a capability to generate information internally
5. a capability to maintain cohesion
6. a capability to organize and manage complex tasks, leading toward the
creation of a response
7. a capability to rise above self interest
9
Complex school organization analysis allows researchers to track the attributes of
people in the Alberta Public Charter School networks to be interpreted along with the
attributes of their relationships (ties), letting us analyze for personal or relationship
characteristics anywhere in the collaborations that we find. The ability of a distributed or
decentralized school system to work collectively or independently depends on the
organization’s autonomy or relative “freedom” to create and act as a high capacity
network as well (Atkinson & Coleman, 1996), and we account for that in this description
and analysis technique (Kowch, 2003; 2012).
An important feature in collaborative work is the motivation or attractor that
brings people together to get things done (Cilliers, 1998). To describe and create a
knowledge base for the Alberta Public Charter Schools as grounds for leading future
change, we must first understand what attractors (assumptions, values, actions) the
capacity of these schools to organize interests, we must understand first their autonomy to
get work done (Atkinson & Coleman, 1996; Goldstein, 2010). We must find the attractors
that keep the school and community (and system) networks ‘connected’ on the important
issues/work of the day that we find. In this way, we have critical information about who
works with whom, why they work with one another, and we collect a lot of relational data
as well on the ties between people such to identify how they work together: (1) type of
relationship (bureaucratic, technical, friendship, influence, respect, knowledge sharing);
(2) the resonance of the relationship (strengths), (3) the reciprocity of the link (is it
reflexive or one-way) and many other features (Kowch, 2007; Wasserman, 2005). Using
advanced social and policy network analysis with network analysis software (Sentinel
Virtualizer), we can understand the contexts and dynamics of Charter School
collaborations integrating people and their emergent structures. From this, we can
interpret features of: organization, readiness for change, collaboration constraints and
enablers (both personal and structural/relational) and more.
In sum, it is important to understand who works with whom and why , what those
relationships are like, and how the micro, meso and macro level systems organize key
interests across and among Alberta Public Charter Schools. The aggregate description we
can achieve, through the use of complex systems thinking models generated by
University of Calgary scholars, will provide a strong foundation for analyses of the
10
contexts and qualities of the Alberta Public Charter School system. Specifically, the
impacts of the Charter School system will be examined.
Identifying a School or School System’s Aggregate Potential to Innovate and
Adapt
The structure of an organization depicted as a complex network of
interconnections can be analyzed by powerful computer software in concert with
advanced data visualization software. The discovery of certain features among the people
(particularly the leaders) and their relationships helps us understand if the system is
changing, and what level of change it is in.
By taking a close look at diversity across the networks (ideologies, shared values,
leadership approaches, shared abilities, instruction approaches) in concert with recording
how well people can share specialized work (like teaching or leading), we can establish
the stage of emergence of the organization of networked individuals (Goldstein, 2012,
Kowch, 2012 in press). This gives us a direct knowledge base about the state of the
organization in terms of the arc of 4 transformation stage. Goldstein, Hazy &
Lichtenstein (2010) offer ground breaking research showing the four sequential stages of
emergence exhibited by complex organizations: (1) disequilibrium; (2) amplification; (3)
recombination and (4) stabilizing feedback. In the disequilibrium stage people have
uncertain information and expectations that don’t match the context of the organization.
An example would be when teachers know a new curriculum is coming this year but the
district buys the old textbooks. In this stage, things start to ‘shake’, and opportunity
tensions arises as people struggle with the difference between the information they have
about the organization to imagine what is necessary for the organization to survive.
In the amplification stage, stresses turn to (necessary) conflict among system
participants and the degree of specialization (diversity and redundancy) creates the seeds
for experiments and novelty creations “at the cusp of change” as people try to fix the
organization’s problems (Kowch, 2012, in press). Using the previous example, the
creation of a district wide support network for school psychologists involving teachers,
parents and learners in the previous case would be the result of such innovation. This can
be a loosely connected, effective process focused where the needs are (this is how
11
emergency response teams are organized). If innovations do not happen, the system can
become chaotic and simply disintegrate.
If we find a system in one stage or another, we know what stage is next, or what a
fallback change scenario (previous step) would look like. In this study, we describe the
current stage of development of Alberta Public Charter Schools and the network
dynamics of these schools in aggregate to form a baseline from which future change at
any level (micro, meso, macro) can affect the network – and how. By studying
innovations in the system, we can also determine another element in the “readiness for
transformation” measurements – indicating what to do to move the system “to the next
level”. This model is a knowledge baseline for predicting and planning future change in
the Alberta Public Charter Schools system.
Method
In this study, researchers began with structured interviews of superintendents
across the Alberta Public Charter Schools. The interview addressed four key components:
1) most important issue; 2) demonstrated innovation; 3) hypothetical scenario; and 4)
internal and external impact. Superintendents were asked to identify each of the four key
components and provide the ranked names of three other individuals who influence their
work. By asking superintendents to self-identify one another as influential members
working on the issues they chose, researchers were able to determine what matters most
to whom in the network of interconnected leaders across the Alberta Public Charter
School system. Subsequently, the superintendents’ top-ranked referees were similarly
interviewed, and these interviewees were asked the same structured questions, thereby
identifying and ranking their three most influential other individuals in the process of
working on their top issues.
The research team was careful not to ask the leaders in the system to identify
other “leaders”, rather to identify other individuals who contribute or influence their own
work on the issue. In this way, self-identifying leaders were studied individually and as a
collective with particular focus on what attracts them to the issue and on the nature of the
relationships each has with one another. Unlike many leadership studies of “elites”, the
superintendents were not asked for individuals in roles or functional positions who
12
worked with them, but rather for people who mattered and influence them in the work
they do together. Exploring outward into the network of connected leaders working with
superintendents, researchers identified patterns of people working across job, institutional
boundaries, and other ‘traditional’ structural features as matters of import, not as
structures. Participants were free to select ‘significant others’ influencing their work on
important issues, so virtually anyone from the schools, communities, government or any
jurisdiction could be identified.
Detailed data was collected for the first two degrees of reference from the two
most important others found by superintendents and those two (three in total).
Participants offered thick, rich commentary for ‘drawing’ the emergent networks of
leaders working with one another. For the most part, they chose each other as influential
members in the projects. Researchers studied how they connect with each other in terms
of three degrees:
1) superintendents;
2) the superintendents’ top two influential individuals (2nd level); and,
3) the second level individuals’ top two influential individuals.
Overall, a network of people leading key issues across and beyond the Alberta Public
Charter School system was collected and analyzed by researchers.
Analysis of the network data revealed that these networks had reached saturation.
By the second round of interviews, the majority of people identified by the
superintendent and the first-ranked person were referencing someone who had,
somewhere in the organization, been referenced by another person. This is called closure
in network analysis (few new names are being added with successive degrees of
investigation of people working on the issues). The researchers decided that the
superintendent, first, and second rounds of interviews would be sufficient to describe the
networked organization of issues across the Alberta Public Charter School System, with
few additional interviews required except to acquire more general information on the
network.
A total of 73 individuals were interviewed. Researchers gathered over 92 hours of
interview voice data. The data was used to create the organizational network maps and
analysis leading to an understanding of the capacity, innovation and impacts existing and
13
possible for this organization. Participant interviews were coded and analyzed in depth
from voice data transcribed verbatim. This data formed the basis for quantitative and
qualitative analysis.
Names of all participants in the study were reassigned pseudonyms in this report.
This provides anonymity and confidentiality for the participants while offering the detail,
depth and data fidelity required to represent individuals, relationships, organizing,
capacity, impact and the structures, dynamics, issues, innovations, attractors and
dynamics found in this complex, vibrant (and changing) setting.
This study explores the issues that matter to these educators within schools and
across The Alberta Association of Public Charter Schools (TAAPCS) as a frame of
relationships among people working on issues. Researchers explored the key features
found among these networks that describe high capacity, networked organizations who
organize their interests around the central issues. Furthermore, this study identifies the
extent to which this system exhibits autonomy and connectivity to key educational
stakeholders in the province that mediate or amplify their interests. Finally, researchers
mapped and interpreted these influence networks as collections of people with structural
and dynamic capabilities to organize interests across TAAPCS. This forms the basis of
recommendations for evaluating the capacity for the system to organize interests, achieve
goals, therein indicating the potential of the organization for future planning.
Conceptual Framework
This study is framed by a complexity systems theory perspective focusing on both
the relationships and collaborations existing among the people and organizations engaged
in dynamic, adaptive charter school system education. Using experience with past
complex education systems studies and education innovation studies in Alberta
(Hargreaves et al., 2009), and have employed a comparative instrumental multiple case
study. This provided a deep and multidimensional description of individual (micro),
school (meso) and system (macro) phenomenon or contexts, along with the dynamics of
those networks, so that they can be aggregated in different ways, should these items
overlap or interconnect, at any or all of these levels (Kowch, 2007; Stake, 1995; Denzin
14
& Lincoln, 2001). The final system analysis aggregated all data from all case for a system
level view of capabilities and potentials.
Specifically, an environmental scan was conducted identifying key issues that
were articulated by each of the charter schools. Findings from evaluation reports from
each school report (using the 2012 Evaluation or the newest Evaluation) were reviewed
in light of the five major categories for school leadership outlined by Levin (2010) (1)
administration, (2) governance, (3) Economics and Finance, (4) Curriculum and
instruction and (5) planning. With this information in hand and with TAAPCS executive
meetings in 2013 and 2012, we framed the study to explore Association capacity,
adaptability and impact.
Following interviewing and document gathering, we performed axial coding on
all interview data to identify emergent themes across all the participants by coding to
scan for key issues or attractors, capacity attributes and network adaptability attributes
inclusive data gathered from participants on: (1) organizing perspectives; (2) autonomy;
(3) innovation; (4) finance and economics; (5) policy and politics; (6) accountability; (7)
access; (8) equity and (9) innovations. Finally, we employed similar techniques to
explore association leader network impacts internal and external to the Association. This
section describes the conceptual framework as it is organized by the research questions.
The conceptual framework developed for this study is directly derived from four
research questions and presented in chapters two through five.
Research Question #1: What is the capacity and autonomy of Alberta Public Charter
Schools/system to organize its core interests? (Chapter Two)
Purpose
Create a knowledge base of the dynamics of Alberta Public Charter
Schools/ Systems to collaborate and organize as networks. These are
design parameters for near and long term organization/structural
development and planning.
Features of
Interest
School and school system autonomy, people, organizational
entities, attractors (common pressing issues and goals), their
patterns of relationships, the characteristics of their
relationships vis a vis the autonomy they have in their
contexts.
Define the characteristics of the school’s and system’s
organizational ability to rise above self-interest, generate new
15
information & cohere, characterization of pluralist,
corporatist, statist or concertation interest organization system
preferences.
