Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Education Research International
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 270404, 10 pages
Research Article

Organizational Learning in Schools under Sanction

1Warner Graduate School of Education, University of Rochester, Dewey Hall 1-333, Rochester, NY 14627, USA
2Education Studies, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0070, USA
3College of Education, Alabama State University, Abernathy Hall 344, Montgomery, AL 36101, USA

Received 6 March 2012; Accepted 20 July 2012

Academic Editor: Alex W. H. Chan

Copyright © 2012 Kara S. Finnigan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The focus on “school turnaround” has become central to policy and practice in the United States as a result of school accountability, yet little remains known about school improvement under sanction. This study uses theories of organizational learning to understand the processes through which educators search for and adopt reform strategies, as well as the extent to which these schools’ organizational culture and climate are conducive to this type of learning. Our mixed methods study involves document analysis, intensive case studies, and a survey of teachers in schools under sanction in a large urban school district in the USA. We found limited evidence of organizational learning, and instead evidence suggested superficial use of restructuring planning, rare diagnoses of root causes of low performance, and limited engagement in learning processes of school staff. In addition, schools relied on exploitation resulting in the recycling of previous practices. In part, the limited organizational learning in evidence was the result of structures and climates within these low-performing schools that inhibited a more learning-oriented approach to reform. Our study has implications for school improvement under accountability policies as it uncovers important challenges that limit organizational learning and, as a result, school improvement under sanction.