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School Change and the MicroSociety® Program

School Change and the MicroSociety® Program

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

Foreword by Roland S. Barth

September 2005 | 232 pages | Corwin
A significant number of public schools are implementing a whole-school approach to school change. School change leaders face a number of questions:

- What implementation strategies make whole-school reform work?

- What factors work for or against sustainability?

- How can committed educators and change agents "scale up" models that are successfully engaging students and promoting their learning and development?

Author Cary Cherniss provides answers to these questions by examining the implementation of one particular whole-school reform model: MicroSociety®, a program founded in 1967 and recognized by the US Department of Education as a whole-school reform model.

Profiling in depth the implementation successes and challenges of six MicroSociety schools, the author offers analytical tools and strategies for school leaders attempting to implement and sustain school change. School Change and the MicroSociety® Program is a research-based and strategy-driven resource for any school leader interested in cultivating and sustaining successful school change.

Foreword by Roland S. Barth
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


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


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


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


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

"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

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