Theorist/Grounds
Scott, 2000; Kowch, 2003; Clegg et al., 2011; Wasserman, 2005;
Granovetter, 2003; Atkinson & Coleman, 1996; Gereluk, 2006,
Bosetti & Gereluk, 2012.
Impact/Results
Identification of the entities (ie: Governments, School Districts,
ATA) and their connections, values, people and issues drawing
people together to collaborate in and across Alberta Public Charter
Schools. Initial description and analysis of the impacts of these
dynamic networks of people and their relationships (organization)
across Charter Schools within their current stakeholder environment.
Value
Critical Baseline Information for system planning. Knowing how
school(s)/ system would likely organize plans/actions for future
change in or across the Alberta Public Charter Schools/system.
Design parameters for deeper study of new school/ system/network
transformations the System may enact during system change. Design
parameters for structural change and network/stakeholder relations/
enhancements.
Research Question #2: What are the potentials of Alberta Public Charter Schools/system
to innovate and to adapt? (Chapter Three)
Purpose
Provide a description and analysis of the likelihood of
schools/systems to change the way they organize. An examination of
how significant innovations occur in schools and across the system.
These are design parameters for near term planning, particularly for
strategic innovations.
Features of
Interest
Professional specializations, diversity (ideologies, values,
leadership approaches, shared abilities, instruction).
The nature of conflicts and essential tensions, desires to
organize (attractors, opportunity tensions, information
diffusions/differences). Post-analysis, identification of
novelty and experimentation in response to tensions.
Along with complex network analysis, a discovery of network
enablers and constraints (clusters, hubs, gatekeepers) and the
resonance of relationships in the system.
Post-analysis, identification of a stage of
emergence/transformation of the school/system.
Theorist/Grounds
Cillers, 2000; Kowch, 2012; Kowch, 2012 in press; Goldstein et al.,
2010; Davis & Sumara, 2006; Hallinger & Heck, 2002; Mckinsey,
2010;
Impact/Results
Identification of the relative potential of schools/systems to
transform/change.
16
Identification of the stage(s) of development found in each
school/system, closeness to “cusp of change”.
Identification of a pathway toward school or system
transformation using cultural information and resonance
information. How strong, vibrant and of what kind are the
links between key people/schools/units/systems?
Value
Present the likelihood and type of school(s)/system engagement in
future planning/actions of specific kinds. Critical baseline
information about individual schools and about the collective system:
knowing the likelihood of parts or the whole system to engage in
systemic change, knowing the likelihood of specific (school/system)
innovations (to succeed).
Design parameters for deeper analysis of the impacts from
Charter School change resulting from innovation (i.e: AISI, policy
and regulatory change, instruction and curriculum change). Design
parameters for system innovation capability improvements,
particularly in instruction and business planning.
Research Question #3: What impacts have Alberta Public Charter Schools charter
created in the broader Alberta public systems? (Chapter Four)
Purpose
Describe and analyze the political, social and accountability issues
felt by those “outside” the Alberta Public Charter School system.
Features of
Interest
Socio-political themes
Student and family access to education
Equity
Accountability
Socio-political impacts
Pedagogic implications
Innovation
Dissemination of good practice
Presence of charter schools in public sphere
Public media
Key educational associations (ATA, CASS, ASBA)
Theorist/Grounds
Atkinson & Coleman, 1996; Bosetti 2000; Taylor, 2001; DaCosta et
al 2002; Levin, 2001
Impact/Results
In comparison to previous studies (Bosetti, 1998), general and
significant changes to these features are identified.
Identify emergent socio-political themes prevalent among key
educational stakeholders, and in the broader public media.
Value
Collect data from key stakeholders within and beyond the Alberta
Public Charter School movement and in the broader education
community to identify emergent themes, issues and challenges found
within and across systems.
17
Research Question #4: What recommendations for change exist? (Chapter Five)
Purpose
Thematic content analysis of the major themes, issues, interests and
concerns/plans reported across the system is triangulated against the
interview findings.
Features of
Interest
1. Increase capacity and autonomy.
2. Increase innovation.
3. Governance and leadership.
4. Increase internal impact.
5. Increase external impact.
6. Increase adaptability.
Theorist/Grounds
Levin, 2010; Hargreaves et al, 2011; Alberta Education, 2011;
Schlechty, 2009; Hargreaves & Fink, 2006; Hallinger, 2002;
Hargreaves & Shirley, 2009; OECD, 2011; McKinsey, 2010
Impact/Results
An aggregate analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, across the
Alberta Public Charter School system will create a baseline of these
(assessment) information parameters focusing on change issues and
innovation issues found and identified here or by Charter School
Leadership.
Value
From an analysis of the Association’s leader network findings, we
articulate the attributes of the leadership networks that shape the
association’s capacity, innovation, impact, and to organize charter
school interests as an Association. Finally, we explore potentials for
impact and the changes the association might consider based on these
study components.
This chapter provided a contextual overview of the Alberta Public Charter School
System, theoretical outline of the school context and school system change, methodology
for research, and conceptual framework for the following chapters.
18
CHAPTER TWO:
CAPACITY & AUTONOMY of the ASSOCIATION
Research Question 1: What is the capacity and autonomy of the Alberta Public Charter
School System to organize its core issues and interests?
In this chapter, we review the basic idea of people and connections that make
organizing possible. As such, this chapter consists of two major sections: Findings and
Analysis. In this way, Findings from the study serve as grounds for Analysis. In this first
section, we explore the data that allows us to understand the components of Alberta
Public Charter School capacity, autonomy and patterns of relationships formed as they
organize their interests on core issues. The layout of section one is as follows:
o Findings related to Capacity and Autonomy of the Alberta Public Charter
School system
o Rationale for Issues being a lens for this research
o What are the most important issues in Alberta Public Charter Schools?
o What attracts Charter School leaders to issues?
o Who is identified as influential persons contributing significantly to work
on a particular issue?
o Attributes of Leaders’ Capacity to Lead across the Association
o Relationships between Leaders across the Association
o Maps of the Alberta Public Charter School Leader Issue Organization
Sub-Networks
o Summary of Findings
19
Findings related to Capacity and Autonomy of the Alberta Public
Charter School system
As noted in the conceptual framework for this study, education organizations
require certain kinds of connectivity and relationship building among and between
leaders who share interests and issues. Connectivity and relationship building is not a
new idea in education, and we know that without relationships focused on important
issues it is difficult to plan, organize and execute organizing and the work of the
organization. When leaders organize issues together, action results. This study of the
Alberta Public Charter School system seeks to answer deep questions about capacity for
leading organizational evolution, so first we begin by looking at data at the individual
(leader, micro) and then at the meso (school, network or organization) levels. We
discovered many issues and ideas that attract leaders toward action across this vibrant
Alberta Public Charter School system.
Of course, certain issues are of interest to some leaders while other issues are less
important. Issues that are perceived to be of greater importance by individuals in
organizations often pull those individuals to work collaboratively to solve problems,
strategize, find answers, enact solutions or change the system in some way. As a result of
this collaborative work, people create networks with those individuals who are willing
and committed to address the issue. People form collaborative networks within a larger
constellation of people who are interested in the issue, but who are not motivated,
mandated or interested enough in working with others. Our findings indicate that certain
issues and ideas attract leaders differently at the school level, so individual schools focus
will necessarily have different key priorities.
Rationale for Issues being a lens for this research
We focus our research on issues because of the correlation that exists between
issues and interests. When leaders highlight a particular issue, it is commonly driven
both by their interest and by their passion to address the matter at hand. Issues are at the
nexus of all leadership work – framing complex projects, interactions, thinking, mindsets,
and politics. In complex, interconnected organizations (systems), issues provide a focus
20
for thinking, working, relationships, exchanges, influences, and resources. We start from
the assumption that education institutions are not isolated organizations defined by bricks
and mortar, or by jurisdiction alone; rather, educational institutions exist within a
complex set of conditions that are constantly in flux. From this, we can conclude that
education systems as neo-institutional frameworks are centrally about the relationships
between people as networks, not as organization charts (Kowch, 2003; 2007; 2013;
Coleman & Skogstad, 1992; Atkinson & Coleman, 1996; Barabasi, 2003). Network
structures are more flexible than functional structures (organization charts) because the
connectivity among people doing work is understood as shared
influences/relations/interactions rather than as connections of people defined by their job
description. These ways of looking at leading learning systems mean that we can imagine
a large community of people with similar interests from which only some individuals
come together to organize interests on an issue of common interest as networks of people
who are, actually, organizing interests to get something done.
A metaphor is offered here to explain how issues, leaders, relationships and their
contexts are the focus of this study, and how that framework allows us to explore the
heavily co-dependent work of leading key issues facing the leaders across the entire
Alberta Public Charter School system federation. Imagine a constellation of individuals
who all share some common interest. Say, for example, that this common interest is a
deep and enduring passion for student learning. In the world there are likely millions of
individuals who can be found in this constellation of people who share student learning as
a profound interest. One kind of constellation could be the community of professional
educators interested mostly in student learning. Think of them as stars in a constellation,
all floating in space without specific connections or relations to other stars. This is known
as a policy community (when policy is understood as the organization of interests
organized both within and beyond the ‘boundaries’ of an institution).
A subset of this community may be the professional educators who work together
to organize some aspect of learning by leadership (Kowch, 2013). When these members
coalesce from the constellation of people interested in student learning and leading
learning, they form a network of people with distinct relationships connecting them while
organizing their interests toward some purpose. These connections may be because of
21
job function (I work on leading learning because that’s part of my job role) or because of
a person’s particular attraction to student learning and leading learning that cause them to
take action with each other to lead student learning in some way. So the stars are
connected to one another by relationships while they organize issues (interests) to get
work done. It is easy to see how networks of individuals who attracted (or mandated) by
something can coalesce a community of interested people to work on something – as a
network. A concrete example would be the group of educators found in the Alberta
Public Charter School system who are interested in leading learning who are attracted by
the idea that bigger facilities will allow more families to have better choices for learning.
It is these networks of learning leaders that are studied in this report.
Figure 2.1: Understanding Charter Schools as a Network of Leaders Organizing Issues
High capacity learning leader networks have specific characteristics that make
them more likely to operate as a robust network capable of organizing complex interests
(Kowch, 2013; Kowch & Gereluk, 2013). When we identify the learning leader network
22
characteristics along with an analysis of their relationship (link) patterns and
relationship types formed while organizing issues that matter to them, we can explore the
capacity of the leaders and their connections to organize those issues. By considering the
relative autonomy of these networks of leaders, we get an idea of the capacity of the
Association’s ability to organize their key interests against the backdrop of other
connected institutions with whom they share influences and resources. High capacity
organizations that are networked have high autonomy and high capacity to organize
interests. Having provided the theoretical backdrop for this investigation, in the next
section we turn to the individuals that were identified as contributing significantly to their
work on a particular important issue.
What are the most important issues in Alberta Public Charter Schools?
All participants were asked to identify the most current and important issues.
