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A Dissertation by MARGARET CURETTE PATTON
Submitted to the Whitlowe R. Green College of Education Prairie View A&M University In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPY
FACTORS INFLUENCING GREATNESS IN ECONOMICALLY-CHALLENGED SCHOOLS
A Dissertation by MARGARET CURETTE PATTON
Approved as the style and content by: ___________________________________ Douglas S. Hermond, Ph.D. (Dissertation Chair)
______________________________ William Allan Kritsonis, Ph.D. (Member)
______________________________ David Herrington, Ph.D. (Member)
______________________________________ Camille Gibson, Ph.D. (Member)
______________________________ ________________________________ Lucian Yates, Ph.D. (Dean, Whitlowe R. Green College of Education) William Parker, Ed.D. (Dean, Graduate School) March 2009
ABSTRACT Factors Influencing Greatness in Economically-Challenged Minority Schools. (March 2009) Margaret Curette Patton: B.A., University of Southwestern Louisiana; M.Ed., University of Southwestern Louisiana Chair of Advisory Committee: Douglas S. Hermond, Ph.D. Although excellence is the standard for every school, there are many economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools that are performing below the mark in Texas and a few considered successful (Texas Education Agency, 2007). The purpose of this study was to explore the distinguishing factors that exist among successful ECM schools compared to similar acceptable performing schools. Jim Collins’ (2001) Good to GreatTM corporate model was used to frame the study. Findings in his study suggested that each of the eleven great companies defied gravity and converted long-term mediocrity into long-term superiority. The distinguishing characteristics that caused these companies to become the leaders in their markets were summarized in three principles that led to excellence: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action.
The research questions that guided this study were: 1. What distinguishing characteristics predict that economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools will be recognized or exemplary in the state of Texas? 2. What practices associated with the transition from elementary to middle schools are predictive of student achievement in high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) feeder groups? Three high achieving ECM feeder pattern groups in Texas that received a recognized or exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency for at least two of the past four school years were compared to two lower performing groups that were similar in five areas: grade span, campus size, percentage of disadvantaged and minority population, and location. Data were collected through face-to-face and/or online interviews and coded into the themes found in the Good to GreatTM framework. The qualitative data that were collected indicate that the education system has the distinct opportunity to significantly improve the quality of education for students. Creating transparent schools involve bold moves in the areas of leadership, teamwork, data utilization, and individualized student interventions.
DEDICATION To my mother and father, Jack and Lelia Curette, for giving me the foundation I needed to pursue academic excellence. I am grateful for the value you placed on education even though you did not have the opportunity of a formal education. To my husband, Kevin Patton, for giving me the love, support, and flexibility I needed on a daily basis in order to pursue my dreams. To my children, Kanaan and Kenzi, for always being a breath of fresh air and for making me laugh everyday. To all children, for being my inspiration to pursue this degree. You are able to accomplish anything you are passionate about. Never give up.
ACKNOWDLEGEMENTS First, I want to thank God for leading and protecting me through this process. Additionally, I want to thank my Mt. Carmel church family for their constant prayers and spiritual guidance. I would like to thank my committee members for their dedication and continued support throughout the construction and completion of this study. I offer a special thanks to Dr. Douglas Hermond for serving as my chairperson, but more importantly for being a great statistics teacher. I also want to thank him and Dr. Camille Gibson for helping me reflect on my work in order to develop a study that is more coherent and meaningful to a broader audience and for helping me understand different perspectives of the study. I would like to thank Dr. Kritsonis for helping my paper “come alive” and to become a more focused writer. I would also like to thank Dr. Herrington for helping me to understand protocol. I would have never finished this chapter in my life without my great aunt, Ola Smith (T-Nanny) who lovingly cared for my infant daughter and toddler son while I attended class. I am grateful to the host of family and friends who were emotionally, spirtitually, and physically supportive throughout this educational endeavor. First to my two sisters, Jane and Liz, who read every page and offered critical advice. To my friends, Ilene, Rhodena, Desiree, Barbara, and Cohort III who shared their educational experience to assist with editing and refining my words.
Finally, I would like to thank my husband and best friend, Kevin for praying and supporting me, and for believing in my dream to accomplish this, not only for me, but for our family.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT…………………………………………………………………….…...iii DEDICATION……………………………………………………………….……….v ACKNOWDLEGEMENTS………………………………....................................vi TABLE OF CONTENTS…………………………………………………………..viii LIST OF FIGURES……………………………………………………………….xvii LIST OF TABLES..………………..………………………………….................xvii CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………1 Statement of the Problem………………………………............................5 Purpose of the Study………………………………………………………..9 Research Questions……………………………………………………….10 Conceptual Framework……………………………………………………11 Disciplined People………………………………………………….12 Disciplined Thought………………………………………………...12 Disciplined Action…………………………………………………..12 Significance of Study……………..………………………………………..13 Limitations of the Study……………………………………………………13 Assumptions…………………………………………...............................15
Definition of Terms…………………………………………………………15 Organization of Study…………………………………………..…………20 CHAPTER II. REVIEW OF LITERATURE………………………….…………..21 Overview……………………………………………………………………21 Makeup of the Nation’s Schools………………………………………. ..23 Disciplined People…………………………………………………………26 Level 5 Leadership ………………………………………………..26 First Who…Then What……………………………………………32 Disciplined Thought ……………………………………………………….40 Confront the Brutal Facts…………………………………………40 Hedgehog Concept………………………………………………..47 Disciplined Action …………………………………………………………53 Culture of Discipline……………………………………………….54 Technology Accelerators………………………………………....66 Synopsis of Literature…………………………………………………….67 Output Results……..………………………………………………………83 Summary …………………………...……………………………………...86 CHAPTER III. METHOD………..………………………………………………..90
Overview……………... ………………….………………………………..90 Research Questions………………………………………………………92 Research Design……..…………………………………………………....92 Population and Sample…………………………………………………...94 Criteria for Sample ………………………………….…………….94 Grade Span………………………………………………………..96 Campus Size – Total Student Population………………………97 Location…………………………………………………………….98 Economically Disadvantaged Minority Percentages…………..98 Sampling Procedures………………………………………….....99 Regional Makeup of Schools Qualifying for Study…………..101 Schools in Study………….……………………………………..104 Instrumentation………………………………………………………….105 Validity and Reliability…………………………………………………..106 Research Procedures…………………………………………………..107 Data Collection and Data Analysis.………………………………...…109 Interview………………………………………………………….110 Coding Documents……………………………………………...112
Coding Categories……………………………….……………...113 Disciplined People………………………….…………….113 Coding Category 1……………………………….113 Coding Category 2……………………………….113 Disciplined Thought……………………………..……….113 Coding Category 3…………………………….....113 Coding Category 4……………………………….114 Coding Category 5……………………………….114 Coding Category 6……………………………….114 Coding Category 7……………………………….115 Coding Category 8……………………………….115 Coding Category 9……………………………….115 Disciplined Action…………………………………...……116 Coding Category 10……………………………...116 Coding Category 11………………………………116 Coding Category 12………………………………116 Coding Category 13………………………………116 Coding Category 14………………………………116
Coding Category 15………………………………117 Drawing Conclusions…………….………………………………………117 Displaying the Findings…………………………………………….……118 Trustworthiness……………………………………………………….….118 Summary………………………………………………………………….119 CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS OF DATA………………………………………….121 Introduction……………………………………………………………….121 Organization of Data Analysis………………………………………….122 Characteristics of Respondents………………………………………..122 Data Collected - Research Question 1………………………………..123 Interview Question 1: General Information…………………..124 Interview Questions 2-4: Performance Factors………..……124 Factors Contributing to School Performance ………..126 Elaboration of Top Factors ………….…………………129 Leadership – Exemplary/Recognized Schools….129 Leadership – Acceptable Schools………………..130 Teamwork – Exemplary/Recognized Schools…..131 Teamwork – Acceptable Schools…………………132
