This paper is published in the Journal of Education and Urban Society, Volume 29, Number 4, 1997 (subscription required).
What, if anything can now be said about whether decentralization of public school systems is possible and, if so, under what conditions is it likely to lead to changes in instruction and improvements in student outcomes? In particular, how do central offices and school boards need to change, and what other sources of extra-school support are necessary if decentralization is to lead to widespread school improvement?
This paper makes an attempt to answer these questions. It reviews the degree to which school systems' reform efforts have in fact created decentralization, and it identifies changes in the missions and capabilities of public school boards, superintendents, and central offices that must be made before decentralization can have the desired effects on the performance of public schools.