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Trust in Schools

Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement

Anthony S. Bryk
Barbara Schneider
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  • Book Info
    Trust in Schools
    Book Description:

    Most Americans agree on the necessity of education reform, but there is little consensus about how this goal might be achieved. The rhetoric of standards and vouchers has occupied center stage, polarizing public opinion and affording little room for reflection on the intangible conditions that make for good schools. Trust in Schools engages this debate with a compelling examination of the importance of social relationships in the successful implementation of school reform. Over the course of three years, Bryk and Schneider, together with a diverse team of other researchers and school practitioners, studied reform in twelve Chicago elementary schools. Each school was undergoing extensive reorganization in response to the Chicago School Reform Act of 1988, which called for greater involvement of parents and local community leaders in their neighborhood schools. Drawing on years longitudinal survey and achievement data, as well as in-depth interviews with principals, teachers, parents, and local community leaders, the authors develop a thorough account of how effective social relationships—which they term relational trust—can serve as a prime resource for school improvement. Using case studies of the network of relationships that make up the school community, Bryk and Schneider examine how the myriad social exchanges that make up daily life in a school community generate, or fail to generate, a successful educational environment. The personal dynamics among teachers, students, and their parents, for example, influence whether students regularly attend school and sustain their efforts in the difficult task of learning. In schools characterized by high relational trust, educators were more likely to experiment with new practices and work together with parents to advance improvements. As a result, these schools were also more likely to demonstrate marked gains in student learning. In contrast, schools with weak trust relations saw virtually no improvement in their reading or mathematics scores. Trust in Schools demonstrates convincingly that the quality of social relationships operating in and around schools is central to their functioning, and strongly predicts positive student outcomes. This book offer insights into how trust can be built and sustained in school communities, and identifies some features of public school systems that can impede such development. Bryk and Schneider show how a broad base of trust across a school community can provide a critical resource as education professional and parents embark on major school reforms.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-096-7
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    The Chicago School Reform Act of 1988 remains one of the most far-reaching efforts at school reorganization ever attempted. At a time when national attention was building around school restructuring to improve student learning, Chicago chose a particularly novel course: decentralization with parent empowerment. For some this reform harkened back to the community empowerment efforts of the 1960s; for others it represented the newest chapter in a long history of school wars over the control of education in America.

    During the early 1990s, we spent over three years studying this reform in twelve different elementary school communities. A diverse research...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider
  6. PART I Framing Themes and Illuminating Theory

    • Chapter 1 The Social Foundations of Schooling: An Overlooked Dimension for Improvement
      (pp. 3-11)

      Almost daily, some major conference, research report, or pronouncement from an important public official calls for fundamental change in schooling in the United States. A casual inspection of most any issue ofEducation Weekmay well leave the reader stunned by the intensity and scope of reform activity occurring across this country. Seemingly every aspect of our education system—how it is governed, the basic organization of schools, who teaches, how students are educated, what’s being taught, and how we know what students actually are learning—are all subject to intense scrutiny and revision.

      We confront today a transformative moment...

    • Chapter 2 Relational Trust
      (pp. 12-34)

      Our interests in the role of social trust in improving schools emerged out of field observations in Chicago elementary schools as they engaged in a decentralization reform. Comments about trust arose frequently as school leaders sought to explain why some actions occurred—or more typically, failed to occur—in their particular school community. Although an analysis of social trust was not initially our primary research priority, we gradually came to recognize this as a powerful concept shaping the thinking and behavior of local school actors.

      Our growing recognition of the salience of trust led us to explore the extant scholarship...

  7. [Part II Introduction]
    (pp. 35-36)

    As noted in chapter 1, out intereset in relational trust grew out of an intensive field study in the early 1990s of Chicago’s school decentralization reform. This study focused on the micropolitical dynamics of twelve elementary school communities, the local forces that shaped them, and how together these influenced a school community’s capacity to engage the opportunities provided by this reform. Our research directed considerable attention to the nature and quality of adult relations in these school communities.¹

    It became clear from a preliminary reading of field notes and interviews that concerns about respect, trust, personal regard, and caring were...

  8. PART III Effects and Implications

    • Chapter 6 Relational Trust and Improving Academic Achievement
      (pp. 91-121)

      Key to evaluating a claim about the importance of relational trust for school improvement is the ability to reliably measure differences in this organizational property across school communities and over time. Developing measures of this sort entails a complex interplay of theory (as articulated in chapter 2), firsthand field observations (as presented in chapters 3 through 5), and empirical results from pilot research. We began our first work on this task in 1993 as our field study was concluding. Although the in-depth analiysis of the field data had yet to begin, we were already convinced that the quality of social...

    • Chapter 7 Analytic and Policy Implications for School Reform
      (pp. 122-144)

      Throughout this book we have probed the nature of relational trust in urban elementary school communities. We have described how trust is rooted in the microdynamics of day-to-day social interactions among teachers, principals, and parents and the discernments that various participants make about these interactions. In this regard, our work is quite different from other research that describes good schools in diffuse cultural terms as having a distinctive climate or ethos. We have focused instead on detailing the specific behaviors that ground relational trust and the interpretative frameworks that school participants use to judge such behavior.

      We have also shown,...

    • Appendix A: Description of the Field Study
      (pp. 145-154)
    • Appendix B: Measures and Other Variables Used
      (pp. 155-167)
    • Appendix C: Analysis Details
      (pp. 168-176)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 177-200)
  10. References
    (pp. 201-210)
  11. Index
    (pp. 211-220)