Most leaders found this question difficult to answer at first because they had to choose
among a number of issues they thought were compelling. However within the structured
interview, the majority of the participants could easily identify the most important issue
among the many in which they must engage.
Axial coding across all interviews revealed five major categories of issues
distributed among the leaders as follows:
1) Administration
a. Programming
b. Staffing (personnel)
c. Community (geographical and ideological links)
d. Teaching (Professional Development)
e. Transportation (personnel)
2) Facilities
3) Planning
4) Equity
5) Instruction
23
Figure 2.2: Findings – Charter School System Leader Issues
The study found that a majority of leaders across the organization have
administrative issues (37%) with facilities issues a close second (29%). These issues are
followed by planning issues (16%), mostly 15 year plan proposals, at par with equity
issues concerning fair treatment of public charter schools (16%). Instruction issues make
up 2% of the issues front-of-mind by leaders across the system. Issues were also sorted
by sub network or institution (school) participating in leadership networks centered on
the schools in this organization. Table 2.1 indicates the proportion of issue types found
among leaders who are found connected within a school or major participating
institution.
Table 2.1: Findings – Charter School System Leader Issues Sorted by School/Subnet
School
Issue
Proportion
Alberta Education
facilities
100%
Almadina
facilities
admin
(programming)
50%
50%
Arts Academy
planning
67%
Admin (programming)
33%
Aurora
Facilities
100%
Boyle Street
Facilities
50
facilities
29%
administration
37%
planning
16%
equity
16%
Instruction
2%
What Issues Matter Most to Organization Leaders?
24
Admin
(programming)
50%
CAPE
Facilities
100%
FFCA
Equity
75%
Admin (staffing)
25%
Girls’ School
Instruction
67%
Admin (staffing)
33%
Mother Earth
Facilities
33%
Admin (Teachers)
33%
Admin (Community)
33%
New Horizons
Facilities
100%
Suzuki
Admin (Teachers)
67%
Facilities
33%
Valhalla
Instruction
33%
Admin (Community)
33%
Admin (Staff)
33%
Westmount
Planning
33%
Admin (Community)
33%
Science School
Admin (Professional
Development)
50%
Admin (Staffing)
50%
Later in the report we will see that in most cases the leader networks do not
connect a lot beyond the schools in the organization when it comes to organizing their
interests. A high proportion of administrative duties and functions dominate the
leadership work at many of these busy schools while some schools are in situations where
they focus very much on facilities. Next, we present findings from across the system
describing what draws these leaders to the issues.
What attracts Charter School leaders to issues?
Researchers asked all participants what drew them toward their most important
issue. Coding of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degrees across the leadership network resulted in the
following distribution of attractors. Attractors are defined as those values that compel a
person to attend to a particular issue. In this case, of the issues that were identified,
twelve common values were identified among the participants that drew individual
leaders toward work on the most important issues identified.
25
Figure 2.3: Findings – Charter School Leader Attractions to Issues Occurrences &
Proportion
The Alberta Public Charter School leaders are drawn or attracted to two main
ideas as they work hard on the issues pressing them. Infrastructure is the single most
common attractor garnering over 40% of the leadership toward work on core issues in the
system. The next major attractor is job duty: 22% of the leaders in the organization have
a clear idea that their job mandates them to work on the issues that each leader
determines as the most important issue. This is consistent with later findings which
indicate a predominance of bureaucratic relationships. Figure 2.3 shows that the
remaining 40% of leaders are drawn by a diverse set of attractors: equity, teacher
professional development, diversity, integrity, specialized programming, and care for
learners, choice, excitement, trust and instruction. Innovation, for example does not
appear as a dominant leader attractor in the organization. Nearly three quarters of the
issues leaders are drawn to infrastructure or administration issues.
access
space
17%
inclusion
space
17%
PD
7% integrity
5%
care
3%
equity
10%
trust
3%
choice
2%
diversity
5%
job duty
22%
specialized
program
5%
instruction
2%
excitement
2%
What Attracts Charter School Leaders to work on the Key
Issues They Choose?
26
Who is identified as influential persons contributing significantly to
work on a particular issue?
Participants were asked to identify three important individuals who contribute to
work on this issue. It is clear that the key influential persons identified by schools are
superintendents, principals, teachers, and Board members comprising over 60%. Figure
2.4 indicates the distribution of job titles accompanying leaders nominated by other
leaders in the Alberta Public Charter School leader organization who work together to
organize critical issues.
Figure 2.4: Distribution of Job Titles
The organization leader network maps in the following sections describe the
relationships, relationship strengths and the capacities of collections of people who work
together from across these job types to organize the most important contemporary issues
found in the Alberta Public Charter School system.
Attributes of Leaders’ Capacity to Lead across the Association
When leaders in a dynamic organization collaborate, they work by building
relationships or links with people in the association. In a system the size of the Alberta
Superintendents
18%
Principals
18%
Teachers
14%
School
Board Chairs
10%
Alberta
Education
10%
Board Secretary-
Treasurers
5%
TAAPCS Execs
4%
Board Members
4%
Assistant
Principals
4%
School Admin
3%
School Staff
3% Parents
3%
Corporate Execs
3%
Engineer
1%
Family Members
1%
Students
0%
27
Public Charter Schools, there are people who could potentially engage in the work of
leading and organizing the key issues we have identified as they to solve problems, create
policy, provide direction or do any of the things an education organization requires. We
find that they are variously attracted to do this important work, as reported in the previous
section.
So far in the report, we have indicated the characteristics of the leader population
in the current association. We have explored who is nominated and appears in the study,
what issues each of these leaders focus on, and what attracts each of the leaders to those
major issues across the system. Our findings have indicated a population of leaders (73).
From among these, our maps of their relations to one another (links) have shown the most
and least connected patterns of organization In this section, we list the findings describing
the 6 key leader features necessary for a collection of interconnected leaders to create
effective networked organizations, as explained earlier. These 6 features describe the
capacity of individuals in a collective or network organization to get the hard work of
organizing and solving key issues – done. We outline these features ahead of employing
them along with the information on their relationship (network) patterns so as to be able
to interpret the capacity of the organization (the collection of leaders and their linkages)
to organize itself.
Leaders in high capacity network organizations possess the following 6 key
features (Kowch, 2003; 2013; Kowch, et al., 2013; Atkinson & Coleman, 1996):
1. The ability to rise above self-interest
2. A clear concept of one’s role in the work
3. An ability to generate new information
4. An ability to manage complex tasks
5. A professional ethos or value system
6. Ability to cohere with others
Evidence was requested across the above six dimensions of leadership capacity.
Where possible, documentary evidence was archived and coded to substantiate the
recollections and descriptions given by system leaders about the capacity of the team to
address issues. Unfortunately, over 60% of the respondents offered documentary
evidence to support their capacity work in interviews, but did not produce the documents
28
for this report. As such, the values for capacity are a weighted average of actual
descriptive data coded in the interviews with a weighted average factor adjusting leader
capacity claims in light of the empirical evidence provided. We should note that without
this factor, all self-reported evidence of leader capacity in the network in Figure 2.5
would be high. Network analysis findings support this presentation of network leadership
capacity findings as somewhat lower, as we will see later in the findings and analyses.
In this research, participants identified the strength of the six factors for the group
of three persons important to work on the issue. Participants categorized each of the six
features of this mini-network as high, medium or low. Figure 2.5 shows the results for
each of the six factors. The data indicates the degree to which individual leaders
categorize each of the six features. The highest values indicate the strongest capabilities
for the leaders, in aggregate, to lead in a networked organization. Following this
aggregation, we compared the leader participant descriptors of the 6 capacity features
with evidence provided of that capability. If evidence mentioned in the interview was
provided, that feature was rated as strong. If supporting information provided to the
researchers was peripheral to proving the capacity feature, the feature was rated as weak.
If no supporting information was provided, the feature is downgraded, overall by one
level. So if most participants indicated participation in networks where the ability of
everyone they work with is “high” and the majority did not submit evidence requested to
confirm the feature, researchers downgraded that capacity feature from “high” to
“medium” overall.
29
Figure 2.5: Individual Leader Capacities to Lead Across the Association
Ability to rise above self-interest
Self-reported descriptions of key network team capacity elements were taken into
consideration. Participants reported a high ability to rise above self-interest in the
working relationships with the individuals on the issue. However, this value decreased
when weighted against the availability of supporting documentary evidence. For
example, if a participant noted a “high” rating for the ability to generate information with
the identified individual, but was unable to provide supporting documentary evidence to
show work on the issue, the value was decreased by one increment. As we will see in the
emerging findings on leader network clusters around issues, however all leaders seemed
to hold the issues of the school above all others.
rise above self
interest
ability to generate
info
ability to manage
cplx tasks
ability to cohere clear concept of
role
professional ethos
Individual Leader Capacity to Lead in the Network:
6 features
HIGH
MEDIUM
LOW
“I’m thinking in every case that they’re
every open and collaborative and very
responsive to the idea of ideas. So it’s
very high.”
(Robert, 2013, pg. 14)
“We might be approaching medium…
we have a ways to go. We need more
trust and more dialogue.”
(Arnold, 2013, pg. 11)
30
Clear concept of one’s role in the work
All leaders nominating one another in this network stated that they have a clear
role in the organization. Many of the roles are job-related, and this finding is supported
by the earlier findings that 22% of these leaders are attracted or motivated to the work by
the nature of their job function or role. This fits as well with findings coming up in the
analysis showing a high percentage of relationship types that are bureaucratic links that
exist because the nature of the work is prescribed by the responsibilities contained in job
description or functional roles.
Coded across the interviews, we found that the leader roles taken in organizing
key issues can be further coded into 11 role categories (Figure 2.6)
Figure 2.6: Distribution of Roles Leaders Take: Issue Organization
facilitator
22%
info collector
21%
leader
17%
liaison
18%
agitator
7%
team member
5%
problem solver
2%
advocate
2% advisor
2%
designer
2%
administrator
2%
Distribution of Leader Network Roles
when Organizing Key Issues
31
Ability to generate new information
Overall, participants indicated a medium capacity
to generate information in groups or networks with a
weighted average of 47% for this feature. Many
participants indicated that their position in the system
meant that their job duties required them to find good
information to bring to the issues taken up by the group.
This feature offers each school a good capacity to lead a
networked organization. It also affords the entire charter
school system with tremendous potential to lead the
Association of schools forward when leaders interconnect.
Ability to manage complex tasks
Leaders in their issue networks indicated a
medium capacity to manage complex tasks. We found
leaders across the networks with a weighted average
score of 48% in this category. It is clear that each of the
leadership persons in this organization is familiar with
complex task organizations done via teamwork. This
feature offers each school a good capacity to lead a
networked organization. It also affords the entire charter
school system with tremendous potential to lead the
Association of schools forward when leaders interconnect.
Professional ethos or value system
100% of all leaders offered evidence and described their work as guided by a
professional ethos.
