Why school management is even more important than we thought | Education

The only thing more painful than teaching a Friday afternoon math lesson to restless teenagers might be subjecting teachers to management gibberish “apprenticeships” from a pimply consultant, barely older than sixth graders. who have just finished their baccalaureate.

But beyond the hot air, better management in schools can really improve the lives of students, parents and teachers. And this country is doing much better than is often believed. The basic techniques of modern management that have become standard in governing organizations in other sectors of the economy are more widespread in England than elsewhere in the world. These practices include rigorous lesson data collection, systematic feedback, and supporting struggling staff while rewarding and promoting excellent teachers.

Over the past decade, we have conducted research to measure the quality of management around the world. More recently, we looked at secondary schools in England and seven other countries: Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Sweden and the United States. After more than 1,800 interviews with school leaders, surprising results emerge.

First, our measures of management quality suggest that good practices really matter for school performance. Improving the quality of a school’s management from the bottom 1% to the top 10% is linked to an 18% increase in GCSE scores and a 3% increase in ‘contextual added value’ – the improvement children make at school.

This is a much larger effect than class size, teacher quality, or competition. Moreover, the strong correlation between management score and student performance is not only here, but in all the countries we study. We can never rule out that there is something else we haven’t measured, but that link remains after taking into account a host of other factors.

One finding we did not expect was that schools in England topped global comparisons of the quality of school management. Our schools seem to be much better at ensuring that the right mechanisms and incentives are in place to identify, train, promote and retain good teachers than schools in other countries. Our interviews revealed many excellent examples of standardizing high-quality teaching through interdisciplinary and accessible lesson plans and the mix of scheduled and random class observations to ensure quality in all classrooms.

This could be partly explained by the major reforms of the last 20 years. The focus is much more on contextual added value than just raw measures of exam results. London challenge encouraged the sharing of best practice between different schools and is probably a reason for the remarkable improvement in performance in London over the last decade.

But why are some schools better managed than others? It seems that more autonomous schools do better than regular schools in all countries. In England, for example, these would be voluntary academies, foundations and schools; and in the United States it would be charter and magnet schools. And it is not because the autonomous schools are private schools that can choose their admission. In terms of management, autonomous public schools outperform private schools as well as regular public schools.

Indeed, the difference between autonomous public schools and other school types does not appear to reflect differences in student composition, school structure, location, or obvious principal characteristics such as gender or ethnicity. seniority. Governance and leadership are the answer.

If there is strong accountability to the local governing body, this is an excellent sign of excellent management. Additionally, school leaders who have established a consistent long-term strategy and communicated it effectively to their staff and the wider school community also unlock other beneficial management practices.

These findings suggest that educational reforms in England over the past 20 years in terms of decentralization and improving standards have not been as wild as they have sometimes seemed. But they also suggest a strong note of caution. Autonomy is precious but it is not enough on its own. The talents of teachers, headteachers and strong accountability to local governors are also needed to raise the quality of management from average to excellent.

We often blame ourselves as a nation for our schools and there are certainly huge challenges. But maybe things aren’t as bleak as they sometimes seem.

The study is available online at here. To see more survey results, download the data, and compare your school, go to www.worldmanagementsurvey.org.

Renata Lemos is a research project manager for productivity and innovation and John Van Reenen is a director of the Center for Productivity and Innovation – both work for the center for economic performance, LSE.

The school’s leadership and management center is funded by Zurich. All content is editorially independent, except for items labeled advertising. Learn more here.

Jeremy S. McLain