School leaders addressing the challenge of equity through collaborative research

Year: 2017

Author: Carrington, Suzanne, Anscow, Mel, Spina, Nerida, Comber, Barbara

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The fact that children in the most disadvantaged schools continue to achieve the worst outcomes on standardised measures of achievement is not a new problem. In Australia and internationally, there have been a multitude of "what works" approaches that focus on designing programs that might remediate deficit views of families, young people and teachers. While few would dispute the need for evidence based decision making by school leaders, contemporary systems of governance frequently emphasise narrowly defined measures and improvement as part of accountability structures. Leaders, particularly in disadvantaged schools often face pressure to improve "at all costs". This paper presents data from a programme of collaborative inquiry carried out by a network of six schools in Queensland alongside a team of university researchers. The research differed from many tradition approaches to inclusion in that it emphasised the importance of ethical leadership practices in a context of marketisation and competition; a focus on improving practice through sharing knowledge - across classrooms and schools; and the development of local capacities for sustaining change. These approaches take considerable time, effort and commitment from school leaders. Nevertheless, we argue that sustained, equitable improvement can be achieved through a long-term approach that is grounded in a commitment to ethical principles.