Data-driven Decisions – Exemplary/Recognized Schools…………………………………………….....133 Data-driven Decisions – Acceptable Schools……134 Student Intervention – Exemplary/Recognized Schools …………………………………………………….....135 Student Intervention – Acceptable Schools……...136 Factors Influencing Greatness in ECM Schools……….141 Interview Questions 5-7: Change/Transition……………….….141 Exemplary/Recognized Schools……………………..…..141 Acceptable Schools………………………………….……143 Interview Questions 8-13: Decision Making Process…….…..143 Exemplary/Recognized Schools…………………….…..143 Acceptable Schools………………………………….……145 Confidence Score…………………………………….…...146 Interview Question 16: Perception of Differences……….……147 Participant Perceptions of Differences in School Groups ……………………………………………………………....148 Exemplary/Recognized Schools………………………...149 Acceptable Schools………………………………………150
Data Collected - Research Question 2……………………………..…..151 Interview Question 18: Feeder Schools……………….………151 Exemplary/Recognized Schools………………………...151 Acceptable Schools………………………………………152 Summary…………………………………………………………………..153 CHAPTER V: FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS……156 Introduction………………………………………………………………..156 Summary of the Study…………………………………………………...156 Findings (Research Question 1)………………………………………..158 Disciplined People……………………………………………….160 Leadership Capacity…………………………………….161 Leadership Capacity (Transparent Stage)……………162 Things That Principals of High Performing Schools Do Differently………………………………………………..163 Leadership Capacity (Transitional Stage)……………164 Teamwork………………………………………………..165 Teamwork (Transparent Stage)……………………….165
Teamwork (Transitional Stage)………………………..166 Disciplined Thought……………………………………………..167 Data-Driven Decisions (Transparent Stage)………….168 Data-Driven Decisions (Transitional Stage)………….169 Disciplined Action……………………………………………….170 Individualized Student Intervention (Transparent Stage) ……………………………………………………………170 Individualized Student Intervention (Transitional Stage) ……………………………………………………………172 Summary of Findings………………………………………………... 172 Findings (Research Question 2)………………………………………173 Conclusions……………………………………………………………..174 Summary………………………………………………………………...175 Recommendations……………………………………………………..180 Leadership Training…..………………………………………..180 High Quality Educators………………………………………..181 Deeper Understandings via Data…………………………….182 Transparent Organizations……………………………………183
Suggestions for Future Research….…………………………………184 REFERENCES……………………………………….…………………………186 APPENDIXES.............................................................................................200 Appendix A: Requirements for Accountability Ratings……………..200 Appendix B: Permission to Use Interview Questions………………201 Appendix C: Interview Questions....................................................202 Appendix D: Interview Question Response Form…………………..204 Appendix E: Coding Matrix…………………………………….………206 Appendix F: Checklist Matrix: Predictors…………………………...208 Appendix G: Letter to Principals…………………..…………………..209 Appendix H: Principal Permission Form……………..………………..211 Appendix I: Informed Consent…………………..……….…………….212 Appendix J: IRB Approval Letter ………………………………….......214 Appendix K : Sample Interview Question Responses ………………215 Appendix L : Interview Responses – Exemplary and Recognized Schools……………………………………………………………………219 Appendix M : Interview Responses – Acceptable Schools…………229
LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Good to GreatTM Framework……………..………………….21 Figure 2: Factors Influencing Greatness in ECM Schools - Literature Review and Texas Requirements for High Performance…………….86 Figure 3: Distinguishing Factors……………………………………...125 Figure 4: Factors Influencing Greatness in ECM Schools – Research Findings………………………………………………………………….141 LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Synopsis of Literature……………………………..…………67 Table 2: Regional Makeup of Schools Qualifying for Study…..….101 Table 3: Schools in Study………………………………………..…..104 Table 4: Factors Contributing to School Performance………..…..126 Table 5: Elaboration of Top Factors Contributing to School Performance……………………………………………….…..……….137 Table 6: Participant Perceptions of Differences in School Groups.. …………………………………………………………………..……….148
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Background of the Problem How many effective schools would you have to see to be persuaded of the educability of poor children? If your answer is more than one, then I submit that you have reasons of your own for preferring to believe that pupil performance derives from family background instead of school response to family background. We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far. (Ronald Edmonds, Harvard University as cited in Bell, 2001) After countless performance accountability program implementations nationwide, the gap between economically-challenged populations of students and their more affluent counterparts continues (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). As a result of this disparity, American schools have been under scrutiny. Academic scores of minority groups, namely African Americans and Hispanics, continue to fall well below Caucasian students. In response, Texas and North Carolina led the process of implementing accountability standards in their schools. All students improved academically, but the racial gap remains (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003, p. 6). Several themes surfaced when
educators tried to explain the discrepancy in student achievement scores: unfunded mandates, teacher quality, parental support, unprepared entrants, racial isolation, and behavior concerns. Despite overwhelming obstacles, several schools with a large population of economically-challenged-minority (ECM) students have achieved academic excellence. These schools made remarkable transitions to becoming great. This study sought to find out how some ECM schools made the leap to superiority while others remained acceptable? There were enough low income schools that defied the trend of being low performing to indicate that the background of the student body does not have to determine the student’s achievement results (Kannapel & Clements, 2005). Although the goal of creating a high-performing school based on student outcomes had been part of the educational culture for years, it had not been the priority. Educational organizations had traditionally focused on management by objectives and a top-down direction of authority and decision making (Huberman & Miles, 1998). The scope was narrow, did not look to the future or school culture (DuFour, 2002), and did not focus on the needs and issues closest to the point of contact— the students (Elmore, 2002; Odden, 1995). According to a U. S. Census Bureau Report (2007), the poverty rate in 2006 was 12.3% revealing an increase from 11.7% in 2001. Poverty rate increases were noted most significantly in Blacks, 22.7% in 2001 to 24.3% in 2006; followed by non-Hispanic Whites, 7.8% to 8.2%, respectively. The poverty
rate decreased for Hispanics from 21.8% in 2001 to 20.6% in 2006. For children under 18 years old, the poverty rates increased from 16.3% in 2001 to 17.4% in 2006 (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor & Smith, 2007). A recent study showed a direct correlation between a person’s educational level and his/her socioeconomic status. According to Rouse and Barrow (2006), for low-income students, greater psychological costs, the cost of forgone income (continuing in school instead of getting a job), and borrowing costs all help to explain why these students attain less education than more privileged children. Essentially, when the poverty rate increases, the level of education weakens or remains unchanged. Considering the large percentage of K-12 public school children who are economically disadvantaged, a series of federal mandates were to equalize quality education for all. The U. S. government created an accountability system that was to dispel the myth that economically disadvantaged was synonymous with academically disadvantaged. The reality of the condition of schools in the United States had become a hot topic among educators, policy makers, community, and the business world since the inception of the accountability system under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. Through NCLB, every school was responsible for providing each child, no matter his or her ethnicity, socio economic status, or disability with a high quality education (U. S. Department of Education, 2002). What seemed to be a straight forward task was overwhelmingly problematic in schools considered highly
economically-challenged. The concept of low achieving schools was almost always coupled with high levels of poverty. Traditionally, achievement was associated with high parental education and high income, while lower socioeconomic status children, often termed “at-risk,” showed lower test scores (Payne & Biddle, 1999). Gaps in achievement increased as students became older. According to a recent study, only 18% of high school freshmen graduated in four years, went on to college, and earned an associate's or bachelor's degree (Stansbury, 2007). This percent was smaller for minorities. Although all 12 objectives provided in the Title I portion of NCLB were essential to exacting educational reform, this study was focused specifically on numbers one, two, three, and four: (1) ensuring that high-quality academic assessments are aligned with challenging state academic standards so that students, teachers, parents, and administrators can measure progress against common expectations for student academic achievement, (2) meeting the educational needs of low-achieving children in our nation’s highest poverty schools, (3) closing the achievement gap between high- and low-performing children, especially the achievement gaps between minority and non-minority students, and between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers, and (4) holding schools, local educational agencies, and states accountable for improving the academic achievement of all students (U. S. Department of Education, 2002).