“Medium. I think I would say
that because we are
constrained by what’s possible,
but I don’t think we’re
completely constrained either.
We have some flexibility for
creativity and innovation
there.”
(Alana, 2013, p. 5)
“I think pretty high level. I think
probably because of the
experience that people have
had around this issue and also
being able to strategically come
to some kind of resolution
around this. I think that there’s
a pretty high degree of
willingness to do this.”
(Marjorie, 2013, p. 6)
32
Figure 2.7: Leadership Values
Integrity, equity and a strong duty of care for
learners dominate the work in organizing difficult or
challenging issues among the leaders as seen in
Figure 2.7. It is quite clear from our findings that
each individual leader cross the Alberta Public
Charter School system possesses the very strongest
professional ethos and a good diversity of values exists in that work as well. This
provides this system with tremendous capacity to lead forward as an Association of
schools.
Ability to cohere in the system
Coherence is a strong indicator of relationship
power in networks of leaders organizing core issues
in a complex organization. Medium to high coherence
is noted across the networks among leaders in the
Alberta Public Charter School system. Coherence is
highly valued on an individual basis and metaphors
for community fit well among the diverse programs
integrity
equity
duty of care
diversity
communal
Passion
trust
pragmatism
respect risk taking
“Two of the three people that I
listed are people that I work with
very, very closely. We are a very
transparent organization. We
discuss things openly and we are
all in this for the same reasons.”
(Albert, 2013, p. 4)
“To provide a very good
education for the average at-
risk youth population. That
would be my prime drive.”
(Andrew, 2013, p. 3)
33
and values held by leaders. These are leaders with profound commitment to values in all
the work they do to organize issues, and this level of coherence fits with the strong sense
of community or collaboration described by every leader interviewed. However,
examining the actual network and relational dynamics in the networks that organize
issues (in the next major section), we observe that while individuals have the highest
regard for cohesion as individuals with a couple of other people, overall the leadership
network does not cohere as well across the organization of Alberta Public Charter
Schools. This means the system has terrific potential to connect values and capacities that
exist within individual leaders holding powerful professional values.
Relationships between Leaders across the Association
As researchers, we incorporated powerful relational databases and network
software analysis programs (Sentinel Visualizer) to compile information on the
connections between leaders across and beyond the Alberta Public Charter School
system. This study’s first set of maps represents the issues network, comprised of all
leaders nominating other leaders and describing relationships with those other leaders.
When individual leaders identified working with another (a nominee leader), they
described features of this relationship or link (type, strength, issue, etc.). In follow up
interviews with the nominee leaders, we asked the same questions about their relationship
with three other influential leaders working with whom they work on the issue at hand. If
the nominee nominates the nominator, this is noted in the software as a reciprocal
relationship, and the direction of the nomination (a line with an arrow pointing to the
nominator in this case) is identified as a reciprocal relationship. Reciprocal relationships
denote strong relations – and if the type of relation is thought to be the same by
nominator and nominee, the bond is even stronger. In this way, participants validate each
other’s relationship information, offering a thick description of a connection to another
leader.
When the software connects all leaders and all relationships, this information is
recorded for presentation and mapping, creating an aggregate picture or ‘map’ (relational
network map). What was impossible before powerful computers is now possible – so
34
that the following diagrams in this section show all leaders nominating others as
‘significant’ in the collaborative work of organizing key issues.
Figure 2.8: Issue Organization Leader Network – Alberta Public Charter Schools
35
This figure shows no names, but rather the arrows (links) point to intersections or
dots (leaders). Red links are stronger (reciprocal and rated strongest by participants). As
link colors change from red to orange to yellow to the blacks and greys we find
increasingly weak links among leaders organizing issues in the Association.
From figure 2.8, readers will notice two things. Firstly, that not everyone is
connected to everyone else, and the overall relation or link strength among leaders across
the networks is a mix of strong and (mostly) weaker links, many individual clusters are
evident. Many of the non-connected clusters are actually relational links found within
only individual Alberta Public Charter Schools, indicating that most leaders in the
Alberta Public Charter School system work with other leaders in their school and
infrequently with leaders beyond the individual school. The larger network is the
exception where, upon close analysis, we perceive a collection of charter school leaders
connected primarily by government service people handling facilities issues connected by
thin lines/links.
The following Sub-Network Maps (“zooming in” on the various parts of the
leader issue network(s) show close-up findings of the overall organization and the
subsystems organizing key issues in Alberta Public Charter Schools. The names included
are the pseudonyms assigned to participants in this study.
Note that Figure 2.8 indicates all linkages found among Association issue network
leaders. This is an composite picture of everyone who was identified as strongly or
weakly linked to any other leader and it is a composite of all ranks of relationships
identified by each leader (recall that each leader was asked to rank three influential other
leaders in the work of organizing issues). As such, Figure 2.8 shows the Association
leader relations as a composite of all strengths and all ranks of leader identified in the
study.
Figure 2.9 answers the following question for superintendents and their #1 ranked
or most influential “other” when they work on organizing their most important issue:
How close is my relationship to my #1 with all other Association Superintendents and
their #1s organizing issues with them? The overall answer is: “Not close”, as individuals
seem quite separated from other #1 and #2 teams organizing their issues in the
Association. Figure 2.9 shows only leaders and their #1 or top-ranked colleague working
36
with them in the hard work of organizing issues in the Association. Note how much
thinner and diffuse the Association issue organizing network becomes when we see this
view of leaders who connect to their most important others (ranked #1). This is primarily
a constellation of small strong links between Association superintendents and (local)
school board chairs.
Figure 2.10 shows leaders with both their #1 and #2 ranked colleagues working
with them to organize issues. If we glance ahead to the sub network figures in the
coming pages (schools, primarily) we will see that leaders are connecting within schools
strongly but overall, seen from the Association standpoint these features indicate a very
diffuse leader network where even the connected clusters are connected by one or two
people only – from among a world of possible people.
Figure 2.11 shows a series of “close-ups” or “zoomed-in” views of the clusters or
sub-networks found within the overall Association issue leader network map (Figure 2.8),
These close-ups are enhanced from the Sentinel Visual model rendering to more clearly
show participant pseudonym names, relation strength (color), relationship vector or
direction (arrows indicating who matters from whom) and resonant relationships (where
two people find one another of the most influence in the work of organizing issues.
These findings are grounds for further analysis in the Analysis section that
follows.
37
Figure 2.9: First Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 Ranked Issue Organizing
Leaders
38
Figure 2.10: First and Second Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 and #2 ranked
Issue Organizing Leaders.
39
Figure 2.11: Maps of the Alberta Public Charter School Leader Issue Organization Sub-
Networks
Aurora
40
Calgary Science School
Westmount Charter School
41
Valhalla Community School
Calgary Girls’ School
42
Calgary Arts Academy
43
Almadina Language Charter Academy
44
Suzuki Charter School
45
CAPE
New Horizons School
46
FFCA
Mother Earth
47
Boyle Street
48
Summary of Findings
In this section, we described the persons involved in selecting and organizing the
most important issues in the Alberta Public Charter School System. Findings also
included a description of those important issues and which attractors drive leaders to
work on them. To conclude, this section of Chapter 2 summarized the relationship
information describing the many links between leaders that emerged to form the issue
organization networks. A detailed analysis of these relationships in terms of TAAPCS’
capacity to organize its interests is in the following section.
49
ANALYSIS
Research Question 1: What is the capacity and autonomy of the Alberta Public Charter
School System to organize its core interests?
In this second section of Chapter Two, we provide analysis related to capacity and
autonomy of the Alberta Public Charter School system. The following section is
organized in four parts to provide an analysis of the parts and overall capacity of the
Alberta Public Charter School leadership networks to organize those important issues. To
determine the capacity of this organization to organize its interests, we must (1) analyze
the capacity of individual leaders in a network, (2) analyze the leader relation network
(link) features, (3) consider the autonomy of the organization and (4) put it all together to
identify the overall capacity of the organization to organize its interests.
The layout of this second section of Chapter Two is as follows:
o Analysis of the Capacity and Autonomy of the Alberta Public Charter School
system
o Analysis and implications from the Leader Issues and Attractor Findings
o Demographics of Superintendents and Principals in the Leader Network
o Features, Characteristics, and Attributes of Leaders across Leader Networks
o Autonomy
o Leader Network Analysis
50
Analysis and implications from the Leader Issues and Attractor
Findings
It is beyond the scope of this research to explain the combination of policy (issue)
network and social capital (relation) networks that is applied in this analysis. It has been
mentioned that to interpret leader network characteristics deeply, we must understand
their individual and collective autonomy and capacity to organize their interests. This
was done for the core 41 of the most influential members of 73 influential leaders
nominated by each other in Alberta Public Charter Schools. As well, a high-definition
network model was created to assist in sensitivity analysis, leader network representation
and thematic analysis. The result of that work via powerful simulation software (Sentinel
Visualizer Software) is in the following Figure:
Figure 2.1: Alberta Public Charter School System Leader Networks – 3D Perspective
51
Demographics of Superintendents and Principals in the Leader
Network
A wealth of experience is found among the leaders who identified each other as
significant in the work of organizing key issues. Table 2.2 and Figure 2.10 show the
experience of superintendents in the system. A majority of superintendents are relatively
new to the Alberta Public Charter Schools, however, they all possess several years of
experience as a superintendent before becoming attracted to charter schools. We found
that 46% of the superintendents have been with Charter Schools for less than 3 years.
Over 75% of these superintendents served as superintendents in previous school
jurisdictions. Over three quarters (77%) of the superintendents have been with charter
schools less than 6 years.
Table 2.2: Proportion of Charter School Superintendent Experience
Years/Charter School
Number of
Superintendents
< 1 yr
3
1 to 2
0
2 to 3
3
3 to 4
2
4 to 5
0
5 to 6
2
6 to 7
1
7 to 8
0
10 to 11
1
11 to 12
0
12 to 13
0
13 to 14
0
14 to 15
0
15 to 16
0
>16
1
52
Figure 2.10: Superintendent Experience: Charter School & Previous
Figure 2.11: Superintendents’ Charter School Years
Superintendents comprise 18% of the leaders in the leader interviewed in our
study nominating one another in the issue leadership network. The second largest group
by job type in the study emerged as the principal group, also comprising 18% of the
leaders found in the networks (Figure 2.4).
Principals emerged as the second largest group by job type in the study. 10
principals participated. They hold fewer years of experience in their role as principal.
80% of the principals in the study had less than 5 years of experience in the job with 20%
0.0
5.0
10.0
15.0
20.0
25.0
30.0
12345678910 11 12 13
Superintendent Experience:
Charter School and Previous
Years @ TAAPCS
Years in Previous Role
Years
Superintendent
< 1 yr
23%
1 to 2
0%
2 to 3
23%
3 to 4
15%
4 to 5
0%
5 to 6
15%
6 to 7
8%
7 to 8
0%
10 to 11
8%
>16
8%
Superintendents:
Years in the Alberta Public Charter School Organization
53
having 8 and 10 years of experience as a charter school principal. 50% of the principals
held less than 2 years of experience as a principal in the charter school system. They
show similar experience (less than two years overall) in their roles previous to principal,
mostly as assistant principals and teachers (averaging 5 years on those roles).
