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Volume 18, Number 4
July/August 2002

Fuel for Reform

The Importance of Trust in Changing Schools


At a recent conference on accountability and assessment at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, dozens of education policymakers and scholars gathered to consider the implications of the No Child Left Behind Act. During hours of discussion about the value of standardized test data, "coercive" accountability, and stakes high and low, a pesky question kept surfacing about the wildcard in all of this: the people who actually go to school every day to work and learn. Can excellent work be coerced from principals, teachers, and students simply by withholding diplomas, slashing funds, and publishing embarrassing statistics in the newspaper?

As states and school districts work at structuring new accountability mechanisms and mandating changes in instruction, they will do well to remember that school people and their relationships to one another will make or break reform. How do teachers relate to each other? How do school professionals interact with parents and community? What are principal-teacher relations like? The answers to such questions are central to determining whether schools can improve.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

A.S. Bryk and B. Schneider. Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement. New York: Russell Sage, 2002.

P. Wasley et al. Small Schools, Great Strides. New York: Bank Street College of Education, 2000.