Public schools in the United States have experienced major demographic shifts over the past years, many of which have forced the public school community to become more attentive to the ever changing needs of the new student population. Fifty years ago, Hispanic children represented no more that 2% of the school population. Today, a third of all American students are African American or Latino (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). With the growth of these minority groups, coupled with NCLB’s requirements that each subgroup show academic success, school districts had to address the academic deficiencies of lower performing African American and Hispanic students. In his Good to Great™ study (2001), Jim Collins sought the answer to similar questions regularly pondered by educators: “Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?” (front cover flap). The same question has been applied to schools that demonstrate successful patterns of student learning. Evidence depicted that some schools in these high-poverty and highminority areas were indeed able to educate poor and minority students to high levels of student achievement (Ali & Jerald, 2001). These schools were models of what great schools look like; unfortunately they were rare. Statement of the Problem Although Texas’ accountability system has been a model used by other states, it has not been able to eliminate the gaps between minority students and
other more affluent sub-groups (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). According to a Texas Education Agency Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Performance Report (2007), scores for third grade students in each sub group increased from April 2003 to April 2007. The gap between groups decreased minimally. In 2007, third grade White students scored 12% higher than Hispanic students, 21% higher than African American students, and 15% higher than economically disadvantaged students. These gaps were more extreme in the subject areas of mathematics and science and in the upper grades. For example, in 2007 on all TAKS test taken by eighth graders, 77% of White students met standards, whereas 43% of African American, 49% of Hispanic, and 46% of economically disadvantaged students met standards. The achievement gap continued to look dismal for eleventh graders. On all TAKS taken by eleventh graders in 2007, 83% of White students met standards compared to 52% of African Americans, 57% of Hispanics, and 54% of economically disadvantaged students (Texas Education Agency, 2007) Many school districts resisted the notion that standardized test were the best way to measure student achievement because they were largely excluded from how school accountability laws were designed (DeBray, 2005). Districts supply a great amount of data to guide school reform. Researchers believe educators should be included in national efforts to close gaps between racial and socioeconomic groups (Sunderman, Kim, and Orfield, 2005). The movement to use standards, assessments, and accountability was revisited and
revived with the enactment and reauthorization of NCLB. This movement brought about a system to measure student achievement based on rigid academic standards and curriculum (Sunderman, Kim, & Orfield, 2005). Although excellence was the standard for every school, between the years 2004-2007 there were many economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools that were performing below the mark in Texas and a few that were considered successful (Texas Education Agency, 2007). The concept of a lowperforming school was nearly always coupled with the phrase economicallychallenged. School systems were experiencing pressures to fill performance gaps within this population. The No Child Left Behind Act gave students attending low-performing schools the option to transfer into higher-performing ones (U. S. Department of Education, 2002). According to Lubienski and Weitzel (2008), public schools compete with private schools for their enrollment. Parents and the public continue to look for successful schools to heighten the chances of their students experiencing academic success. In the 39th Annual Phi Delta Kappa Poll of the Public’s Attitudes towards the Public Schools (Rose & Gallup, 2007), 68% of those polled believed the law was hurting the performance of schools or making no difference. The poll indicated that respondents “understand what needs to be done to close the achievement gap and that the methods identified – including more time, more assistance, and increased time outside the regular school day – will require a considerable additional investment in schools.” (p. 42)
Craig, Cairo, and Butler (2005) suggested a different view of the “achievement gap.” They found that it was not simply the difference in average performance between two groups of students, but an academic discrepancy across the range of performance. They recommended that to narrow the achievement gap all students must be the focus. Researchers that examined successful schools found common factors. Barr and Parrett (2007) suggested eight universal features found in highperforming, high poverty schools: effective leadership, community partnerships, high expectations, student focus, aligned curriculum, data-driven decisions, instructional capacity, and reorganization of time. Waits (2006) stated that “Beat the Odd” schools consisted of: focused principals, data utilization to support individual student needs, streamlined vision aligned with things they could change, and results oriented staff. Good and successful schools were academically focused and valued time devoted to instruction. The percentages of students identified as economically disadvantaged in Texas schools was fairly consistent between the years 2004-2006. In 2006, Texas’ number of economically disadvantaged students was at an all-time high of 2,503,755 students. This number represented 55.6% of the total student population. This showed an increase from the 52.8% in 2004 (Texas Education Agency, Department of Performance Reporting, 2007).
Purpose of the Study The education system has the opportunity to significantly improve the accessibility and quality of education for its entire population in order to enrich their future. One of the goals of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education” (U. S. Department of Education, 2002, p. 15). There seems to be a strong correlation that exists between high performing economically-challenged minority schools and the goals of NCLB, as represented by accountability measures (Sunderman, Kim, & Orfield, 2005). In reality, the majority of ECM schools depicted a much weaker relationship. The purpose of this study was to explore the distinguishing factors that exist among successful ECM schools compared to similar acceptable performing schools. The typical school district in Texas had one or more schools that were considered academically unacceptable and/or not meeting adequate yearly progress (Texas Education Agency, 2006). According to the Texas Education Agency Accountability State Summary Report (2006), 7.1% of schools in Texas were Exemplary, 35.5% Recognized, 45.1% Academically Acceptable, 3.6% Academically Unacceptable, and 8.7% not rated. These levels of the state accountability ratings were based predominantly on student scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, attendance, and graduation. It was clearly evident in this report that as students move up through grade levels, scores tend to decrease. Of the 267 schools receiving a rating of academically unacceptable
in 2006, 25% were elementary schools, 30% were middle or junior high schools, 39% were high schools, and 6% were multi-level. Between the years of 2004-2007 in the Texas school system, a number of ECM schools performed at recognized and exemplary levels (Texas Education Agency, 2007). Faced with accountability standards, several of these schools had taken bold steps to ensure high levels of student performance. These bold steps closed gaps in academic success, in educational excellence, and in proving that a high quality education is accessible to all. This study explored the distinguishing factors that exist among successful ECM schools compared to similar acceptable performing schools. Research Questions The research questions that were addressed in this study were consistent with the findings in Jim Collins’ Good-to-Great™ study. They include: 1. What distinguishing characteristics predict that economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools will be recognized or exemplary in the state of Texas? 2. What practices associated with the transition from elementary to middle schools are predictive of student achievement in high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) feeder groups?
Conceptual Framework: Good to Great™ Jim Collins’ Good to GreatTM Framework™ was used in this study. The researcher explored whether best practices found in the United States greatest companies were replicated in high performing schools with economicallychallenged-minority (ECM) populations. In Jim Collins’ (2001) study of 11 highly productive companies that were considered leaders in their respective markets, consistent emerging concepts surfaced. His study suggested that each of the 11 companies “defied gravity” and converted long-term mediocrity into long-term superiority. The universal distinguishing characteristics that caused these companies to become the leaders in their markets were captured in the Good to Great™ philosophy. Collins (2001) uncovered three stages that led to excellence: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. In each of these broad categories are two major concepts that explain the process. Disciplined people include 1) Level 5 Leadership and 2) first who then what factors. The disciplined thought stage involves 3) confronting the brutal facts and the 4) Hedgehog concept. Included in the disciplined action stage are 5) a culture of discipline and 6) technology accelerators. These concepts were seamlessly integrated throughout the entire route to greatness. Greatness did not happen overnight; instead it was achieved by a
series of actions, events, and thoughts. The following paragraphs briefly explain the six factors within the three stages that were essential to the effectiveness of the Good to GreatTM concept. Disciplined People Level 5 Leaders were self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy. These leaders were an ironic blend of personal humility and professional will. The great companies made sure to hire the right people for the right positions before setting a vision or creating the strategy of how to reach the companies’ goal (Collins, 2001). Disciplined Thought Each Good to GreatTM company maintained unwavering faith that they would prevail in the end, no matter the difficulties, while always confronting the brutal facts of its current reality. The Hedgehog Concept reflected a deep understanding of those things that individuals were deeply passionate about, what they could be the best in the world at, and what drove their economic engine (Collins, 2001). Disciplined Action In the culture of discipline, disciplined people with discipline thought combined with an ethic of entrepreneurship yielded great performance. Technology accelerators were found to have never been a primary role in achieving excellence, but when carefully selected assisted in transforming companies (Collins, 2001).
Significance of the Study One of the goals of NCLB was “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education” (U. S. Department of Education, 2002, p. 15). The education system has the distinct opportunity to significantly improve the accessibility and quality of education for its entire people and to enrich their future. This study made a significant attempt to highlight the factors that lead to academic success in economically-challenged minority schools. This study will be helpful, to educational leaders, teachers, and parents in ECM schools, with formulating a consistent and strategic school improvement process. By understanding the needs of the students that come from ECM environments and the benefits of a quality education, educators and students can be assured of successful academic results. Moreover, this research will provide recommendations for immediate actions that can be implemented by schools and school districts to improve their educational outcome. Limitations of the Study The limitations of the study include: (1) During the selection process, all schools in Texas were sorted primarily by the number of students that were economically disadvantaged in the 2006-07 school year, then on their state accountability rating, then on the total number of minority students. There were few high schools that met the combined requirements needed for this study: recognized or exemplary rating, size,
location, and over 50% economically-challenged minority population. Those that met the criteria had a small student population; therefore, high schools were not included in this study. (2) The selected schools were asked voluntarily to take part in the study through purposive sampling. Limitations included a small sample size and inherent bias among the participants. (3) The leadership team in six of the selected schools experienced administrative turnover over the past three years. (4) Feeder groups were similar but not identical in size and demographics due to the varying populations of the high achieving ECM schools. (5) A small number of years (2004-2007) of data were used for the study. In order to maintain the internal consistency of the accountability rating, this study was based on the years after the inception of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in 2004. The TAKS was used as the main indicator for school accountability ratings. (6) The sample was selected based on the final accountability rating rather than specific indicators like attendance, drop-out rate, and subgroup test scores. (7) The final sample of schools was selected from the same educational Region in Texas. The critical analysis revealed there were a sufficient number of highperforming feeder groups in Region 4 to provide ample data to answer the research questions. The other two regions that were included in the selection process did not have as many feeder groups from which to choose.
