AbstractThis study examined the development and implementation of Action
Plans for School Improvement in Northern Territory Government
schools in 1990 and 1991 . The purpose of the study was to
determine whether formal statements of school planning addressed
broad Departmental policy guidelines, and whether the realities
of implementation of school plans were aligned with their formal
statements. The economic, political and professional factors
that have affected Northern Territory (NT) Government schools
since self-government in 1978 are outlined, leading up to the
effects of compulsory devolution of many administrative
functions to school communities in 1991, during the first year
of implementation of Action Plans.
The main aim of the study was to determine whether improved
educational outcomes were the basis for implementing Action
Plans in NT schools. Other aspects examined included: the nature
of changes prompted by Action Plans; the effects of Action Plans
and devolution on the functions of Principals; whether Action
Plans helped schools address calls for public accountability;
and whether performance indicators (called for in Action .
Plan policy documents) had been used effectively by schools in the in the
Action Planning process.
The first stage of the study examined Executive Summaries of
Action Plans for School Improvement (APSI) for 118 NT Government
" schools, for the first year (1991) of a rolling triennium.
Initial Plans (completed in 1990) and their first annual reports
(from 1991) were available for 81 schools, first annual reports
only from the other schools . Quantitative data were extracted
from the Summaries on: focus areas for school improvement;
performance indicators; and evaluation processes. The data were
then examined for commonalities across all schools, and schools
aggregated by region or school type.
The second part of the study involved a qualitative approach,
with 15 Principals responding to a set of questions related to
Action Plans, Devolution, Performance Indicators, and Accountability.
The data from the interviews were analysed, using
ethnographically derived procedures to develop a typology of
Principals, based on the nature of their responses to the Action
planning process . The data were further analysed, seeking
information relating to educational or administrative emphases
in the Principals' responses.
The main findings of the study were:
• APSI had a significant educational component overall,
though this varied widely from school to school . However
the emphasis was on planning and implementation of
programs, not their evaluation. Hence it was not possible
to conclude that improved educational outcomes for students
provided the basis of APSI in NT schools.
• There had been an increase in Principals' workloads as a
result of devolution , and some Principals saw that increase
as being to the detriment of their function as educational
leaders in their schools . Other Principals had responded
enthusiastically to the changes brought about through
devolution and APSI, seeing them as opportunities for
improved educational programs for their studens . A
majority of Principals had assumed a realistic attitude to
policy changes, meeting administrative requirements but not
necessarily fully encompassing such concepts as community
ownership and collaborative planning. Several Principal had resisted
both the philosophy and actuality of APSI, though still meeting the
minimum bureaucratic reporting requirements.
• There was little evidence of schools ' addressing calls for
public accountability through APSI. The very limited da t a
on evaluations in the APSI Summaries indicates that this a
critical area for policy review . Data from interviews wit h
Principals indicated broad support for the concept of
accountability, but their understandings of the concept
related to reporting to students and parents, not to any
• School personnel have very limited understandings of the
construction or use of performance indicators . though
Principals would use them to improve educational program.
if they knew how.
• Devolution, as introduced in NT Government school s. has a
policy rhetoric of educational improvement, but it was seen
by Principals and others in school communities as being
almost entirely for administrative purposes.
|Date of Award||1992|