Democratic governance: The development of shared decision-making at Hope River High School

Michael J Devitt, University of Pennsylvania


As social and political institutions, public schools are often assigned the task of promoting and preserving a democratic way of life in America. However, most public schools are not structured in accordance with democratic principles; in fact they are quite non-democratic in operation. Fully satisfying education's "democratic mission" requires, the researcher argues, schools be structured as democratic organizations. This study, conducted as an interpretive case study employing ethnographic techniques, focuses on the emergence of a process for shared decision making at Hope River High School, a large (1700 student) suburban high echool. For four years the researcher chronicled the development of the Faculty Senate, an elected decision making body intended to provide a greater teacher voice in the decision making process at the school. In these four years, through a dialogue-study process, the project moves from a vague interest in school governance to the development of a site-specific decision making model. The report concludes that (1) this emergence of the Faculty Senate was an expression of teacher empowerment and an example of shared decision making, (2) greater teacher access to the formal process for decision making did not result in any increased attention to issues of teaching and learning, (3) this development at Hope River did not bring the school any closer to satisfying the conditions of education's "democratic mission" as conceptualized in the study.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Devitt, Michael J, "Democratic governance: The development of shared decision-making at Hope River High School" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9632518.