Boundaries. Border lines among -and within social -systems are arbitrary but
consequential. How a principal groups teachers and students, for example, is not
Subsystems. Every social system is.composed of interrelated subsystems. For examp-le,
in. elementary schools what occurs at one grade level -or in secondary schools
what occurs in one academic department-has- some consequences for other grade
levels-and departments. Thus, subsystems operating autonomously often generate
unintended consequences for other subsystems or possibly the entire school.
Multiple -causation. Problems and outcomes in a social system rarely have a single
cause. In schools, for example, itis highly improbable that low student performance
on state achievement testsis caused by one variable.
An organization’s climate is in essence its personality (Sargeant, 1967); it is an attribute
that shapes a person’s feelirrgs about a school. Structure, or organization, is one of the
four elements of climate and, as such, it partially determines how teachers and students
feel about the school-and ‘how they feel often affects how they perform. Therefore,
restructuring can alter a school’s climate; ana ultimately it can influence student
academic performance (Kowalski,-Petersen, &Fusarelli, 2007).
‘Schools are complex social systems and, as such, theyshould be..analyzed in relation
SCHOOLS AS SOCIA[ S_YSTEMS
.• “Identify options for annual school calendars
• Explain the nature of a learning organization
66 LEADERSHIP EXPECTATIONS
The deployment of art} music, and physical education teachers. This option provides
students with .exposure to instructors who have concentrated. preparation in their
specializations and it-provides teachers in self-contained classrooms with preparation
time during the school day.
Resource .rooms. These rooms provide ‘students- opportunities for individualized OT
small group instruction outside the se-lf-contained -dassroom for a porti.on of theschool day. Their development resulted primarily from legal requirements for
serving special needs students- (i.e., those with .individualized education programs
[IEPs] requiring inclusion). Today, -resource rooms also may provide work. areas
for teacher aides who focus on supplemental instruction as prescribed by teachers
operating self-contained classrooms.
The structure of All elementary school is analyzed with respect to vertical andhorizontal
planning. Vertical planning (i;e., what occur-sfrom grade -levelto grade level) has been
premised on students progressing from one grade level to another until the school’s
entire _program of study has been completed. This organizational approach -is r-ooted
in the assumption ‘that.students of the same chronological age benefit adequately from
re-ceiving .a uniform instruction ·concurrently-a premise -that has been frequently
challenged. The dominant horizontal plan (i.e., what occurs at a.given grade level) has
been the self-contained classroom=-rhatis, one teacher-providing instruction in all basic
subjects. This configuration is premised on -twoperceived advantages. First, students
are presumed to adapt more readily .to school “if rhey are placed witlr a single teacher
and .a relatively small group of students ‘for all or most-of the school day. Second, the
self-contained classroom configuration is efficent, orderly, easy to administer, and
understood by parents. Many elementary- schools have modified -their horizontal plan
by .providing partial departmentalization in The-upper _grades;for example, two fifthgrade teachers may team together in that one -teaches science arrd mathematics for both
sections and the other teaches language arts and reading for.borh sections,
Over the last half ce-ntury, traditional horizontal -planning in elementary schools has
been augmented by the following concepts:
Elementary SChoolsThough ‘education experts posit that philosophy, curriculum, and mstructional strategies
should determine the organizational pattern ofa school, pragmatic considerations=such
-a~ funding and available facilities, and -tradition often have trumped these conside:rations.
How and why a district separates schools by grade levels and why principals structure
the school day the way they do are not matters that capture the attention of many
stakeholders-especially those who do not have children enrolled in the school’s.
.Nevertheless, these should be treated -.ascritical administrative decisions. because they
have the potential of affecting student learning.
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