Date of Award

12-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Gary J. Skolits

Committee Members

Vincent A. Anfara, Pamela A. Angelle, Jennifer Richards

Abstract

Improving systems of public education through the development and implementation of innovative reforms is a socially and politically complex process, particularly when systems of public education merge with external agencies that enter the process with unique resources and with perspectives and intents derived from experiences unlike those found in traditional public school cultures. Pursuing a better understanding of this process, this qualitative case study examines the interorganizational partnership that developed Metro High School, an innovative, STEM high school program in Columbus, Ohio.

With this single, public/private partnership as a case, this study examined the school reform context within which the partners worked and from which they derived influential perspectives and resources. The objective was to better understand the interaction and manifestation of perspectives, resources, and intentions, as the now influential school was being developed and implemented. Data gathered through interviews, documents, and observations have been analyzed and synthesized into conclusions about the interactive effects of the partners on the development of the school and its subsequent policy influence.

Factors found to have affected the effort include favorable reform policy conditions and experienced school designers, commitment to well-defined STEM and Coalition of Essential Schools principles, ample resources from skilled, high capacity partners with political and intellectual influence, conceptual alignment across the partnership, a commitment to equity, and effective community-based negotiations. Negotiations were facilitated by strong leadership working from the base of a multi-district foundation that provided the administrative space for the school’s largely autonomous development. This study, utilizing sociopolitical theories of educational change and implementation that recognize the influence and value of multiple perspectives and constructive variability, suggests implications for interorganizational partnership work that is undertaken for developing and negotiating the terms of new systems of public school organization and new learning environment designs. In regard to the research literature on implementation, school change, and reform, this study—though not generalizable and limited in scope to a single site—sheds light on the complexity of implementing collaborative educational change in urban environments.

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