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School

School Culture, Truancy And School Dropouts, Collaboration: Linking Schools With Social Services, Conclusion


Educational leaders and policy makers have called for revolutionary changes in schools. National and international school reform initiatives involve more challenging expectations for learning, high-stakes accountability, high performance standards, collaboration, and new roles for teachers and students (Adler and Gardner 1994).

Agrowing number of children, youth, and families are being affected by persistent poverty, unemployment, and discrimination. These same factors predict child abuse, including needs for child protective services and out-of-home placements. Children's learning barriers, emotional difficulties, and health risks also stem from these problems. The education system not only has a special interest in the well-being of children and youth, but it also shares an interest in the health and well-being of families, neighborhoods, and communities.

During the closing decades of the twentieth century, schools in the United States were being pushed to dramatically change the way they operated. Similarly, schools outside of the United States began to examine their formal policies in close cooperation with families and the communities in which they lived. In the 1980s shifts in Norwegian economics influenced the business of education (Hagan and Tibbitts 1994). Concern about international competitiveness and higher levels of unemployment resulted in a combination of child-centered policy, curriculum reform, new roles for teachers, and respect for the autonomy of parents and the local community.

The unique cultural history of Norway has resulted in child-centered policy that focuses on family support and community education. Educational reform in the United States relies on themes similar to those of Norway's grass-roots movement: parent and community involvement, a holistic approach, and collaboration between the school system and community-based organizations (Hagan and Tibbitts 1994).

Shifting social and economic realities have called into question the fundamental role that schools play in serving the growing number of vulnerable children and youth. To a large degree, in the United States and in Norway, the role of the teacher has always been premised on parents being actively responsible for the well-being of their children. However, when parents behave irresponsibly, teachers are being called upon to intervene. For some teachers, this has resulted in role conflict. Already overburdened and lacking resources, teachers continue to question the limits of their role as educators and the role they can play in coordinating services for children.

Although both Norway and the United States have acknowledged the need to form partnerships with parents and the community for the welfare of the children, neither country, in examining the role that families and teachers play in restructuring, has explicated the changing role of the student and the implications of school culture during educational reform.


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