School Empowerment as Defined by the Education Institute of Hawaii
School empowerment recognizes the uniqueness of each school community and that one size rarely fits all, which makes it nearly the opposite of Hawaii’s current governance structure and management mentality.
An empowered-schools system requires a philosophical shift in which DOE employees fall into either of only two categories: those who work directly with students, and those who support the efforts of those who work directly with students.
Teachers in an empowered school determine the means by which to satisfy statewide standards and policies. They also have ready access to information about their school’s budget and have a voice in all important matters affecting their respective school. And they play a meaningful role in holding their principal and other administrators accountable.
Principals have significantly greater control over financial and staffing decisions in empowered schools, but they must constantly engage the entire school community — teachers, parents, librarians, cafeteria workers, custodians, and anyone else who sees the students daily — in meaningful discussions about spending, staffing, and curricular and instructional decisions.
Students in empowered schools have a voice that increases from elementary through high school, and student aspirations beyond high school determine student-centered learning programs in which learner empowerment and learner accountability are aligned and emphasized.
Statewide standards, policies and learning goals continue to play major roles in an empowered-schools system, and non-school staff continues to provide services to the schools. But those who set standards and promulgate policy never control the means by which school-level personnel achieve desired results, and services providers cannot take for granted their “customers.” School-level personnel unhappy with services provided by the DOE have the option of seeking those services elsewhere.
The adults in an empowered-schools systems model shared values such as collaboration, transparency, integrity, equity and life-long learning. They also embrace clarity of responsibility, especially those that focus on student achievement, and maintain a systemwide commitment to capacity-building for instructional and other forms of leadership.
School empowerment includes decentralized decision-making and school-level accountability: accountability without empowerment is unfair and ineffective, and empowerment without accountability would lead to chaos.