(8) The application of all of the components of the Good to GreatTM corporate model may not be easily and fully replicated in the school system. (9) The subjectivity of the researcher as the measurement instrument. Assumptions For the purpose of this research, these were the assumptions: (1) The responses given in interviews were provided freely and honestly. (2) Selected schools for the study had both a large population of minority and economically disadvantaged students. Although the Academic Excellence Indicator System categorized students by subgroups (eg. all students, African American, Hispanic, White, economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and special education), there was no category for non-economically disadvantaged students. Therefore, the researcher assumed that each school’s economically disadvantaged category included a combination of ethnic groups. (3) Although there were differences between specific minority groups of students, this study grouped African American and Hispanic students into one group that was referred to as a minority group. Definition of Terms Achievement Gap: A significant disparity in educational achievement and attainment among groups of students as determined by a standardized measure (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2008). The standardized measure used by the Texas Education Agency is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).
Charter school: A government funded school that has been granted a “charter” exempting it from selected state or local rules and regulations. It may have been newly created, or it may previously have been a public or private school. It was typically governed by a group or organization (e.g., a group of educators, a corporation, or a university) under a contract with the state. In return for funding and autonomy, the school must meet accountability standards. A school's charter is reviewed (typically every 3 to 5 years) and can be revoked if guidelines on curriculum and management are not followed or the standards are not met (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2008). Comparison schools: Schools that were similar in demographic data: percentage of economically disadvantaged and minority populations; school size; and campus location, but different in academic achievement scores. For example, “matched pairs” was the terminology used in the Arizona Study – schools that were alike in most ways, yet different in the performance measurement that was of interest (Waits et al., 2006). Economically-challenged student: A student who was eligible for the National School Lunch Program/free/reduced-price school lunch: (a) eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Program; (b) from a family with annual income at or below the federal poverty line (e.g. annual income for a family of three is less than $22,880); (c) eligible for
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or other public assistance; and (d) eligible for benefits under the Food Stamp Act of 1977 (McMillion and Roska, 2007). Economically-challenged Minority School (ECM): A school that serves a significant proportion of low-income and/or minority students (African American or Hispanic) students (Education Trust, 2007). Feeder groups: A student's street address determines the schools that he or she will attend. Every residential address has a School Feeder Pattern, which assigns students to an elementary, Intermediate, Middle, and High School. School feeder patterns designate the schools that students follow as they graduate from one level to the next. The goal is to keep students together as they feed from elementary school, to middle school, and finally to high school. Middle school and high school zones are comprised of the elementary attendance zones that feed into them (Dallas Independent School District, 2008). Leadership team: This is the staff that direct and manage the operation of a particular school, including principals, assistant principals, other assistants; and those who supervise school operations, assign duties to staff members, supervise and maintain the records of the school, coordinate school instructional activities with those of the education agency, including department chairpersons. (National Center for Education Statistics, School and District Glossary, 2008)
Minority group: Students belonging to a racial or ethnic group other than White (non-Hispanic). This study focuses on African American and Hispanic students. Racial/ethnic group is indicated by either self-identification, as in data collected by the Census Bureau or by observer identification, as in data collected by the Office for Civil Rights. Black/African American: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups in Africa. Normally excludes persons of Hispanic origin except for tabulations produced by the Census Bureau. Hispanic: A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. (National Center for Educational Statistics, Digest of Educational Statistics, 2008) Minority school status: A measure of the level of historically disadvantaged minority student groups being served in a school. Low minority schools have less than 5% disadvantaged minority students. Medium minority schools have 5 to 50% disadvantaged minority students. High minority schools have over 50% disadvantaged minority students (Shettle et al., 2005). No Child Left Behind Act: “The reauthorization in 2001 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The act contains many education reform-related measures reflecting an emphasis on accountability, state flexibility and local control, public school choice, and teaching methods.” (Friedman, 2004, p. 127).
Region: In order to serve the large number of individual school districts and charter schools in Texas, Texas Education Agency is divided into 20 regions, each containing an Educational Service Center (ESC). The ESC’s serve as a liaison between the districts and TEA headquarters, providing support to the districts such as conducting workshops and technical assistance (Texas Education Agency, 2008). Student Academic Achievement: Refers to the performance of all students in the Accountability Subset of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or State Developed Alternative Assessment II. This is included in ratings calculation (Texas Education Agency, Accountability Manual, 2006). State Developed Alternative Assessment (SDAA II): This test assesses special education students in grades 3-10 who are receiving instruction in the state's curriculum but for whom the TAKS test is not an appropriate measure of academic progress. Tests are given in the areas of reading/English language arts, writing, and mathematics, on the same schedule as TAKS (Texas Education Agency, 2006). Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS): Standardized assessment given by the Texas Education Agency. All students are tested in reading and mathematics from grade 3 to11, annually. Social studies and science are only tested in designated years (Texas Education Agency, Accountability Manual, 2006).
Texas’ school accountability ratings: There are four ratings: Exemplary: signifies superior performance by students; Recognized: signifies solid academic performance by students. Acceptable: signifies partial mastery of academic standards by students. Unacceptable: signifies weak academic performance by students. A major component of the accountability rating is student performance on the TAKS and SDAA II (Texas Education Agency, 2007). Organization of the Study The study was organized into five chapters and appendixes. In Chapter I, the problem was introduced with an explanation of its background and relevancy, the purpose of the study, research questions, the conceptual framework, limitations, assumptions, and the definitions of terms. Chapter II was a review of the relevant literature. It addressed the three major categories in the Good-to-Great™ Framework as they relate to student achievement in ECM schools: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Chapter III presented the method used in the study, including the research design; population and sampling procedure; and the instruments used for the interview process, together with the information on reliability and validity. Chapter IV focused attention on presenting the findings and analysis of data for each of the established research questions. Chapter V was devoted to summarizing the findings, conclusions, implications for practice, theory, policy, and recommendations for future research.
CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW Overview Literature pertinent to highly economically-challenged, high minority schools and their relationship to academic performance was given significant documentation. This review followed the format of Jim Collins’ (2001) Good to Great™ framework in an effort to give school leaders researched data that worked toward transforming acceptable schools into recognized and exemplary school. The framework consisted of three major factors that influence greatness: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. A combination of these three factors yielded results of superior performance, distinctive impact on communities, and lasting endurance. Input Principles Stage 1: Disciplined People Level 5 Leadership First Who, Then What Stage 2: Disciplined Thought Confront the Brutal Facts The Hedgehog Concept Stage 3: Discipline Action Culture of Discipline Technology Accelerators Figure 1. Good to GreatTM Framework. Output Results Delivers Superior Performance relative to its mission Makes a Distinctive Impact on the communities it touches Achieves Lasting Endurance beyond any leader, idea or setback
The literature review was organized through a thorough search of several professional databases. The types of sources used include books, articles, dissertations, Internet resources, government and organizational reports. Although Collins’ findings dealt specifically with companies that made the leap to greatness, this literature review outlined and summarized the literature that related to the transformation of schools from merely “economically-challenged” to “exemplary.” Similar to Collins’ (2001) findings that there was no single defining action, innovation, or miracle that elevated companies to greatness, Reeves (2007) found that school improvement in high performing ECM schools “was not the result of a short burst of energy by a few people who soon burned out, but rather the result of steady, sustained efforts” (p. 87). Likewise, Waits et al. (2006) found, there were no easy answers or “magic bullets,” instead the answer came after personnel selected the most appropriate programs and actions for their population and persisted with it. “What performance requires is hard, focused, purposeful work. If diligence, persistence and commitment are lacking, ingenuity and a good program are wasted. It is focus and hard work that matter most” (Waits et al., 2006, p. 36). The following literary syntheses along with the findings in this study should lead to a greater understanding of critical strategies and best practices
for educational leaders, individual educators, schools, and districts toward reforming weak and economically-challenged minority schools into exemplary performers. Makeup of the Nation’s Schools Before going in depth into the synthesis of literature, it was important to understand the makeup of the nation’s high-poverty, high-minority schools that have high student performance. In a national analysis of public schools conducted in 2000, Jerald (2001) identified a total of 4,577 schools where students were performing in the top third among all schools in the U. S. at the same grade level in reading and/or mathematics; and had either a 50% makeup of low-income students and/or a 50% makeup of African American or Latino students. He referred to this group of schools as “high flying” (p. 1). “Altogether, these schools educate approximately 2,070,000 public school students, including: about 1,280,000 low-income students; about 564,000 African American students; and about 660,000 Latino students” (p. 1). Jerald (2001) shared that nearly 50% of high-performing, high poverty schools were located in rural areas. This statistic was quite different from the location of high-performing, high-poverty, high minority schools. Fifty-three percent of the schools that included a high minority population were found in urban areas. Of the 2,305 high-performing, high-minority schools identified in the Dispelling the Myth Revisited study by Jerald (2001), 720 were found in
