The need for radical and effective reforms in the educational sphere is more urgent nowadays than ever before. It is evident that the current system does not address the needs of students, teachers, and administrators properly. There are substantial problems with motivation and balancing the interests of different stakeholders. The current paper examines the potential application of the “Four Jobs” concept to the Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) reality. In general, the concept seems to be very relevant to APS although there are numerous risks associated with the correct application of this approach.
McDonald (2014) recognizes that the failures of the vast majority of education reforms can be explained by the inability to organize the entire process in a rational way. It means that the actions undertaken were not integrated into the general system properly. The author does not merely criticize the previous attempts but also proposes his own solution. It is possible to organize the process of reforms through four stages. The first one is reframing, which refers to changing the understanding of educational professionals regarding the ultimate goals of the reform and appropriate means for its implementation.
The second one is argumentation, referring to a logical and supported position about the necessary steps and their justification (McDonald, 2014). The arguments are also highly important for explaining the significance of reforms and the proposed vision. They may also contribute to developing the common comprehension of the problem by all parties and help achieving better coordination of their efforts. The third one is the action space, which is about the scope of improvements that may be achieved in the short run (Henderson, Howell, & Peterson, 2014). It is important not only to recognize the seriousness of the existing problems, but be able to determine the spheres that can be reformed and produce the expected results. The fourth one is connections that describe the interrelationships between all aspects of the education reform. Correspondingly, it encourages the systematic approach.
The proposed “Four Jobs” concept can be applied to the APS environment. As the current situation in APS is unsatisfactory, it is necessary to evaluate the possibility of introducing reforms in line with the outlined mechanism. First of all, a radical reframing of the situation in this area should be designed. The precise goals may include serving the educational needs of the entire community (Green, 2015). Such a formulation may contribute to integrating the efforts of all people involved in the process of providing educational services and solving complementary problems. Then, the relevant arguments should be given in support of the proposed goals.
Currently, the APS system is disorganized, and various stakeholders do not take into account each others’ needs. Therefore, the quality of education services along with the motivation of students and teachers is artificially held at a low level. If all people involved comprehend that they serve the entire community, they may change their attitude and perceive the interests of other stakeholders as complementary rather than antagonistic ones (Green, 2015). It will encourage them to be more responsive to each other and search for mutually beneficial solutions. Thus, these changes will create the foundation for the subsequent radical reforms.
The ultimate potential and effectiveness of reforms in APS depend on the ability to determine and utilize the action space. There are two major aspects to keep in mind here. The first one is the need for determining the scope of improvements that may be achieved in APS in the short run. It is reasonable to formulate precise goals and define the quantitative indicators of students’ knowledge progress (Bigott, 2013). The second one involves intensifying the use of money, civic, and professional capacities at the regional level (McDonald, 2014). Even when the goals and objectives are well-defined, the appropriate resources should be accounted and directed to the most urgent areas of interest.
Atlanta Public Schools lack the proper funding for implementing all the necessary changes. Therefore, a new superintendant should be able to generate additional funds and channel relevant financial means towards satisfying the needs with the highest priority. To determine these crucial spheres, it is reasonable to evaluate the positions of all stakeholders including students, teachers, and administrators. Moreover, the main focus should be on the long-term community needs rather than any kind of short-term effects (Bigott, 2013). However, the sufficient finding alone cannot generate the expected changes either. The civic capacity of the community is needed to consolidate the efforts of all the parties whose interests are involved and contribute to the sustainable reforms.
In addition, professional capacities should be developed as well. It mostly refers to teachers and their capability of implementing the latest educational technologies (Donnell, & Gettinger, 2015). Currently, the lack of motivation is nearly ubiquitous in the education system, and many Atlanta teachers do not utilize even the already available set of technologies. Professors’ professional development is crucial for improving the performance of administrators as well. They should consider all options for integrating Atlanta schools in the global educational environment (Green, 2015). It is also reasonable to encourage the competition both among students and schools. Under the competitive pressure, all participants tend to improve their skills and demonstrate higher results.
Finally, the effective application of the “Four Jobs” concept is possible only if all connections are administrated and maintained properly. There are several levels of meeting this objective. The first one lies in explaining interrelationships between all elements of the education reform for stakeholders. In such a way, they will make their choices and decisions more responsibly than before. The second one consists of addressing the complex relationships between educational goals and the means of attaining them (Donnell, & Gettinger, 2015). The same results may be achieved differently; therefore, it is crucial to be able to assess all the alternatives in an objective way.
The specified connections should be applied to the local conditions and the learning environment of APS. As the structure of the community needs is different in various states, the same measures may lead to vastly different results. Hence, the mechanistic application of the broad educational principles may be ineffective within the APS network. The reformers should also actively involve in collecting and evaluating the feedback from students and other stakeholders. The received responses may guide their further actions.
In general, the application of the “Four Jobs” concept to the APS reality seems reasonable. The major potential advantage is the systematic approach and the integration of all types of available resources. Moreover, it creates the opportunity for balancing the needs of all stakeholders in a mutually beneficial way. It might be capable of producing the synergic effect, whereby the ultimate results are higher than the sum of individual contributions (Bigott, 2013). At the same time, there are numerous risks associated with the implementation of the “Four Jobs” concept. The main risk refers to the broadly defined goals and methods. As such, the correct application of this concept to the current APS conditions will ultimately determine the actual efficiency of the reform.
Another risk refers to the difficulty of assessing the proper allocation of scarce resources in advance. As serious changes are needed in almost all elements of the APS system, the level of uncertainty is high. It is also difficult to determine the responses of students and other stakeholders to the implemented changes (Henderson, Howell, & Peterson, 2014). However, despite the substantial uncertainty and potential risks, it seems that the potential benefits outweigh the cons. The reason is that even if the optimal structure of resource distribution and stakeholders’ needs is not determined immediately, the consistent and appropriate application of the “Four Jobs” concept can bring about the gradual improvement in the APS educational sphere.
Moreover, the carefulness and focus on correct utilization of money, civic, and professional capacities is very relevant for APS. Currently, financial and non-financial aspects are examined in isolation from one another. Therefore, the effectiveness of funds’ allocation is low, and the stakeholders’ motivation tends to decline (McDonald, 2014). If the above issues are addressed systematically, the positive changes may occur in relation to people’s perceptions and the overall interrelationships between APS and community needs.
It may be concluded that the current situation in APS is unsatisfactory, and urgent reformation is needed. In order to be effective, the proper reforms should be based on the utilization of a systematic approach. The “Four Jobs” concept offers such a perspective through specifying several stages of reforms implementation. A close examination of this concept has demonstrated that it has a substantial potential for improving the educational sphere. In particular, it allows changing stakeholders’ perception of the problem and making them more responsible for satisfying the needs of each other. The approach may also be effective in addressing the strategic educational issues and establishing the corresponding priorities among secondary objectives.
An effective application of the proposed approach is associated with numerous difficulties. On the one hand, it is necessary to make many important decisions on the ex-ante basis and face a considerable market uncertainty. On the other hand, the superintendant should be able to use money, civic, and professional capacities effectively. The ultimate effectiveness should be evaluated from the perspective of the entire community rather than any specific interest groups. However, the APS environment has the necessary potential for improvement. Thus, it may be expected that the correct implementation of the reforms will have a substantial positive impact on the development of the entire APS environment in the near future.
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