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School Change and the MicroSociety® Program
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School Change and the MicroSociety® Program

  • Cary Cherniss - Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, USA, Rutgers University, USA

July 2005 | 232 pages | Corwin

"A school's MicroSociety program is not a gimmick, as Professor Cherniss carefully describes and discusses. It is a process that gives students responsibilities and obligations. They experience the benefits of collaboration and the problems of group cohesion, and they learn how and why the bottom line of their economic enterprise requires foresight, decision-making, flexibility, creativity, and more. Are there problems in creating and maintaining such an enterprise? Yes, but Professor Cherniss candidly, critically, sympathetically, and constructively explains why readers will have no doubt that the MicroSociety's educational potential is indeed great. It is the opposite of a transient fad, of which there has been a surfeit."
-Seymour B. Sarason, Professor Emeritus
Psychology & Education, Yale University

See meaningful whole-school reform strategies through the lenses of the MicroSociety® program!


The steady stream of quick-fix educational reforms du jour has drowned out the optimism and drive of many school leaders. To buoy the hopes and success of change agents, this guide offers a real look into school reform, with its trials and triumphs, and pinpoints specific strategies for overcoming the former and achieving the latter.

Looking closely at the MicroSociety® whole-school reform model, the text empowers leaders with a systemic approach to implementation and sustainability of meaningful change. Along with the history and basics of MicroSociety®, it highlights research-based tactics, enabling administrators, teachers, parents, and students to fully invest in and affect positive, enduring reform. The book features:

  • Actual challenges and proven solutions for everything from dealing with "problem" students and time constraints, to attaining genuine teacher buy-in and seamless curriculum
  • 16 straightforward guidelines for before, during, and after implementation
  • In-depth case studies illustrating the gamut of outcomes, from failure to success, and why they resulted
  • Insights on how "emotional intelligence" influences the change process
  • Implications for educational policy

 
Dedication
 
Foreword by Roland S. Barth
 
Preface
 
Acknowledgments
 
About the Author
 
Part One: Overview of the Program
 
1. The MicroSociety® Program
A Day in the Life of a MicroSociety® Program School

 
The Origins of the MicroSociety® Program

 
The MicroSociety® Idea Spreads

 
The Guiding Philosophy Behind the MicroSociety® Program

 
Basic Elements of the Program

 
MicroSociety® Program Outcomes: What the Research Shows

 
The Problem of Implementation

 
Conclusion

 
 
2. Challenges Encountered in Implementing the Program
Lack of Teacher Buy-in

 
Excessive Time and Work Demands

 
Making Links Between the MicroSociety® Program and the Core Curriculum

 
What to Do With “Problem” Students?

 
The Problem of Staff Conflict

 
The “Fog of Change”

 
Threats to Sustainability

 
Conclusion

 
 
Part Two: Guidelines for Successful Implementation
 
3. Creating a Favorable Context
Guideline 1: Relationships Among Teachers and Principal

 
Guideline 2: Goodness of Fit

 
Guideline 3: Parent and Community Involvement

 
Guideline 4: Principal Support

 
 
4. Introducing the Program to the School
Guideline 5: Giving Teachers a Meaningful Voice

 
Guideline 6: Planning Before the Program Begins

 
Guideline 7: Securing Additional Funding

 
Guideline 8: Matching Teachers With Ventures

 
Guideline 9: Realistic Goals and Time Perspectives

 
 
5. Keeping It Running
Guideline 10: Expand Student Responsibility

 
Guideline 11: Seek Out Additional Resources

 
Guideline 12: Create a Culture of Experimentation

 
Guideline 13: Continue to Set Aside Time for Planning

 
Guideline 14: Create an Open and Flexible Decision-Making Structure

 
 
6. Leadership – The Critical Ingredient
Guideline 15: The Principal as Advocate

 
Guideline 16: Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

 
 
Part Three: Case Studies in Implementation
 
7. A Successful Replication: Mesquite Elementary School
Before-the-Beginning: Providing a Favorable Context

 
Introducing the Program to the School

 
Making It Work: The Management Team, the Coordinator, and the Consultant

 
Maintaining Teacher Commitment Through Decision-Making, Planning, and Training

 
Seeking Out and Using Resources

 
A Supportive Principal and Organizational Climate

 
The Principal’s Social Capital and Emotional Intelligence

 
Conclusion

 
 
8. Wellfleet Elementary: Everything That Can Go Wrong…
The School and Its History With the Program

 
What Went Wrong? The Before-the-Beginning Phase

 
Sowing the Seeds of Trouble: Introducing the Program to the School

 
Becoming Operational: Trying to Cope With Chaos

 
The Organizational Context: Weak Leadership and a Negative Climate

 
 
9. Montgomery Middle School: Success That Could Not Be Sustained
The School and Its Community

 
Introducing the Program to the School: The Principal Takes the Lead

 
Becoming Operational: The Teachers Confront Reality

 
The Program Ends

 
 
Part Four: Sustaining School Change in an Ever-Changing World
 
10. Implications for Research, Policy, and Practice
Implementing Change Versus Sustaining It

 
Two Central Lessons That Emerge From the Study

 
A First Step: The Selection and Training of Educators

 
The Role of the External Environment

 
Conclusion

 
 
Resource A: A Description of the Study
 
Resource B: The Implementation Guidelines
 
References
 
Index

"A school's MicroSociety program is not a gimmick, as Professor Cherniss carefully describes and discusses. It is a process that gives students responsibilities and obligations. They experience the benefits of collaboration and the problems of group cohesion, and they learn how and why the bottom line of their economic enterprise requires foresight, decision-making, flexibility, creativity, and more. Are there problems in creating and maintaining such an enterprise? Yes, but Professor Cherniss candidly, critically, sympathetically, and constructively explains why readers will have no doubt that the MicroSociety's educational potential is indeed great. It is the opposite of a transient fad, of which there has been a surfeit."

Seymour B. Sarason, Professor Emeritus
Psychology & Education, Yale University

"Cary Cherniss documents thoroughly and thoughtfully the significant elements of the change process in adopting comprehensive school reform. Applying the detailed case studies of MicroSociety, he captures the essence of a powerful model that is focused on facilitating student learning through leaderhsip development and empowerment. Extraordinary insights and analysis on a range of topics, from emotional intelligence to funding, provide lessons learned to inform what actually matters for sustainable impact. This book is essential reading for every education entrepreneur."

Libia S. Gil, Senior Fellow
American Institutes for Research
Key features
  • Provides implementation strategies for scaling up reform models
  • Offers a systematic set of guidelines for assessing unique school circumstances
  • Highlights best practices in addition to challenges that may arise
  • Serves as the only current, comprehensive, and practical guide for the MicroSociety model

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