Texas, with California coming in second with 236 schools. When poverty was considered in the equation, Texas had 454 schools with 112 located in California. To progress in closing achievement gaps, it was necessary to understand the severity of the inequity that exists. The Education Trust’s (2001) statistics claim: For every 100 Asian kindergartners, 94 will graduate from high school, 80 will complete some college, and 49 will obtain at least a bachelor’s degree. Of every 100 Black kindergartners, 87 will graduate from high school, 54 will complete some college, and 16 will earn a bachelor’s degree. Of every 100 Latino kindergartners, 62 will graduate from high school, 29 will complete some college, and six will obtain a bachelor’s degree. Of every 100 White kindergartners, 91 will graduate from high school, 62 will complete at least some college, and 30 will obtain at least a bachelor’s degree. It appears there are two public school systems – one for the poor and minority students and the other for the rest of the students (Bracey, 2002). Research done by the National Center for Education Statistics (2001), reveals that over 50% of all minority high school students exhibit some forms of deficiencies: Only one percent of Black 17-year-olds can comprehend information from a specialized text, such as the science section of a daily newspaper. This compares with just over 8% of White youth of the same age. In elementary algebra, which is considered a gateway course for college preparation, only 1% of Black students can successfully solve a problem
involving more than one basic step in its solution; 10% of White students can solve such a problem. Although 70% of White high school students have mastered computations with fractions, only 3% of Black students have done so. Some high poverty public schools were referred to as “break-the-mold” schools. In these schools, students were achieving well on standardized tests. Even though there were a few in number, their record of success suggests that radical educational innovations could make a significant difference in the lives of inner-city students (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). The findings of a study conducted in Baltimore and Boston proved the necessity to provide a high quality of education to all students at all schools. The results showed initial benefits for moving students from high poverty neighborhood schools to schools located in low poverty areas. Long-term data showed that these students did no better academically than those students who remained in the high poverty schools (Ferryman, Briggs, & Popkin, 2008). Population changes sweeping the state require creative solutions to address old educational challenges. The population projections of the state forecast the greatest growth to occur in urban areas and along the Texas border. According to a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Report (2007), by 2008, Texas will become a minority-majority state. “Hispanics will account for more than 40% of the state’s population. Blacks will represent 11%. Whites will be 45%. Other groups, including Asian-Americans, will represent 4%” (p. 9). The trend was for the state’s Hispanic and Black populations to enroll in higher
education at rates well below that of the White population. Texas’ overall educational enrollment and success rates will have to rise more rapidly than ever to avoid a decline in educational levels and to continue competing in the global marketplace (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2007). The makeup of the nation’s schools suggests an urgent need for the public school system to address educational gaps and learning disparities that exist between economically-challenged minority students and other student groups. The remainder of this chapter will categorize the research findings that address this growing educational concern. The following categories will include the disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action that have proven successful in economically-challenged minority schools. Disciplined People Collins (2001) groups together two major concepts under the category of disciplined people – “Level 5 Leaders” and “First Who then What.” He describes the leadership in the good-to-great companies as being modest and reserved. These leaders were individuals who apportioned the reward for their companies’ greatness to others. Collins found that great companies were sure to hire the right people for the right positions before setting a vision or creating the strategy of how to reach the company goal. Level 5 Leadership In the area of disciplined people, each of the Good to GreatTM organizations had “level 5 leadership” and a “first who then what” philosophy.
“Level 5 Leadership was described as being self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy – these leaders were a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will” (Collins, 2001, p. 12-13). Similar to the strong leadership found in these corporate organizations, the literature reveals the contributions and necessity of effective leadership in schools. Williams (2003) clearly makes a connection between having strong and effective leadership in schools that need to focus on eliminating achievement gaps. An effective principal was able to design a “strategic framework to improve curriculum and instruction while fulfilling other responsibilities” (p. 40). Quite obvious was the long list of duties and responsibilities that any school leader holds. This list of tasks and obligations increased in depth and urgency when the leader was accountable for an underachieving school. Certain characteristics have surfaced to reveal what leaders looked like in these types of schools. Williams (2003) proposed that a strong leader delegates and distributes formal decision-making authority to other school personnel. Williams’ (2005) study of high performing California elementary schools revealed that principal and district leadership played a significant role in the achievement of students. In general, the principal role had been redefined to focus on the effective management of the school improvement plan. The findings also pointed to the district’s leadership, accountability, and support.
District leadership set high expectations for schools including growth targets. They provided achievement data to schools. Principal and teacher performance evaluations depended on student data. “The research evidence consistently demonstrates that the quality of leadership determines the motivation of teachers and the quality of teaching in the classroom” (Harris, James, Gunraj, Clarke & Harris, 2006, p. 121). The school leader was considered to be a major contributing factor in schools that were improving in challenging circumstances. The OCTET project that began in 2000 involved eight schools with student populations that consisted of 40% or more eligible for free or reduced lunch, 39% or more with special education needs, and assessed as having good management. The purpose of the project was to create “an intensive program of intervention and improvement that could potentially be replicated in other schools facing ‘extreme challenges’” (Harris, et al., 2006, p. 19). Throughout the rigorous and effective school improvement process several leadership themes emerged. The overarching conclusion was that effective leaders demonstrate an indirect but powerful influence on the effective and efficient operations of the school and on the achievement of students (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2000). Other crucial leadership findings in the OCTET study included: cooperation and alignment of others (inside and outside the school) to the vision and values – all students could learn and the school had the potential to offset any challenges or disadvantages that were brought to the table; people-centered
leadership that involved respect for all, fairness and equality, caring for the wellbeing of the students and staff, integrity, and honesty; distribution of leadership by involving others in decision-making and giving professional autonomy; prioritization of building the capacity for improved teaching and learning which negated the notion of a cultural deficit; continuous professional development of all including non-teaching staff; communicated and modeled high standards for teaching and teaching performance; development and maintenance of relationships with members of the school community (Harris, et. al, 2006). Similar to the leaders of the good-to-great companies, leaders in the OCTET schools illuminated a commitment to others through their openness and honesty. They often engaged in self-reflection and criticism and apportioned their due responsibility or blame in situations where the expected goal was not attained. They regularly celebrated the hard work of others daily. According to Bell (2001), leadership -- at both district and school levels -seemed to make the difference in HP2 (high performing-high poverty) schools. “Described by one principal as ‘moral leadership,’ it was a vision that what adults do in schools plays a major role in shaping children's lives and preparing them for lifelong success.” (¶15) In successful schools, district and campus leaders played an instrumental role in setting the tone for shared goals of high standards and high expectations. Leadership in the HP2 schools was characterized by: Using flexibility in hiring staff and setting the budget to implement the instructional program;
serving as a force for creating a safe and orderly environment conducive to adult and student learning; obtaining and making available the many resources needed to ensure that the school’s stakeholders were successful; articulating and modeling the vision of what a successful school ought to look like and communicating that vision to staff, students and parents, and finally, sharing decision making responsibilities with staff (Bell, 2001). In the report from the Prichard Committee of Academic Excellence, Kannapel and Clements (2005) found that the eight high-performing schools in their study had principals with different leadership styles. Some of the common elements among the campus leaders included collaborative approaches to decision-making, absence of big egos, and a focus on student academic success. Principal preparedness programs and human resource departments frequently articulate a list of characteristics of a good principal. Principals need to be able to manage people and budgets, evaluate and coach teachers, develop curriculum, be knowledgeable in child psychology and child development, lead a team, have strong public speaking and writing skills, help resolve conflicts, communicate with parents, discipline and encourage students, had integrity and were up to date on school law and regulations (Barr and Parrett, 2007). According to the synthesis of research compiled by Barr and Parrett in 2007, topping the list of practices found in successful high-performing, high-
poverty schools was the capacity to ensure effective district and school leadership. In the Louisiana School Effectiveness Study (LSES), Schools Make a Difference, leadership was referenced as a crucial component of successful high poverty schools. More specifically, these schools had principals who engaged parents and communities, built and sustained instructional capacity, aligned, monitored and managed the curriculum, and understood and held high expectations for students (Barr and Parrett, 2007). Michael Fullan (2006) described “Turnaround Leadership” as the leadership activities that initiated positive and productive change that improved student performance in previously underperforming schools. These schools had challenging circumstances, sometimes not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP). Ansell (2004) summarized key factors of leadership that affect improvement in situations of turnaround success. Turnaround leaders seek advice from experts in the area of school improvement from schools in similar challenging situations; appoint school leaders that have experience with similar school improvement; demonstrate strong intrapersonal and interpersonal skills; were willing to seek external support and team solutions; conduct a needs assessment and create corrective strategies; consistently monitor, evaluate, and improve the plan; create and articulate clearly expected behaviors, tasks, and targets for everyone; and involve external services, if needed. An ethical approach to schooling was often modeled and shared by principals, district leaders and faculty. Respect, high expectations, support, hard
