Organizing for instruction: A comparative study of public, charter, and Catholic schools

Lisa M. Dorner, James P. Spillane, James Pustejovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Guided by theories of institutions, organizations, and sense-making, this manuscript examines how public, charter, and Catholic school staff in a large urban area organize for instruction and respond to educational change. To build theory about institutional processes of "organizing" from participants' perspectives, data included a survey regarding staff networks (N = 271) and semi-structured, qualitative interviews (n = 49). Findings demonstrate that all 11 schools in this study reflected the current reform environment with its focus on managing instruction. However, staff from different kinds of schools organized in distinct ways. Most charter and Catholic school staff described obtaining information about instruction through "organic" relationships using the metaphor of family to define their work situations. Alternatively, public schools tended to be "mechanistic," with staff viewing themselves as professionals who were focused on standards and testing. One charter school, however, combined organic and mechanistic characteristics demonstrating the contagion that occurs among organizations in the same institutional sector and the reach that institutional policy scripts, such as No Child Left Behind, have in changing instructional practice at all kinds of schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-98
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Educational Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Instructional improvement
  • Neo-institutionalism
  • Networks
  • Sense-making and metaphors in organizations
  • Standards and accountability policies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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