Figure 2.12: Principal’s Charter School & Previous Experience
Board chairs in the study (6) average 2 to 5 years in their role, with previous roles
on the board.
At the individual leader level, the Alberta Public Charter School system
comprises a relatively new cohort of principals and superintendents, with a group of
superintendents who bring a wealth of experience to the organization. These
demographics are important indicators of a very high capacity to lead a changing network
of schools at the superintendent level, in addition to a promising cohort of newer
principals in place.
When this distribution of experience is considered at the school level, both in
terms of in-system and prior-to-coming to the system years of experiences, network
analyses indicate that the strongest relational leader linkages occur between
Superintendents and Board Chairs, often with a weaker link to the school principal.
Compounded by the relative isolation of the linkages among senior leaders constrained to
their particular school (and not across the Alberta Public Charter School organization as a
0.0
5.0
10.0
15.0
20.0
25.0
30.0
f e i j d g c b h a
Principals' Experience
Yrs @ TAAPCS
Yrs Previous
54
whole), we see opportunities for new linkages and stronger relationships as a foundation
for leading the organization (and not just schools) forward.
Without improved connections
within schools and across the Alberta
Public Charter School system, we find a
decentralized system with extremely
high individual leader potential to
emerge/transform over time that is
partially constrained by high leader
turnover. The reason for this turnover
may be related to the weak associational
networks found outside schools in the Alberta Public Charter School system, which we
explore in detail in the coming sections.
As such, the aggregate of high or low capacity leaders in the Alberta Public
Charter School system must be understood in its relationship with government when we
look at the capacity of the system to organize its interest. Individual capacities and talents
are high within schools. Furthermore, the individual leaders’ expertise, diversity of
experience, capabilities, and motivations all offer this system the potential to emerge or
become a system with different purposes and different processes, should the desire or
need be there. However, in order for that to happen, greater interconnections are needed
between and among leaders and others inside and outside the system. Being isolated or
in a closed system does not in itself provide the school system with the autonomy
necessary to negotiate and coexist with other systems. In order to understand the
interconnections needed between and among leaders, let us now turn to the following
section regarding features, characteristics and attributes of leaders across leader networks.
Features, Characteristics and Attributes of Leaders across Leader
Networks
Leadership is defined as interdependent work done by people who react in some
way to a commonly-held challenge or issue held in common by actors who hold similar
interests, issues or goals (Pal, 2009). At its center, the organizing dimension (issue)
A review of previous school reports indicates a
heavy turnover in both superintendent and
principal positions across the Alberta Public
Charter School system. This high turnover in
leadership development at the ‘top’ means
that the residual effect of this training and
development may not have long-term impact,
and that connections beyond the school level
may prove difficult.
55
inherent to network analysis allows us to extend the social network concept to more of an
organizational concept to describe how networks organize (or can organize) their
interests.
In this study, we identified a number of dependent and independent leadership
networks. Some background is offered here for understanding network theory is
necessary to appreciate the analysis techniques used in this study:
Leader Capacity in this context refers to the ability of the people and the leader
network to draw on sufficient institutional resources both to design strategies that
will help it realize its objectives - and to implement these strategies (almost as
policies).
Network capacity is “significantly (negatively) affected by the skill of
bureaucratic officials, and plentiful resources are also important (Skocpol, 1985),
and so is the ability to coordinate and concentrate on the actions of participants in
the decision making process” (Atkinson and Coleman, 1989, p. 17).
Coordination is the work of organizing, and organizing is what we do as leaders
to get our team work done. In particular, leaders in education contexts must
understand organizations (Cibulka, 1999).
In the previous section we described the population of actors and what attracts
them to their leadership networks, along with deep description of the 6 actor capacity
features necessary for leaders to organize issues in a high-capacity network or
organization as presented in the findings section:
1. The ability to rise above self-interest
2. A clear concept of one’s role in the work
3. An ability to generate new information
4. An ability to manage complex tasks
5. A professional ethos or value system
6. Ability to cohere with others
The findings reported earlier from this study indicated that individual leaders in
this organization self-described themselves as people with a high capacity to lead.
However, analysis of these findings is constrained by the limited amount of leader-
promised documentary evidence necessary to cross-check/prove such findings. In spite of
56
our efforts to track this key supporting documentary evidence in the months following the
interviews, only a limited amount of information could be incorporated for triangulation.
Over time, we accepted that this key
documentary evidence would not be forthcoming
and had to ‘move on’ with the research. As such,
the impact and validity of the leaders’ self-reporting
related to the six leader capacities was reduced,
making it impossible to accurately evaluate from the received documentary evidence that
the leader capacity to lead the networked organization cannot be reported by participants.
Later in this chapter we will see that the leaders did not connect as Association
networks, which supports this finding. Accordingly, our analysis of individual leader
capacity to lead is medium to low. We find a very high potential to lead if they create
well-connected networked organizational situations. Very strong value systems and
coherence attributes mean that when these leaders connect, they connect with a service
leadership orientation empowered by powerful duty of care. As well, everyone in this
network had a clear sense of their role as a leader – but more as a leader in a school
than as a leader within a federation or organization of public charter schools.
Our analysis of Association
individual leader capacity to
lead core issues and interests
in networks - is medium to low.
57
Autonomy
Analysis of Alberta Public Charter School Leader Attributes
Rising above Self-interest: The nexus of relationships occurs primarily within and not
beyond individual charter schools. While self-interest is found to be high, charter school
leaders’ interests are constrained to the mandate and boundaries of individual charter
schools.
Clear Conception of Role: All charter school leaders have a conception of their role in
organizing the issues and interests that they find important.
Ability to Generate Information: Slightly less than 50% of the charter school leaders
indicate a high capacity to generate information where that information is not readily found.
Ability to Manage Complex Tasks: Highly experienced leaders across the charter school
system indicate a medium ability to manage complex tasks. While ability to manage
complex tasks is found to be high, leaders’ interests are constrained to the mandate and
boundaries of individual charter schools reducing this ability across the Association.
Professional Ethos or Values System: Each individual leader across the Association
exhibits the strongest ethos and values set that guides their work. Specifically, integrity,
equity, and a duty of care are leader network features found dominantly in this study. This
provides the Association tremendous capacity as an Association.
Ability to Cohere in the system: Medium to high coherence on an individual basis among
leaders. Leaders have profound coherence and commitment to the values of the charter
community. As a network, overall leader networks do not cohere as they have little
connectivity to one another.
58
Autonomy in a networked
system describes the degree of
relative interdependence between
groups of actors (networks or
network organizations) and
governance bodies - such as
government agencies or public
boards. Quite simply, this is not
unlike a study of a family’s members. If we want to consider the capacity of Family A to
organize its interests and get work done, we need two considerations. Firstly, we need to
examine the leadership capacity of the individual Family A members to organize their
own interests (high capacity network organization features). Secondly, we must also
consider how Family A members connect to each other and to others as a network. Our
analysis accomplishes this – it combines the individual (leader, micro) features found
among important others in organizing core interests across the charter school system and
adds an analysis of the leader relationships (interdependencies, relation types, relation
patterns and dynamics). In this way, we see not just what each Family A member might
be capable of, but we also identify how
that capacity is shared with others in
Family A and beyond. In the end, we get
an idea of the strengths and weaknesses
of Family A when it comes to organizing
its interests and achieving its goals as a
blend of work with or separate from its
networked partners.
Given the directive towards
greater autonomy, the charter school
system must have resonant relationships
with the government and other influential
educational stakeholders. As our findings indicated above, the next section will show
thin diffuse connections between TAAPCS and governing bodies it engages. As Elliot
“Do we have an impact on the way the
Association works, I don’t know. I don’t
think so… we go to meetings… and the
team will know that if they want to get
something to the attention of the minister
they will communicate with me or X or
both of us…. But I know saying all of that,
they’re also frustrated, highly so with the
apparent reluctance they perceive in
government to move forward with any
concrete ideas.”
(Elliot, 2013, p. 17)
Think of a large organization. Then think of a
large governance system, perhaps with nested
systems (provincial departments, local boards of
education). Think of them as magnets. They can
attract or repel to differing degrees. But if they
share materials, resources, and information, they
usually attract and can co-direct one another’s
organizational processes and purposes.
59
notes, there is a thin and undefined co-dependency when it comes to decision-making
between the Association and its governments.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, we found that without exception the
individual leaders in the organization struggle for facilities because their individual
schools need facility. If that is the issue found most pressing in a network, then the school
is heavily dependent on a provincial government that controls most of the facilities
allocation resources via existing policy. This means the school system has low autonomy
because it feels obligated to compete for resources and authority with the province and
subsequently with the school districts nearby. If the most pressing issue in a school is not
facilities, then the school has a lot of autonomy to organize its interests when (and only
when) it connects to the government. As we will see in the following organization
network analysis, most schools are very weakly connected to one another and when they
are, they are connected via faint links to government agencies (working on facilities).
This means TAAPCS has very low autonomy in organizing its core issues and interests.
TAAPCS needs relations that go beyond facilities in order to be an autonomous school
system (Hargreaves & Harris, 2008; Gronn, 2002)
Having examined superintendents’ and principals’ demographics of experience,
as well as analyzed individual leader attributes, we now turn to the analysis of
relationships found between and among leaders in
the Association’s leader networks.
Leader Network Analysis
In the following exploration, we examine
policy networks as leader networks in order to
understand the work of organizing issues as sets of
relationships.
The Alberta Public Charter School System
represents a new form of educational
organization.3 These organizations make decisions
3 In a wider context, Leader networks are comprised of nodes (called actors) and links between nodes, like
social networks (Kowch, 2009). Leader networks exist because interested people or firms get together to
Alberta Education (government)
offers access to resources,
policy and regulations framing
different activities or issues
important to the Alberta Public
Charter School system, while
the Alberta Public Charter
School system is chartered by
the government to offer
innovative alternative education
for the public.
