ERIC Number: EJ1050828
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Reference Count: 32
Community Contexts up Close: What Does It Mean to Be "Legitimate" in Today's Education Policy Environment?
Crowson, Robert L.; Hinz, Serena E.
Peabody Journal of Education, v90 n1 p178-189 2015
In 2003, William Boyd spoke of the nation's "double crisis" of educational performance and legitimacy. Indeed, he said, these twin components "interact and reinforce one another" (Boyd, 2003, p. 11). The more attention that is paid to the underperformance of the schools, the more the nation seems to suffer a loss of faith and a loss of societal support for public education generally. Contrariwise, the more the nation loses faith, the harder it is to convince the public that the schools can be, and indeed are being, improved. Curiously, from the time of the late William Boyd's commentary upon the double crisis until today, there has certainly been no letup in efforts to enhance performance. Rather strangely, though, there has been relatively little direct attention over the years to the parallel concept of legitimacy. To be sure, it is quite logical to assume that evidence of improved performance will translate into an added sense of legitimacy. And the nation has increasingly begun ranking educational organizations on a range of performance indicators, knowing full well that a top ranking or an improved ranking does seem to legitimize. Nevertheless, survey results show continuing community and neighborhood loyalties to nearby schools despite evidence of poor performance. Not all schools performing inadequately seem to lose public support, and not all schools improving their performance are guaranteed to gain it. Legitimacy in the field of public education, the authors find, can be a construct rather independent of performance, but it can also be closely interactive with performance. Rather surprisingly, the topic of legitimacy remains decidedly underinvestigated in the recent literature around educational reform. It is the central purpose of this paper to take a direct, new look at local school governance vis-a-vis the relatively neglected topic of legitimacy in public education--a topic that, interestingly, received considerable attention at one time as a "legitimacy imperative" at the heart of an approach to the study of organizations identified as "institutional theory." It is the authors' observation, in looking again at the topic of legitimacy, that one's attention returns necessarily in a significant manner to the study of local schooling above state and national agenda setting. Although outcomes-minded measures of school performance are highly important, it is their claim that is it at the community level that the place-based matters of faith, trust, hope, and belief defining legitimacy remain (not the sole, but still) very critical indicators of the acceptance and continued viability of public education.
Descriptors: Educational Policy, Public Education, Governance, School District Autonomy, Educational Change, Academic Achievement, Achievement Gap, Educational Improvement
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A