Return to Reading Response and Discussion

A Place Called School Chapter 9

Summary:Chapter 9 has Goodlad outlining his plan for restructuring the education system within, for the most part, the existing framework. He acknowledges the need to work with what is currently in place in order to be realistic about effecting positive change. Keeping with the outlook of previous chapters his proposal discusses all parts of the whole, from nationwide programs to individual classrooms.

One of the consistent themes of this chapter and his plan lies in the decentralization of the school system. The end product of putting more of the decision making power into the local district, board and school offices is a school that is more responsible to and for the local community thereby addressing the needs of the student of a defined neighbourhood. Goo

dland would have this decentralization in the form of evaluation, accountability going down the line, and invocation of the curriculum allowing for good flexibility of the schools to adapt its programs to fit its constituents.

While Goodlad is a proponent of variation within state and district schools, he also acknowledges there is already an ‘enormous’ school-to-school differences in curricula. His solution to balancing the curriculum is to fit every school with a framework of required studies, which, in short, would hold all students to a minimum shared curriculum with a variation of about 20% that could be tailor fitted to a student’s needs, on a student-by-student basis. This framework, Goodland argues, would allow students to pursue and ideally develop a level of expertise in a field of their own choosing, presumably with the aide of family, teachers and guidance counselors. One of the off-shoots of this system is that opportunity to pursue excellence on a individual basis, eliminates the ‘need’ for tracking and ability grouping. If this is combined with Goodland’s observation for the need to reorganize a school system to be a more cohesive and continuous process rather than the three separately existing units of lower, middle and upper school, than we can perhaps envision education as a growing entity that develops and matures with each individual student.

Having looked at the curriculum, the decision making process and the framework of studies, Goodland goes into the classroom and looks at teachers. He seeks to build a framework of identification, incentive and reward for quality teachers rather than merely for seniority. He carries this remarkably simple concept into his pursuit of finding educational leaders in the form of principals as well. One of his primary reward and incentive offers centres on a concept of key schools, attracting the best of the teachers and using these schools to help develop exemplary practices. These schools and their teachers take on the responsibility of training new teachers in conjunction with education programs at the university level and helping to develop leaders in their field. If they are the best teachers then student teachers should learn from them.

To Goodlad’s key schools concept he also proposes the addition of employing head teachers of exceptional talent that would serve as role models for fellow teachers. Head teachers, who can teach, lead and evaluate students and teachers alike become the proponents of professional development.

Throughout the chapter Goodland emphasizes that these changes, and more, are not just possible within the existing framework but also necessary or the system will stagnate without improvement.

Key Passages:
" To the degree the schools we studied are representative , the agenda of school improvement is formidable. It includes clarification of goals and functions, development of curricula to reflect a broad educational commitment, teaching designed to involve students more meaningfully and actively in the learning process, increased opportunities for all to gain access to knowledge, and much more. Significant improvement will come about not by tackling these problem areas one by one, but by addressing all or most of them as a system." Page 271

"The intended net effect of theses recommendations is a common framework for schools within which there is room for some differences in interpretation at the district level and for some variations in schools resulting from differences in size, location and perspective. Clearly state governments would play a leaner role than at present." Page 275

" It is high time we created opportunities for gifted, well prepared educators to move upward in their chosen profession without leaving the classroom." Page 301

" ….basic to correcting this sloppiness and upgrading both the status of the principalship and the quality of those who aspire to it. First, there should be a continuous districtwide effort to identify employees with leadership potential." Page 306

" The recommendations for school districts are intended to effect greater decentralization of authority and responsibility to the local school site. They are designed, also to stimulate long range planning in each school under the leadership of the principal and with the assistance in self assessment of the district offices….The unit of improvement is the individual school." Page 319

Important Terminology:
Key Schools: schools whose special function is to serve as centers for developing practices not now established

Head teachers: teachers, role models for in-service teachers, leaders of their profession

Discussion Guiding Questions:
1. Given Goodlad's extensive plan which of his proposals might face the most potential resistance and at what level? Which of his proposal will communties be most responsive to? How would you rate the feasibility of his plan?

2. If we cannot create 'key schools' what is an alternative that best trains our preservice teachers?

3. Do you have concerns with Goodlad's suggestion of getting the private sector involved in helping to fund programs benefitting the school system? If so, how do they compare to the possible benefits?