60
among powerful governments and other organizations where resources are finite by the
governing bodies. Resources include things such as time, finances, policy and
regulations, physical and human assets. As an Association, leader networks have the
ability to consider various options given resource availability:
1) Compete among people with and beyond the Association for resources with the
benevolent government;
2) Advocate among people within and beyond the Association for resources with the
benevolent government;
3) Negotiate among fewer people or organization entities within and beyond the
Association for resources in shared decision-making with government;
4) Negotiate between the Association as one entity and a government. (Lindquist,
1996)
These organizations make decisions among powerful governments and other
organizations in various relationships where resources are acquired and distributed. A
post-public choice perspective on policy combined with a neo-institution perspective on
organization, means that codependence of individuals and institutions must be considered
when we look at the capacity of the organization to lead itself. Indeed, the increased
partnerships and shared power common today among governments and school systems
means we must describe and interpret a disaggregated state existing among school
systems and governments. Policy and leadership researchers created the policy network
concept in response to the inability of public choice (competitive, pluralism) hierarchical
policy models to describe the relations between the state and its institutions as institutions
have become agents of the states, and vice versa (Wilkes and Wright, 1997). The most
powerful idea stemming from this research was the idea of the disaggregated state
(Coleman and Skogstad, 1990) – the idea that government and power systems usually
‘above’ are not above.
respond to a problem or issue for a specific outcome. The space from which these people coalesce into
networks is called the policy community (Coleman and Skogstad, 1990). Policy networks are referenced
here, not because of policy per se but because they expand relational network system design beyond the
study of systems of communication flows (Kowch, 2003, Kowch, 2005). Policy network models provide a
deeper analytical capability for us than social networks, because in part they are advanced derivatives of
social networks (Atkinson and Coleman, 1996).
61
In this study, we incorporate a combination of influence (policy) and leader network
analysis to characterize the features of TAAPCS. The result is a good baseline for
understanding not just the capacity of the individual leaders to organize, but also for
understanding the capacity of the interconnected reality of leaders in the organization. At
the level of policy network description and analysis, the entire network (inclusive of any
sub networks) is studied to understand the organization and the organizing which occurs
in allocating resources (Pal, 2009). This requires us to identify the relational links
between actors, which we showed in the previous section. In this section, we take the
findings about individual actors and network relationships and combine them to make
sense of what this collective group of codependent actors is capable of doing (their
capacity) when it comes to organizing key issues and interests in the context of
government. In order to understand an organization’s capacity to organize and get work
done, we look at:
1. Individual leader capacity
2. Organization Network Features: networks of leader relationships in terms of
their
a. Patterns
b. Relation types
c. Relationship reciprocity and direction
d. Relationship strengths
e. Centrality and Between-ness
f. Network features indicating organizing dynamics and structures like
i. Gatekeepers
ii. Clusters
3. Given the directive towards greater autonomy, the charter school system must
have resonant relationships with the government and other influential educational
stakeholders. As our findings indicated above, the next section will show thin
diffuse connections between TAAPCS and governing bodies it engages. As Elliot
notes, there is a thin and undefined co-dependency when it comes to decision-
making between the Association and its governments.
62
4. In the overwhelming majority of cases, we found that without exception the
individual leaders in the organization struggle for facilities because their
individual schools need facility. If that is the issue found most pressing in a
network, then the school is heavily dependent on a provincial government that
controls most of the facilities allocation resources via existing policy. This
means the school system has low autonomy because it feels obligated to compete
for resources and authority with the province and subsequently with the school
districts nearby. Structural features of the leader issue network network
analysis
The principles of organizing networks (networks that organize) follow in Tables
2.3, 2.4, and 2.5. At times in the report you will see the term ‘human’ networks. This is
because in organization analysis, several kinds of relationships can indicate linkages
connecting different entities. For example, we find networks of people only (person to
person links), networks of people and units (person to department), networks of units and
units (department to department or organization to organization (school to school) and
links of people to computers or information systems. Participants in this study identified
people-to people relationships as the most common form of linkage in their work of
organizing key issues in the system.
In this study, we traced all relationships in a multitude of ways to arrive at the
network maps shown in the findings. We identified very strong individual leaders across
the systems with ample experience, strong professional ethos and a number of good
leadership capacity measures. However, we also discovered relatively closed leader
networks found in each school and no strong sign of leaders linking across or beyond the
Alberta Public Charter School system. We used the following conceptual framework both
to design the study and to interpret the findings (Tables 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5).
63
Table 2.3: The Characteristics of Relational Networks (of People)4
4 Adapted from “Social Network Analysis: A Handbook,” by J. Scott, 2000.
Element
Characteristics
How these relational networks appear
Link
Types
Strong
Close links, lower capacity to share information outside the
relationship. High likelihood to communicate with fewer other
nodes in the network. Often shown on network graphs as
thicker lines with reciprocal directions
Weak
Distant people, high capacity to share information outside the
relationship. Higher likelihood to communicate across the
network. Often shown on network graphs as thinner lines with
one direction.
Influence
Identifies others in the network whose work or influence is
significant to their own work
Emergence
Indicates why this link occurred. The rationale for actors on the
link for coalescing from the action community to form this
network
Directed
Link Link/Arrow
Representation: The nomination direction (flow) from one
node to another is identified by an arrow showing who is
nominating/working with whom. Reciprocal
communications/contacts are indicated as arrows both ends of
a link
Valued
Link Quantified
Representation: The number or frequency of communications
is written at the midpoint of the link to indicate the frequency
of contact between nodes. Good for very complex sets of
relations in huge datasets.
64
Table 2.4: General Characteristics of Leader and Knowledge Networks
Element
Characteristics
Measures
Usage
Actor /
Node
A person or an
organization
Acts Relates to at least one other person
In degree
Total number of
incoming links
to a node
Indicates communication direction or
trust attributed to the node
Out degree
Total number of
links pointing to
others
Indicates communication or trust
offered from the node
Node Centrality
A large number
of direct
contacts in the
immediate
neighborhood
Indicates closeness and a tendency to
hear information sooner than others, but
may lead to too-strong ties that restrict
the diffusion of information
(Granovetter, 1974).
Capacity Degree
Orders and manages complex tasks
Clear sense of role in process
Generates information on specific
policies (actions)
Rise above self interest
Cohesiveness in the Network
Value System
Professional Ethos
Generates new information
Philosophy
Has a clear philosophy about
organization and one’s service in the
task network (Kowch, 2003)
Political Stance
Has a clear political stance informing
praxis (Kowch, 2003)
Fiscal Management
Skill
Can acquire and organize financial and
physical resources related to the task
(Garcea, 1997)
Managerial Skill
Can manage assets and processes
related to the task project (Garcea,
1997)
Per
human
network
In degree
Total number of
incoming links
to a node
Indicates communication direction or
trust attributed to the node
Out degree
Total number of
other points to
which it directs
links
Indicates communication or trust
offered from the node
65
Node Centrality
A large number
of direct
contacts in the
immediate
neighborhood
Indicates closeness and a tendency to
hear information sooner than others, but
may lead to too-strong ties that restrict
the diffusion of information
(Granovetter, 1974).
Table 2.5: Leader Network Centrality and Density
Characteristics
Measures
Usage
Leader
Network
Density
The number of total links
in an entire network,
expressed as a proportion
of the maximum possible
number of links.
Density = p/[ n(n-1)/2]
where p is the number or
links present, and n is the
number of nodes present
in the whole network.
Often overused, or used without
rigor. A completed or totally
interconnected network would
have all nodes connected. This is
rare.
Centrality and
Centralization)
Centrality refers to the
structural position of
nodes in a network. The
measure of a node’s
potential for influence in a
network based on position
alone.
Indicates a level of
cohesion for the entire
network.
Centrality: An indication of the
relative cohesion around a
particular focal point in a
network (say a cluster, or a
particular node). High centrality
indicates high potential for
communication and collaboration
among nodes, and equally high
potential for gate-keeping
information.
Centralization: The extent to
which a network ‘revolves’
around a single node regarding
communication, most often.
Centrality/
Between-ness
The extent to which a node
lies ‘between’ various
other point in a network.
A relatively low between-ness
node may play an intermediary
role between disconnected parts
that do not communicate.
66
Structural Features of the Alberta Public Charter School Issue Organizing
Networks
Scott (2000) and others have evolved a basic representation of organizational
networks that helps us understand the differences among them. Three major types of
networks are commonly described as distributed, decentralized, and centralized networks
(Kowch, 2013). These schematics are much simpler than the actual network modeling we
did with the Alberta Public Charter School systems, as we consider the nature of the
actors, the nature of their relationships, the directionality and degree of the relationships
and the overall connectivity between all leaders found in the network. However, the
following diagram (Figure 2.13) is a good introduction to visualizing organizations as
networks – which some argue will be a critical skill for leading and creating education
organizations in the coming century.
Figure 2.13: Kinds of Network Patterns (Kowch, 2013 after Scott, 2002)
D. A Fractured Network Pattern
67
A distributed network pattern maximizes the possible links between all people in
a network. Consequently, it has a very high degree of centrality and density – meaning
that highly interconnected people can influence each other very quickly and efficiently.
Such highly distributed networks have the ability to respond to very quick change.
A centralized network has the problem of low density and low connection among
anyone other than through a central person. While this network is the most effective for
transmission of one-way information from the center to many, everyone must go through
the gatekeeper to influence and interact with another.
Finally, the decentralized network is a blend of these network kinds, offering
clusters of nodes that can connect via hubs and across hubs. More expensive and care-
requiring, we often find this kind of network in healthy, disaggregated organizations
where one part can take up the load for another part, contribute ideas and resources.
In changing organizational systems, it is important to note that the actors and the
networks are changing, and that the directionality or influence (reciprocal or not) matters
a great deal to the integrity of such networks. As such, the simple shape of the networks
depicted in Figure 2.13 can be better understood as a metaphor and not as a model for
actual organization networks. In this research, we offer a description and analysis of an
actual leadership network that resembles a decentralized network, but lacks some
connectivity because hubs are not connected to each other. This is called a fractured
network.
68
Figure 2.14: Relationship Types among Leaders in the Association Issue Organizing
Networks
69
Patterns of Relationships
Figure 2.15 shows eight distinct networks
(bottom of diagram) depicting the Valhalla,
Almadina, Cape, Westmount, Suzuki and Science
school institutions, with the strongest internal
connections indicated within the Suzuki school. The
pattern across the top of the page is different, but still
quite similar when we look at the entire network analysis coming up. In this larger
pattern, five schools in TAAPCS are connected by people in government services,
specifically those who work with facilities issues.
Thus, the patterns indicate what deep network analysis explicates the Alberta
Public Charter Schools system is comprised of twelve sub-networks of leaders connected
only within the schools. There are only two connections outside individual school subnets
(connected via government agents) to corporate leaders. The exception is FFCA, which
connects to government agencies and TAAPCS personnel outside the school somewhat
more. Later in this section, we explore the nature of the relationships and the more
technical data on the network indicating clustering, centrality and the importance of
individual nodes or collectives. Figure 2.15 (below) marks out the different school
organizations as they sit within the network of leaders busy organizing the most critical
issues across all TAAPCS subsystems today.
Network analysis clearly shows
that the strongest relations
among leaders organizing key
interests exist as patterns of
relations contained within
school institutional boundaries.
70
Figure 2.15 Leader Issue Organization Relationships – Institutional boundaries mapped
on TAAPCS
71
It is clear from Figure 2.15 that leaders form networks first within schools, then beyond
schools to organize key interests. When they form networks bridging school boundaries,
they do so because of shared relations with different government agents, usually working
with them on infrastructure issues.
