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Case Studies

Leveraging the Institute’s professional development activity, SELI has begun to develop a portfolio of curriculum materials on leadership, management, and organizational design, including readings, team activities, and videotapes.  For example, SELI has piloted the first joint case study between SUSE and GSB, Reforming San Diego City Schools: 1998-2002, which has been published in the case series of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The benefit of these types of case materials is  that can be used in teaching activities for SELI programs as well as for other academic institutions and training programs.

SELI cases highlight two important areas for examination:

  • Examples of well-designed, successful schools and districts that reveal how they organize their core features, such as curriculum and assessment, teaching, technology, teacher development, organization, staffing, and governance; and
  • The dilemmas and leadership strategies needed to address these dilemmas in the processes of organizational change and management.

The case materials and other teaching materials that have been developed build on research that the Institute conducts to document the strategies and outcomes of schools that successfully serve diverse learners in traditionally underserved communities.  The cases go beyond "charismatic leader" explanations to examine the structures of schools and school districts as social and economic systems that changed how they operated to achieve student success.  They enable practitioners and researchers to examine how an educational organization has been able to design or re-design its work in successful ways, to sustain its progress against political attack, and to build a culture of success.  The cases illustrate the leadership skills and resources required for successful reform as well as how those human and material resources were used.

In addition to the in-depth study of the San Diego School District mentioned earlier, which has produced both a recently published book and a teaching case, several case studies of successful schools are now underway.   Among these are International High School in New York City, Sherman Oaks Charter School in San Jose, California, and San Francisco Community School in San Francisco, CA.  This research examines how such schools are organized and managed, how they develop the core technologies that shape teaching and learning, and how they engage in problem solving around perennial educational dilemmas and problems.  The research also examines a range of educational outcomes for diverse groups of learners within the school community to document how success is achieved by increasing the productivity of learning experiences rather than excluding those who have substantial educational needs. 

The case materials are the first to use the methods of business case development on school organizational problems.  They are also the first to study successful new model schools and to do so from a perspective of organizational design as well as management.  Finally, they are the first to apply the multi-media, artifact-rich approaches developed for the intense study of classroom teaching to the study of schools as organizations.  These cases may include print and video materials that can be made widely available in “low technology” form. They can also be mounted on a hypermedia platform that allows users to study a school or district by examining artifacts and analyses that reveal how the organization works  (e.g. descriptions of the organization and how it operates, interviews with staff, samples of student work, budgets, schedules and staffing arrangements); videotaped examples of school activities (e.g. faculty decision making discussions, student exhibitions of performance, excerpts of class sessions), and data arranged in ways that allow users to ask questions about many aspects of the school’s functioning and performance.

The opportunity to merge the different approaches to the development of case materials used in Education Schools and Business Schools – including the kinds of questions explored and the methods for presenting and using cases – is an exciting aspect of this collaboration.   The cases are used in the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute’s leadership development activities and are published in forms that make them accessible to others who are doing similar work across the country.

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Resources Available:

Reforming San Diego City Schools: 1998-2002 - Case Summary and Ordering Information

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