work and empowerment were key words that apply to both faculty and students. According to a study conducted by the Center for the Future of Arizona, it was noted that principals help schools succeed not when they were flashy superstars, but when they stay focused on the things that truly improve schools and keep pushing ahead, no matter what the roadblocks (Waits, et al., 2006). Finally, on the topic of leadership, the Arizona study suggests embedding a teacher leadership component in the decision making process. In this process, teachers were involved in analyzing the data, finding good creative solutions, aligning resources, and creating an on-going process for change. Barr and Parrett (2007) point out that “effective leadership was the anchor for each of the other essential elements in the pattern of improvement” (p. 75). First Who…Then What According to Collins (2001), organizations that made the leap to superiority, implemented the “first who…then what” philosophy. This particular action builds the backbone for the rest of the framework. “They first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – and then they figured out where to drive it.” (p. 13) Hiring the most effective and qualified people and moving them to the right positions was the primary goal of great companies. Creating a vision was secondary. In “Schools that Learn,” Peter Senge (2000) stated that every organization was shaped by the way its members think and interact. “If you
want to improve a school system, before you change the rules, look first to the ways that people think and interact together” (p. 19). In a recent Time magazine article, Wallis (2008) reports that “between a quarter and a third of new teachers quit within their first three years on the job, and as many as 50% leave poor, urban schools within five years” (p. 31). Many believe that hiring in an economically-challenged school was like filling a bucket with a huge hole in the bottom. Wallis (2008) shares that in poor districts the attrition rates were so high, that schools usually were forced to take anybody just to have an adult in the classroom. The good-to-great leaders did not hire for the sake of hiring. Instead, their method was “Let’s take the time to make rigorous A+ selections right up front. If we get it right, we’ll do everything we can to try to keep them on board for a long time.” (Collins, 2001, p. 57) “When in doubt, don’t hire-keep looking.” (Collins, 2001, p. 63) This practice seems to be very similar to the hiring strategies of several award winning secondary school principals. Many think that selecting staff was one of the most important of their responsibilities. According to Harris’ (2006) research on best practices of successful principals, “Effective hiring goes beyond selecting teachers: Savvy principals will employ secretaries, custodians, food service personnel, para-educators, and teacher aides who embrace the overall mission of the school.” (p. 10) Another principal suggested, “Hire wisely. Use an interview team, and don’t second-guess your gut. Keep looking until you are satisfied.” (p.3)
With that in mind, what should principals look for in getting teachers “on and off the bus”? Research suggests that hiring and retaining good teachers was the single most important factor in boosting achievement, more important than class size, the dollars spent per student or the quality of textbooks and materials (Wallis, 2008). Ingersoll (2004) reported that recruiting more teachers will not solve staffing shortages if teachers continue to leave the profession in large numbers. In order to keep the right teachers in the right positions, Ingersoll’s (2004) findings suggest that schools must turn their attention to retention rather than recruitment. According to his study on high poverty urban schools, over one fifth of the faculty leave each year for reasons such as compensation, inadequate support for school administrators, too many instructional interruptions, student discipline problems, and limited faculty input into school decision-making. These areas may serve as starting points for school leaders. In a Tennessee study, the best teachers were those whose students learned the most over the course of the year, and the worst teachers were those whose students learned the least (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). That seems to be a good measure to determine whether teachers remain “on the bus,” but it becomes a bit more difficult to hire new teachers, which seems to be an ever present challenge in high economically-challenged minority schools. The Education Trust argues that “disproportionately large numbers of our
weakest teachers” have been “systematically assigned” to minority and poor children (Haycock, 2000, p. 10). It was easier to accomplish the “getting the right people on the bus-and wrong people off the bus” strategy when a school was starting from scratch, but a much harder challenge when schools were already in existence and infected with a poor climate and culture. Collins’ (2001) suggests that “the best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led-yes. But not tightly managed.” (p. 56) The OCTET study has served as a good example of making the development of staff a major step in the school improvement process. The majority of the funding used in the project was allocated for professional development of teachers including the opportunity to increase leadership capacity among the staff. According to Collins (2001), a key principle in making practical decisions about people was that “when you know you need to make a change, act.” (p. 63) He found a sense of obligation to the right people in the attitude of the good-togreat leaders. “Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people. Worse, it can drive away the best people.” (p. 56) Principals and other administrators deal with difficult situations surrounding inappropriate actions or work habits of their staff. Effective principals meet the truth head-on, not allowing unethical activities to hinder
student and overall school progress. They collect facts, listen, care, discover the truth, seek input regarding the most effective resolution, document, expect change, monitor, and express hope. Often, it was necessary to move beyond hope to reprimand, suspension or dismissal of an employee (Harris, 2006). Evidenced in many of the studies included in this synthesis was the power of people who provide an environment of high expectations and a sense of no-excuses. Poplin and Soto-Hinman (2005) found that students' high scores on California Standards Test were related to teacher behaviors such as being demanding, fast paced, using questioning strategies and direction instruction. In Wilson and Corbett’s (2001) study of Philadelphia schools, Teachers’ refusal to accept any excuses for failure separated the classrooms in which students succeeded from those in which they did not…The teacher, according to students, acted out of a determination to promote success…(Teachers) ‘stayed on students’ until they got it (pp. 120-121). When the teachers at Philadelphia’s Mastery Charter School at Shoemaker decided that they would take charge of their low performing school in order to turn it around, two significant changes were implemented: high expectations and consistency. For example, teachers decided to extend the school day for those students who failed to do their homework. On the second day of school, 75% of the 225 seventh and eighth graders remained an hour
after school. After a full week of enforcing the homework rule, students began taking homework seriously (USA Today, 2008). In many of the turnaround schools, teachers that showed the greatest gains in student achievement could be described as having the ability to: engage the whole child, individualize instruction, motivate, provide student centered lessons, and steadily raise expectations. Fullan (2006) answers the question of how to get teachers motivated for change. The answer has to be deep engagement with other colleagues and with mentors in exploring, refining, and improving their practice as well as setting up an environment in which this not only can happen but is encouraged, rewarded, and pressed to happen (p. 57). Districts often tried other methods of getting teachers to buy-in to the idea of change – teacher incentives and higher salaries. Higher pay was always a benefit, but it does not play a significant role in school improvement. Even though the federal government mandates stricter accountability standards, “cultures do not change by mandate; they change by the specific displacement of existing norms, structures, and processes by others; the process of cultural change depends fundamentally on modeling the new values and behavior that you expect to displace the existing ones” (Elmore, 2004, p. 11). Although Collins’ study showed that compensation did not play a major role in the good-to-great transformations, it does, however, play into the equation of keeping the right people “on the bus.” For example, KIPP Academy,
uses budgetary creativeness to pay its teachers 20% more than teachers in other schools (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003, p. 47). Hanushek, Kain and Rivkin (2004) found little or no evidence that the teachers who move to schools with higher salaries were of systematically higher quality as measured by value added to student achievement. Despite what some research says, Texas has started a program to provide incentive pay for teachers in high-performing, high poverty schools in an effort to link compensation to student achievement (McNeil, 2006). Although over 50 schools in Texas have turned down money from the state's incentivepay plan for teachers, the majority of schools agreed that it was a benefit and chose to receive the incentive grants (Tonn, 2006). Another study showed that “only 3% of the contributions teachers made to student learning were easily correlated with experience or degrees earned” (Rosenberg, 1991, p. 50). Leaders become responsible for each child when he or she selects, develops, and assigns staff based on student needs. The dismal reality was that schools have an overwhelming and difficult task to guarantee a staff of disciplined people in an economically-challenged school. High poverty schools have significantly fewer highly qualified teachers and lose them at a greater rate over time. According to a research team at Duke University, high poverty schools not only had teachers who were less experienced, but they have more teachers teaching out-of their licensure area (Ladd, Clotfelter, & Vigdor, 2006). More experienced, highly trained teachers
often choose to work in more affluent schools. In some schools with a large population of minority students, many of the math and science teachers do not meet their state’s minimum requirements for certification (Fenwick, 2001). In “Good to GreatTM,” Collins’ (2001) advises organizations to “put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems” (p. 58). In many of the high performing economically-challenged schools, successful mentoring programs have been in place where veteran teachers and/or principals mentor new teachers. These types of supportive programs have proven valuable in retaining teachers on economically-challenged campuses. According to Patton and Kritsonis (2006), beyond mentor support, teachers must feel as though they are being supported by their principal and other staff on campus. This reiterates Collins’ idea of the best people working on the biggest opportunities. In this case that involves supporting new teachers in an effort to retain them and to increase their effectiveness. Barr and Parrett (2007) found the school culture to impact underachieving students, but also impacted the new teacher and caused her to remain on the campus or leave the school, and oftentimes the career. In the case of Mead Valley Elementary, Reeves (2007) found professional accountability. Ineffective teaching was not tolerated. It was very clear that effective instructional leadership and professional excellence was rewarded and recognized, but, if necessary, ineffective teachers were fired.