Because this research was not designed to study the in-school capacities and
dynamics, rather to the Alberta Public Charter School system as a whole, we do not
interpret the in-school bound networks as deeply but we incorporate a baseline here for
such work. As such, we analyze the whole network (Figure 2.14), that is the aggregate of
leader connections among self-identified influential others who organize the most
important self-selected issues across the entire organization in 2013.
Strengths and Directions of Relationships
Organization networks that have predominantly strong links mean that individuals
are close, but this means that sharing information across the organization can be more
difficult because close individuals influence only each other. This is called an ‘iron
circle’ in policy language because reciprocal strong links among too many leaders
actually create a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” condition. This limits overall
network efficiency, as can be seen in several places in the previous leader network map.
Organizations with predominantly weaker links (the lighter colored lines) have a
higher capacity to share information because information and influence flows through or
involves more people when it is transmitted. In the charter school association study, there
are so few links linking between so many leaders that even weak links are isolated in
clusters. This means that not enough weak links exist across the entire network of leaders
for the transmission of information or for shared influence to be efficient. So while
theoretically, a collection of weak links between leaders means a strong chance to share
leadership information and power, too many non-existent links found in the association
along with the number of weak links found means that the overall leader network system
has a very weak ability to share information and influence. This is a fractured network
with a high potential to become a distributed network.
The map indicates the strength of relationships between individuals from across
the Alberta Public Charter Schools system. Red links indicate closer and stronger ties that
72
tend to be reciprocal. These are important features. For example, when person A claims
that person N is their highest ranked influential individual in organizing facilities issues,
that information is used in our analysis. The ‘direction’ of the link from Person A to
person N is indicated by an arrow at the end of the link pointing to person N. This is
called a unidirectional link. When Person N is asked to identify the highest ranked
influential individual in organizing key issues, we record this information. If Person N
nominates Person A as the highest ranked influential individual in organizing interests on
facilities, the computer draws a unidirectional link with an arrow pointing back to Person
A. Now we have a reciprocal link. This means that both Person N and Person A think
each other are influential in the work of organizing key issues. When the link is not
reciprocal, the relationship is not as strong. In the following network analysis diagram
map, links of all persons organizing interests are shown with arrows pointing ‘to’ others.
Reciprocal links show up as thicker, darker lines with arrows pointing both directions.
Red links are the strongest.
73
Figure 2.16: Strength of Links in the Association Issue Leader Networks
Note in Figure 2.16 that most links between association leaders in this network
are not reciprocal. Over 80% of the (relatively) few reciprocal relations found between
persons in this organization exist between a superintendent and a board chair. Few other
reciprocal links were identified, so the general color of the map in Figure 2.16 shows
mostly dark color (weaker) links with a few red connections containing dual-arrow lines
74
that are thicker (stronger links). As such, the Alberta Public Charter School system
shows a very low resonance of relations. This means that there are bonds between high
capacity individuals, but they remain within the boundaries of individual institutions and
do not reach beyond those boundaries except in the case of facilities work with
government agents. As a result, a very low resonance, highly fractured leader network is
found in the study.
Working outward from the superintendents, the relationships do not seem to get
stronger or weaker within schools. However, across the system, relations become weaker
as we move outward from the superintendents and board chairs. This indicates room for
improvement within schools insofar as connecting to their own community, to each other
and to support systems like the TAAPCS executive director office (community is one of
the main values we found among the 73 leaders in the
study). Presently we find strong relations between
board chairs and superintendents with principals next
in terms of relational strength when leading and
organizing key issues.
However, results from this study indicate that
individual schools are not having an impact. As such,
we find very low intra-organizational relationship
features, rare inter-organization relations (government
and two corporations) with low relational resonance,
and a low overall capacity to organize interests as an
organization, based on the strength and reciprocity (low and low) found among leader
relations.
When strong links with reciprocal directions (nominations) among a leader
network occur across a network system, the organization is said to have resonance. In
resonant ecosystems, the exchange of information and resources among subsystems is
vital to the thriving overall system. When resources and information in ecology are
accessible only through the relationships and the flows that run through them, individuals
and the organization as a whole are vulnerable to these ebbs and flows of energy, in
addition to the overall quality of those interactions. This kind of ecology means that
The significance here is that we
find very few relations between
schools across the Alberta
Public Charter Schools system.
In a system with intentions to
impact Alberta learning
systems, these thin relations
indicate that each school will
need to do this work on their
own.
75
continuous effort is needed to strengthen, widen and deepen the capacity of the
relationships so that resources such as knowledge, influence, and other recourses can
travel more quickly and effectively. This notion of exchange in high capacity
organizations is captured by the term resonance: a term in music synonymous with
‘striking a chord’. In a violin, the body of the instrument acts as a resonator so that when
the musician engages a string, the (whole) instrument resonates or amplifies this sound.
Master violin makers reliably construct an internal cavity with the greatest resonance,
given that the air in the cavity and the system of strings, wood and pitch surrounding the
cavity are suitably connected (Goldstein et al., 2010). In the Alberta Public Charter
School system, we find clusters of relations with strength. However, overall, the clusters
seem largely disconnected from one another and from the world outside the school
institutions. As such, resonance of the Alberta Public Charter School system is low.
All links and patterns found in all levels of relationships among leaders
organizing key issues in the Alberta Public Charter Schools system. Figures 2.17 and
2.18 showing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree relations clearly indicate that when we look at
everyone’s highest ranked influential individual, few of these individuals reciprocate the
nomination.
76
Figure 2.17: First Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 Ranked Issue Organizing
Leaders
77
Figure 2.18: First and Second Degree Networks: Leaders with their #1 and #2 ranked
Issue Organizing Readers.
When we consider the 2nd or 3rd ranked relationship, we get more of an
associational network but it is all bound within the charter school institution. There is
opportunity to strategically build more and new strong relationships between schools and
across the Association, as well as outside the system. This system is a collection of closed
clusters with few strong relations between highly capable individual leaders with a
relatively high turnover rate. In aggregate, this means the capacity of the entire leader
network has a low capacity to organize its interests.
78
Density, Centrality and Between-ness
Leader Network Density: The densest organizational networks show connections
between most of the leaders and each other across the organization as they organize
interests and get work done. Leader network density is a measure of the number of total
links in an entire network, expressed as a proportion of the maximum possible number of
links.
Network analysis reports a density so small
that it is meaningless. This is because many leaders
are not connected to each other. Rather, they are
connected within the clusters (school/institutions) in
the organization. Even when the five schools connect
in the largest organization of leaders at the top of Figure 2.16, we see them linked only by
government service agents helping with facilities issues. Thus, density is not a measure
that helps us understand the thin leader network in this study, other than to indicate that
networks with very low density have a severely restricted capacity to share information,
generate information or organize issues that result in outcome for the entire organization.
Leader Network Centrality
Centrality refers to how individuals (leaders) are positioned relative to others in
the leader network. It is a measure of an individual leader’s potential for influence based
on where they show up in the web of relations that form organizational networks.
Centrality is a clear indication of the relative cohesion around a particular focal point in a
network. This ‘centering’ in a network that organizes key issues indicates the
communication and sharing/information exchange potential among those connected to a
node (leader) or a cluster (school) or a unit (department). So an entity with high centrality
can be a feature in a leadership network that, if well connected across a system, can be a
hub. If the leader network is not well connected, as we find in upcoming Figure 2.19, we
see a high centrality node emerge as an important information hub and as a potential
gate-keeper between the clusters it connects.
The density of the Alberta
Public Charter School leader
network is found to be
extremely low.
79
Centrality is impossible to calculate because
the 8 clusters of networks that are schools do not
connect to each other. Inside these closed clusters,
there are no leaders working with other leaders in
the system. Without shared people across the entire
system, we cannot calculate a centrality or measure
of who connects most people. We can only
calculate centrality in the slightly more developed
network linking five of the schools in the
organization. Although this network linkage is
rather linear with very weak connections to each
other via its government agents, we see some
important features in the multi-school cluster. In this network, only these few leaders
connect others in the multi-school cluster. This means that only these few (mostly
government agents) in the multi-school cluster connect part of the leader network connect
the association schools. Leader networks with few central links and a lot of separate
clusters of leader links mean that information and influence don’t pass through common
people, and when there are some central people (in this case, government facilities
agents) they can be gatekeepers. As such, we find a low centrality network in this study
of the Association.
In view of the very low centrality found in the
Alberta Public Charter School system, we must report that
the cohesion of this organization is low. In the following
section, we identify the key individuals who have
centrality in this low cohesion network.
Leader Network Between-ness
Figure 2.19 allows us to understand who is central and between others in this
important Association leader network.
Leader networks with few
central links and a lot of
separate clusters of leader links
mean that information and
influence don’t pass through
common people, and when
there are some central people
(in this case, government
facilities agents) they can be
gatekeepers. As such, we find
a low centrality network in this
study of the Association.
The cohesion of Alberta
Public Charter Schools to
organize their interests is
low.
80
Figure 2.19: Leader Issue Organization Centrality/Between-ness in the Alberta Public
Charter Schools Organization
81
Figure 2.19, in concert with the Between-ness calculation found in the appendix 1
(the network analysis stable) indicate the individuals in the 5-cluster network who are
most central to most of the people in the Alberta Public Charter School organization.
These individuals are primarily situated in the Government of Alberta, and they provide
critical connections to people in the Association. The blue polygons indicate government
actors found in Association leadership sub-networks connecting more than one school.
Sub-networks at the bottom of Figure 2.19 are bound within a school, so they don’t factor
into calculations measuring how close or far their leaders are amongst others in the issue
organization network.
The thin string of leaders connecting together among New Horizons, FFCA,
Aurora, Boyle Street and the Arts schools are connected by government agents, making
them highly central to what connectivity among leaders we found in this study. A closer
look at the sub-network cluster (called the Schools/Government Cluster in this report)
found at the top of Figure 2.20 helps us understand the findings.
In Figure 2.20, the leader Sean has a highly central location, because any
connection to other clusters (schools) in this subnet is only through Sean’s position as a
government service facilities support person. If a leader in the lower left of the network
such as Joshua wants to work with people at the opposite end of the network, he will
most likely be required to go through Sean to do this work. The same is true for Conrad.
The person with the highest centrality is Neil, who links all five schools as a service
person in the government of Alberta (facilities). Individuals with such high centrality,
connected by relatively weak links across a diffuse 5 school system create a low potential
for the system to organize its interests because of a potential for gatekeepers to
knowingly (or unknowingly, as is the case here) channel information and ideas.
