Distributed Leadership Policies and Practices: Striving for Educational Equity in High Poverty Contexts

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Singh, Parlo
Glasswell, Kathryn
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Johnson, G

Dempster, N

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2016
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Education reform policies in Australia, the UK, and US have prioritised the role of the school principal and teacher leaders in school organisational change. Particular versions of leadership, namely distributed leadership, have emerged within these policy discourses and are prescribed as the means for effecting school reform. Critical scholars have raised concerns about the models of distributed leadership dominant within recent education policies, describing these as functional or normative and aligned with neoliberal education policy discourses of performativity and accountability. Key instruments or technologies of the neoliberal education reform agenda are high-stakes national testing, public reportage of test results via designated websites, and discourses which hold school leaders, teachers, students, and parents accountable for test performance. This macropolicy context frames our exploration of leadership practices within a case study school involved in a Smart Education Partnership project (SEP) between Griffith University and a cluster of local schools to address problems of low educational achievement. Through an analysis of interview, survey, and focus group data, we explore how leadership practices materialised in the interactions between people (district administrators, school leaders, classroom teachers, university researchers), objects, artefacts, routines, and rituals to generate possibilities for improving students’ literacy learning. In so doing, we contribute to the critical discourse policy literature which has challenged functional perspectives on distributed leadership prevalent within education reform policies and professional development materials. Moreover, we add to the critical scholarship literature by drawing on theories of distributed activity (Spillane JP. Educ Forum 69(2):143–150, 2005) and diffraction patterns (Barad K. Meeting the universe halfway. Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Duke University Press, Durham, 2007) to explore how leadership practices in one case study school came to materialise an educational difference.

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Leadership in Diverse Learning Contexts

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Educational administration, management and leadership

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