Disciplined Thought Each Good to GreatTM company maintained unwavering faith that they would prevail in the end, no matter the difficulties, while always confronting the brutal facts of its current reality. The Hedgehog Concept reflects a deep understanding of those things that individuals were deeply passionate about, at which they can excel, and what drives their economic engine. Confront the Brutal Facts If the purpose of our schools is to prepare drones to keep the U. S. economy going, then the prevailing curricula and instructional methods are probably adequate. If, however, we want to help students become thoughtful, caring citizens who might be creative enough to figure out how to change the status quo rather than maintain it, we need to rethink schooling entirely (Wolk, 2007, p. 648). There was no question that minority children as a group were performing well below their potential. According to Hilliard (2003), the first step in increasing the performance of minority students was to take a second look at where the learning gap truly lies. “It should be thought of as the gap between the current performance of African students and levels of excellence. When we choose excellent performance as the goal, academically and socially, we change the teaching and learning paradigm in fundamental ways” (Hilliard, Perry, Steele, 2003, p. 138). With this
type of thinking high levels of performance were articulated throughout the school and community. The gap that was unacceptable was the underperformance of students who have the potential to excel no matter what the circumstances. According to a case study conducted by Reeves (2007), “sustained excellence is possible even in the face of profound demographic challenges” (p. 86). He looked in depth into Mead Valley Elementary School that is located in Riverside County, California. Although the demographics of the school includes a population of students with 95% eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and more than 70% learning to speak the English language, the school maintained a level of excellent academic performance. Every good-to-great company believed in the importance of retaining “absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality” (Collins, 2001, p. 88). Gibson (2002) defined “realness” as a key determinant of the academic and behavioral success of at-risk students. The juveniles in her study of two schools in Bronx, New York referred to good teachers as those who were “real.” Teachers that had the greatest impact were both competent instructionally and concerned about the best interest of the student. Gibson stated that “real” teachers shared information about life and upward mobility with students. They did not engage in silencing, instead they allowed discussion on topics involving
people who were different from them. Each of these items builds a culture of trust and confidence between teachers and students as they embrace the challenges of their situation. Schools that consistently showed improvement took an in-depth look at the data, disaggregated it into understandable chunks of facts and statistics, and then created a plan of action. According to Collins (2001), “It is impossible to make good decisions without infusing the entire process with an honest confrontation of the brutal facts” (p. 88). Many of the schools that sustain greatness over time understand the clear bottom line. They focus on the needs of the individual child as they look at achievement per classroom, per teacher, per student. This approach unmasks poor performance and forces everyone at the school to take responsibility for student performance (Waits, et al., 2006, p. 6). Williams (2005) cited the use of assessment data to improve student achievement and instruction was one of the activities more commonly found at high-performing schools in California. These schools often used data from various sources to evaluate teacher’s practices, identify teachers who need instructional improvement, and to develop strategies to follow up on the progress of selected students and help them reach their goals. Some states have created electronic means for gathering data easily. For example, California’s Just for Kids school improvement system is a
user-friendly technology tool that provides performance data on all of its public schools. More importantly, it provides best practices that work in highperforming, high-poverty school (Lanich, 2005). In Oberman’s (2005) study in California’s high-performing, high-poverty secondary schools (Springboard Schools), findings suggest that the neediest students were more successful when there was a frequent use of data to adjust instruction. The study revealed that the school was the best source of data. Schools that used consistent curricula coupled with frequent diagnostic tests showed greater improvements. The data obtained on the campus was utilized immediately to inform instruction. High performing, high poverty schools identify the utilization of data as a major building block for their success. Many school districts provide campuses with user-friendly software that assists with analyzing the data in large or small chunks. The schools that were moving in the right direction know the intricate details of the data. In the most effective programs, teachers in any given department were able to review each other’s student performance. High performing teachers were able to share strategies that work in improving student achievement. Highly effective schools do not just rely on beginning and end of the year data. They provide many opportunities throughout the school year to update and create new data. In order to get the most benefit out of any of piece
of data, it should be clearly understood as student sub-groups, but more importantly to answer the needs of individual students (Barr & Parrett, 2007). In the case study conducted by Reeves (2007), he found a culture of commitment at Mead Valley Elementary School. This culture contributed to a a continuous high level of educational excellence no matter the reality of its situation including: the false beliefs about the student demographics, transitions in teaching staff, and changes in school leadership. Similar to great companies, the success of Mead Elementary was the result of a number of practices and committed people including the teaching staff, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers. Each member of the school community questions, challenges, and encourages all students regularly even the lowest performing ones. No child was ignored or neglected in order to get to a bottom line. In many highly performing, high poverty schools was the sense of collegiality and shared decision making. A sense of family: community, collaboration and inclusion. “Staff was trusted with responsibility to help accomplish the school's academic and nonacademic goals. They made instructional decisions such as the selection of curriculum materials, identification of benchmarks and selection of effective interventions to meet students' needs” (Bell, 2001, ¶ 26). Included in the eight strategies uncovered by Barr and Parrett (2007) were: maintaining high expectations; targeting low-performing students and
schools, particularly in reading; and aligning, monitoring, and managing the curriculum for poor and culturally diverse students. In the realm of disciplined thought, schools that were making the biggest difference in providing a quality education for economically-challenged minority students spend a great deal of time on regular assessments that were aligned directly with curriculum. These schools do not assess just for the sake of assessment. They do it regularly in order to identify problems early, in groups and in individual students. Data resulting from assessments normally drive future instruction and the response to students’ greatest areas of needs. Principals and teachers were digging deeper and considering data from many different angles in order to unmask areas of concern. According to Waits et al. (2006), the use of an integrated assessment process, causes individual student’s and teacher’s areas of concern to surface. This process allows immediate attention to be given to these areas. The Arizona study reiterates the need for ongoing assessments. Instead of waiting on the summative scores at the end of each year, schools that make a difference with ECM populations track student performance often. The resulting data were used by teachers and leaders to constantly adjust instruction to meet the varying needs of students. The data gathered from regular teacher and principal assessments of student and teacher achievement were used to drive improvement rather than to assign blame (Waits et al., 2006).
Many charter schools have stepped up to the challenge and have a grounded belief that no matter the background of the child, all students will achieve academically. The KIPP academies have made this a reality for inner city school children for several years. They typically serve students from lowincome and single parent families. In order to close the achievement gap between the populations served at KIPP and their more advantaged peers, students receive more instructional time. Students at KIPP participate in an extended day, half-day Saturday classes, and three weeks during the summer (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). Although the study was done pre-NCLB, “Lessons from High-Performing Hispanic Schools”, revealed many of the same principles found in post-NCLB high-performing minority schools. Each school was successful in creating classroom and school climates that were indicative of the culture and mission of the individual school and conducive for learning. In many of the successful schools, there was a duplication of effective curriculum strategies: emphasis was placed on meaning and understanding; mathematics skills were embedded in context, and connections were made between subject areas and between school and life (Reyes, Scribner & Paredes-Scribner, 1999). Being able to consistently repeat these productive strategies throughout the curriculum showed a disciplined thought process.