82
Figure 2.20: Sub-network Analysis: The Schools/Government Cluster
Types of Relationships
Individual leaders have capacities to exchange their knowledge and decision
making with other leaders. Leader networks are a formation of relational links. In the
education leadership domain, such links can be seen as a kind of pipe that connects two
or more leaders. Certain types of relations are more important for leaders acting on issues
of importance in an education system like the Alberta Public Charter School system. All
leaders participating in this study were asked about the kinds of links they create when
connecting with the most influential other people they identified. In other words, we
asked them for a description of the relational link. When examined from the network
perspective, relationship descriptors reveal a lot about what is going on in the complex
83
web of relationships among key leaders organizing key issues. We classified 5 types of
relationships to describe leaders’ relations with other leaders organizing their key issues:
(1) technical (related to processes and unique knowledge);
(2) political (related to power);
(3) pedagogical (related to teaching and learning);
(4) social (related to friendships and respect links); and,
(5) bureaucratic (related to job function).
Most often, technical or process type links are bureaucratic when organizing
processes depend upon special knowledge by specialists working in their job functions.
Participants defined these relational links in their own way. The researchers
checked on the several levels that the kind of link mentioned made sense in terms of the
issue at hand, their motivation to work on it with
others, and how their referee linked to them (or not)
in similar or different ways. The aggregate of these
relational links is shown on the network maps.
Sometimes, Person A’s relational link with Person B
might be described differently by Person A than it
was described by Person B. In those cases, two kinds
of links are noted above the link on the network
diagrams. As a network, this gives us a powerful
idea, overall of the kinds of relationships enacting
work between Association network leaders working
on their most important issues.
Leaders were asked to classify their relationship types, and they are shown in
Figure 2.21.
Network capacity is
“significantly (negatively)
affected by the skill of
bureaucratic officials, and
plentiful resources are also
important (Skocpol, 1985), and
so is the ability to coordinate
and concentrate on the actions
of participants in the decision
making process” (Atkinson and
Coleman, 1989, p. 17).
84
Figure 2.21: Issue-Organizing Leader Networks
Figure 2.21 illustrates the proportion of relationship types found among all leaders
in the organization. Essentially, the same distribution of leader link types occurs when we
consider all links (123) between all individuals (73) in the study. Figure 2.22 maps only
the bureaucratic relations among the many leaders in the Association network. The
majority of relationships relate to job function and technical knowledge. This validates
earlier findings that many leaders are attracted to the issue because it’s their job to work
on that issue. We also find here that bureaucratic relationship types characterize the vast
majority of relationships in the school clusters, and in the 5-school cluster. Only 3% of
the relations in the network were found to be pedagogic relations, illustrated by mapping
only those relationships from the network model data gathered in the study (Figure 2.23).
bureaucratic
51%
technical
22%
social
17%
political
7%
pedagogical
3%
Issue-Organizing Leader Networks:
Proportion of Relationship Types
85
Figure 2.22: Bureaucratic Leader Network Relationships Across the Association
86
Figure 2.23: Pedagogical Leader Network Relationships Across the Association
Figure 2.24: Technical Leader Network Relationships found Across the Association
87
Technical relations mean a leader depends on another for process or content
expertise in the careful work of organizing key issues - in this study, these are mostly
policy and procedure, finance and infrastructure related technical issues. We found
similar technical issues in different ‘pods’ of relationships in this study and they were
most often separated by school boundaries.
Similarly, a few social relationships were found among leaders organizing the key
issues in the Associationthese social issues were of three main types: (1) trust and
friendship outside the association; (2) marriage and (3) experience working in previous
school systems. Figure 2.25 shows the social relations in the Leader Network.
Figure 2.25: Social Leader Network Relations found across the Association
88
In this analysis, the Alberta Public
Charter School system is found to have a low
capability to organize its interests, with a
predominance of job-function bound relations restricting the work to work flow channels
and prescribed duties because of the fragmented nature of the organizational leader
networks.
Structural Alignment of the leader issue network
The capacity for active problem solving can be determined by using previous
findings to define the network’s potential for action (Ibarra, 1992) and by identifying
the type of interest-based organizational network which emerges. Table 2.6 indicates (in
bold) the conditions and action characteristics of the Alberta Public Charter Schools
leadership network.
Table 2.6: The Degree of Structural Alignment and Action Implications for the Alberta
Public Charter Schools Network5
Bold text indicates study findings.
Organizational
System Type
Work Flow Relations
(it’s my job) Networks
Action Implication:
Network Facilitates
(good)
Action Implication:
Network: Inhibits
(not so good)
Integrative (non-
bureaucratic) Tight Innovative Routine
Hierarchical
(bureaucratic)
Loose Routine Innovative
The model allows us to represent the organizational system type as either
integrative (non-bureaucratic) or hierarchical (bureaucratic). Results from this study
indicate that the Alberta Public Charter School leader network is predominantly
bureaucratic in nature, while workflow relations are somewhat loose. For example,
people worked together when they could, but were kept apart by bureaucratic approaches
constraining the school as the institution. The action implications for such a network are
5 (After Ibarra, 1992).
The Association has predominantly
bureaucratic relational types.
89
that this leader network would prefer routine processes, and less so the innovative
processes and work flows outside prescribed job roles and functions.
This preference for routine processes is potentially problematic for an innovation
network. Findings indicate that there are extremely capable leaders as individuals, but
across the Association they may be unsure how to
work with each other outside their normal work
assignments. Considered in light of the demographics
and job turnover identified previously in this study,
individual leaders might not currently know each
other well enough. Results of this study indicate that
hierarchy, loose connections between individual
leaders, and a propensity to work on routine or
common projects (like facilities) limits the potential for the network to incorporate
innovative over bureaucratic approaches.
Typology of the leader issue network – Classifying Network Types
Coleman and Skogstad (1990) provide a classification system that offers five
policy network types:
(1) pressure pluralist;
(2) state directed;
(3) clientele pluralist;
(4) corporatist; and,
(5) concertationist.
This classification system allows us to describe or interpret teams and networks
that exhibit specific combinations of autonomy (dependence) on each other and capacity
(ability to get the work done). For detailed definitions of each class, see Table 7.
Lindquist (1996) offers a visual graphic that summarizes the concept. The Alberta Public
Charter Schools issues leadership network is plotted on that matrix as a star.
In future innovation work, non-
bureaucratic relations and
tighter workflow relations need
to be designed in order to
establish a vibrant network
capable of organizing its
interests and issues.
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Figure 2.26: Policy (Design) network typologies with Star indicating high capacity, high
autonomy6
Table 2.7: Characteristics of a Leadership Network Types7
Usage
Network
Types
Pressure Pluralist
One institution (i.e.: State) is autonomous,
network is dispersed and weak, groups
advocate interests rather than get work
done. A low capacity, low autonomy
network or team.
State Directed
One institution (i.e. State) is autonomous,
network is much dispersed, and the state
organizes all interests. Power institution
has high autonomy, network has very low
autonomy.
Clientele Pluralism
One institution (i.e. State) actors are unable
to differentiate themselves from network
interests, being dependent on network for
issue organization. A low capacity, high
capacity, low autonomy network.
Corporatism
Two or more interests exist to participate
with the power organization (i.e.: State) to
make decisions. Network capacity and
autonomy is high. Actors outside the
network are excluded from benefits. A
closed network.
Concertation
A closed network. One organization works
exclusively with another (the power
organization i.e.: State)
6 Adapted from “The Knowledge Network”, Kowch, 2005, Journal of Knowledge Management Practice. Reprinted with permission,
Lindquist, 1995 (abridged)
7 Adapted from: Scott, 2003; Ibarra, 1992; Lindquist & Kowch, 2003
H
High
L
Low
L
Low
H
High
Autonomy
Leader Network Interest
Organization
State
Direction
Concertation
Corporatism
Pressure Pluralism
Clientele
Pluralism
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Ibarra (1992) and a host of organization theorists also offer methods for
classifying the network organization’s ability to change and act. Of particular interest in
network design are the parameters of a change-capable network, because education and
learning organizations of the future must be more change-capable (Cibulka, 1999). Such
analytical frames are useful to better understand the dynamics of a complex leader
network. For example, integrative work teams (networks) are a function of the tightness
(strength) or looseness (weakness) found in that network. Loose hierarchical systems
facilitate routine, and inhibit innovation, whereas tightly integrative (centralized, dense)
networks facilitate innovation.8
We have identified the capacity of individual leaders and the leader relational
network (medium to high), and we have explored the relative autonomy of the Alberta
Public Charter School System as a whole (low) so that we can arrive at an understanding
here of the capacity of the entire organization to organize its interests.9 We look to
governance that impacts the Association and other major governing bodies. Among
governments that could influence this Association, including other school boards or
government departments, only one Alberta Education unit was found connected to this
leadership network. Little connectivity was found beyond facilities agents in Alberta
Education. This should be considered against the current backdrop of significant changes
in Education legislation and regulations and policies.
The network analysis shows very weak connections to only five schools and to
three TAAPCS executives. As such, the state is partly autonomous with respect to its
relations with the Alberta Public Charter School
Association because it does not have a set of
organized interests in particular. Rather, it works with
charter school leaders to connect on facilities issues.
This mediated autonomy, perhaps by luck as much as
by design, leaves the state weak when organizing
interests with the charter school system. Similarly, the charter school network is found as
8 For more depth on the organizational analysis of networks, see Nohria and Eccles, 1994 and Kowch,
2003. The Ibarra framework is used to interpret and triangulate the Alberta Public Charter Schools issue
leadership network-type.
9 The scope of the study did not consider local school board governance in detail.
Individual units within the
Association compete for
resources with a state
attempting to draw direction
from those competitors.
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weak in its ability to organize interests as a system because of its isolated leader networks
in schools and its bureaucratic approach to facilities issues – where almost no other
school board, professional association, parent association or community influences are
found.
With a semi-autonomous state sharing its work in a piecemeal way (facilities)
with the Association mostly, and with charter schools existing as separate clusters of
interest organizers (mostly focused on facilities), a low capacity, low autonomy situation
exists for TAAPCS schools and their leaders. This is a pressure pluralist leader
network typology where individual units within the association compete for resources
with a state attempting to draw direction from those competitors.
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Summary: Capacity and Autonomy Findings and Analysis
Facilities and administration work comprise 50% of the most important issues
emerging for leaders networking to solve these problems in the Association.
Leaders in the leader networks are attracted to these issues primarily because they
believe that access space (facilities) and inclusion space (facilities) are most
important. Along with a sense that it is part of their job duty, these attractions
comprise half the issues found pulling people together across the Association. The
other 50% of the issues are evenly spread out (12).
The majority of job titles belonging to Association leader network participants is:
18% superintendents, 18% principals, 14% teachers and 10% board chairs.
The Association is found to have a medium to high capacity to organize key
issues as an Association leadership network. ‘
A very high sense of diverse values informs leaders in the network. By rank, these
are: integrity; equity; duty of care, diversity; communal; passion; trust, respect,
pragmatism, respect and risk taking. Integrity, equity, and duty of care inform
50% of the leader network. This adds tremendously for network capacity to
improve.
The leader network has a low capacity for coherence because it organizes issues
at the school levels only. This impedes innovation and adaptation. The system is