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ERIC Number: EJ835976
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May
Pages: 18
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 63
ISSN: ISSN-0195-6744
Saying What We Mean, and Meaning What We Say--Unpacking the Contingencies of Decentralization
Meyer, Heinz-Dieter
American Journal of Education, v115 n3 p457-474 May 2009
During the 1980s and 1990s, administrative decentralization was a prominent reform theme in public education. Revisiting those efforts today reveals a conceptual landscape often governed by ad hoc theorizing, untested assumptions, and an overall lack of consistency and coherence. It provides an example of how terminological ambiguity on the part of researchers and policy makers can stifle a policy's impact and obstruct attempts to learn from failure. In this article, I propose to surface and spell out some of the unarticulated contingencies that marred many decentralization efforts. Drawing on recent organizational theory, I first update the theory of decentralization, especially the relationship between decentralization and recentralization and the evidence for structures that mix both. Next, I discuss three illustrative examples of decentralization in education to identify the ambiguities associated with the casual use of the term. I end by considering how the concept of decentralization can be returned to more effective use by specifying the situational and functional contingencies of decentralization. (Contains 1 figure and 1 note.)
University of Chicago Press. Journals Division, P.O. Box 37005, Chicago, IL 60637. Tel: 877-705-1878; Tel: 773-753-3347; Fax: 877-705-1879; Fax: 773-753-0811; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A