Since the late 1980s, education reformers in the United States have sought ways to restructure schools to boost student performance. Has it worked? Have changes in school structure -- such as site-based management, interdisciplinary team teaching, flexible scheduling and assessment by portfolio -- actually boosted student achievement? What other conditions tend to make such organizational innovations successful?
From 1990 to 1995, the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools at the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined these questions, with support from . by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (Grant No. R117Q00005-95) and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Center researchers analyzed data from more than 1,500 elementary, middle and high schools throughout the United States, and conducted field research in 44 schools in 16 states. The Centers work was completed in August, 1996. The Center is closed, but information on its findings is provided here.
The Centers mission was to study how organizational features of schools can be changed to increase the intellectual and social competence of students. The five-year program of research focused on restructuring in four areas: the experiences of students in school; the professional life of teachers; the governance, management and leadership of schools; and the coordination of community resources to better serve educationally disadvantaged students.
Through syntheses of previous research, analyses of existing data, and new empirical studies of education reform, the Center focused on six critical issues for elementary, middle and high schools: How can schooling nurture authentic forms of student achievement? How can schooling enhance educational equity? How can decentralization and local empowerment be constructively developed? How can schools be transformed into communities of learning? How can change be approached through thoughtful dialogue and support rather than coercion and regulation? How can the focus on student outcomes be shaped to serve these five principles? As the research progressed, findings were presented to address these and related issues.