Hedgehog Concept Jim Collins (2001) revealed that in order for an organization to become the best at what it does, “there must be a deep understanding of three major ideas: 1) what you can be the best in the world at, and what you cannot be the best at; 2) what drives your economic engine; and 3) what you are deeply passionate about” (p. 95-96). He referred to the three points as the Hedgehog concept. Many schools and their staffs were inundated with a host of activities, paperwork, and trivial daily duties, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with educating students. When annual accountability scores were reported, schools grapple for new programs to fix the problems that exists. Peter Senge (2000) suggested that schools focus on one or two priorities. “They don’t need a new initiative; they need an approach that consolidates existing initiatives, eliminates turf battles, and makes it easier for people to work together toward common ends.” (p. 25) Trimble (2002) found that high performing, high poverty schools had built-in criteria for making decisions. These procedures were crucial when numerous issues attempt to cause distractions that could take the campus off track from their goals. Fullan (2006) reinforced the belief that “purposeful action is the route to new breakthroughs” (p. 58). In a nutshell, the emphasis should be on doing rather than just planning to do. Interestingly enough, Doug Reeves (2006) found that the size of the planning document was inversely related to the quality and
amount of improvement. He sampled 280,000 students and 300 schools on several indicators related to meeting the requirements in their state or district’s requirements for a school improvement plan. The results were correlated to student achievement. “The stunning finding is that the ‘prettiness’ of the plan is inversely (or should we say perversely?) related to student achievement” (p. 64). Of the schools that closely followed the requirements, 25.6% of the students scored proficient or higher on standardized assessments, whereas 46.3 % met this same standard for schools with low conformity to the requirements set by the state or district. Again this simply means that the document itself was not as important as the action taken to effectively sustain school improvement. Craig et al. (2005) found that in an analysis of audits completed on successful and low-performing schools, in Kentucky, revealed that there was no significant difference between the two groups of schools on measuring how well they followed the recommended process for creating Comprehensive School Improvement Plans. What was different was that high performing schools engaged more in collaborative decision making, connected professional development to achievement, and used their time and resources more efficiently. In Bell’s (2001) research on high performing, high poverty schools, he credited the campus leader with being able to “reduce requirements that might detract from the school's focus on academic excellence and meeting students' individual needs.” (¶ 22) Many of the HP2 schools worked behind the scenes to
eliminate barriers to high-quality teaching and learning. Bell (2001) found that successful schools were located in districts that reduced barriers or distractions from teaching and learning. One example was the elimination of bureaucratic paperwork requirements that was not necessary. Continuous efforts on the part of educational leaders to allow teachers creativity and flexibility in their teaching lend itself well to valuing the findings of many studies which boils down to exposing children to good teaching. Hilliard (2003) described characteristics of teachers and classrooms in the Project SEED program in Dallas, Texas where minority students were performing exceptionally well in mathematics, and have high levels of self-esteem, communication, and social skills. His description of the what goes on in a high-performing minority classroom included: students who were encouraged to take a position, popular or not, that assists with building confidence and willingness; students who were active and engaged; teachers who were interested in discovering the rationale behind students answers rather than if they were correct; teachers who were more like conductors than lecturers; teachers who were constantly on the move; students who were motivated by their exposure to high level content; teachers who had deep knowledge of their content area; classrooms that have a relaxed atmosphere; students who were intensely engaged in thinking; and an environment where the student-teacher relationship was socially supportive and reinforcing and discipline problems were a rarity.
Williams (2003) emphasized the power of a teacher. Along similar lines as Hilliard’s descriptions, Williams illustrates “turnaround teachers” (p. 118) as those who ensure that every child knows that they were an important part of the world. They build caring and non-judgmental relationships with students. The “turnaround teacher” learns students’ strengths and builds on them. They see the possibilities and potentials in each child and illuminate the highest expectations for each. The Center for the Future of Arizona (2006) found that leaps in performance in the “beat-the-odds” schools, comprised of mostly poor Latino children, were the results of clear direction and hard work. Successful schools focused on improving the things they actually could control that made the biggest difference in student achievement. Blaming external factors, demographics, or economic status of students was not a part of the culture of beat-the-odds schools. Teachers in high achieving, high poverty classrooms were both confident in their practices and collaborate with each other and their students. Teachers who become assessment literate commit to improvement. They have the ability to question established theory and practice; and they have high expectations for every student. Underachieving children of poverty will experience an increase in their achievement scores when given the opportunity to learn in an environment focused on assessment for learning (Barr & Parrett, 2007).
The school improvement process of John Williams Elementary in Rochester, N. Y. proved that with certain consistent curriculum strategies, isolation becomes collaboration and excellence is attainable. Those strategies included more attention to language and mathematics skills, increased teacher training, use of research-based practices to help struggling students, inclusion of writing every day, increased classroom conversations, and the use of hands-on manipulatives for mathematics (Hancock and Lamendola, 2005). Stiggins et al. (2004) found that clear purposes and clear targets were essential principles in a sound learning environment that was focused on student learning supported by assessment. In essence, the learning environment was shaped by the notion of assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning. In 2006, ABT Associates conducted a study in several Title I Schools. Their population under investigation included teachers in high-performing classrooms. The group looked specifically at teachers of reading and math whose test scores were above the national average. Their findings included the following: low-income students with little structure at home benefit from highly structured learning environments at school; teachers in high-performing, highpoverty schools had a strong commitment to their work and respect for their students; teachers had high expectations for students; teachers were knowledgeable about curriculum and assessment; and teachers assessed their students constantly and used assessment as an instructional tool.
Collins’ (2001) suggested that in order to become great, an organization must do more than create a plan or strategy to be the best, it must have a deep understanding of exactly what areas it can attain superior performance. Resources must be focused on getting to the “bottom line.” Susan Trimble (2002) stated that the most effective schools were able to acquire outside funds in order to reach goals. Resources were based exclusively on data. Campus decisions on high performing, high poverty schools were based on data. Each of the successful schools was able to creatively maneuver and manage funds. One crucial area that many high-performing economically-challenged minority schools rank high on the list of priorities was creating a multicultural community. Schools that were successful go beyond the customary celebration of cultural holidays and food. They assume the role of closing cultural divides. In these schools the multicultural curriculum was oftentimes seamlessly integrated into instruction and campus activities. According to Wolk (2007), the integrated curriculum allows students the opportunity to study cultural differences along with prejudices in all its forms – at the individual, systemic, national, and global levels. It explicitly teaches to end intolerance. Williams (2003) documented a streamlined approach of how turnaround schools have prioritized making learning meaningful to students. They have accomplished this by eliminating ineffective activities, programs, and practices and focusing on proven programs that assist minority students in academic performance. Small learning communities, school-based mentoring, and career
exploration top the list. More specifically, turnaround schools make effective use of programs such as tech prep, AVID, I-Have-A-Dream, Sponsor a Scholar, and Upward Bound programs. The purposes of each of these programs were to promote economically-challenged populations of students to attend and graduate from college. Evidenced throughout the data was the fact that for an ECM school to become effective and successful there must be urgency to streamlining and prioritizing the steps needed to attain mastery in learning. The findings of several studies suggest that changing educators’ mindsets to look deep into what the data define as the greatest areas of strengths and needs was an important first step in school improvement. Confronting these counterproductive areas and reducing distractions has allowed some schools to focus on what was important and in turn propel them to excellence (Barr and Parrett, 2007). Disciplined Action Collins (2001) coupled two important features into the category of disciplined action – a culture of discipline and technology accelerators. In a culture of discipline, disciplined people with discipline thought combined with an ethic of entrepreneurship yield great performance. Technology accelerators did not play a primary role in achieving excellence, but when carefully selected assisted in transforming companies.
Culture of Discipline Building a culture of discipline was essential to becoming exemplary. Essentially there was no need for hierarchies, bureaucracies, or excessive controls when an organization had disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined actions. A disciplined culture combined with an ethic of entrepreneurship yields great results (Collins, 2001). The Arizona study shared that the best principals transcend their new tough role that was similar to an entrepreneur, moving people and combining resources to come up with something tangible that was results-oriented (Waits et al., 2006). In William’s (2005) research on some high performing California elementary schools that served largely low-income students, she found six significant factors that influenced student achievement. The factors proven to be aligned with high performance were: prioritizing student achievement; implementing a coherent, standards-based curriculum and instructional program; using assessment data to improve student achievement and instruction; ensuring availability of instructional resources; principal leadership including effective management of the school improvement process; and district leadership, accountability, and support. Doug Reeves’ (2003) research on 90/90/90 schools, through site visits and data analysis, revealed common practices exhibited by the leaders and teachers in schools with at least 90% high achievement, 90% minority enrollment, and 90% high poverty levels. He found five characteristics that were
common to all 90/90/90 schools. These characteristics included: “a focus on academic achievement; clear curriculum choices, frequent assessment of student progress and multiple opportunities for improvement; an emphasis on non-fiction writing; and collaborative scoring of student work” (Reeves, 2003, p. 187). Barr and Parrett (2007), provided a synthesis of the findings of 18 studies on what works in high-performing, high poverty schools. Analysis of these sources revealed eight specific strategies and practices found in successful high-performing, high-poverty schools. These schools: ensure effective district and school leadership; engage parents, communities, and schools to work as partners; understand and hold high expectations for poor and culturally diverse students; target low-performing students and schools, particularly in reading; align, monitor, and manage the curriculum; create a culture of data and assessment literacy; build and sustain instructional capacity; and reorganize time, space, and transitions. (p. 37) In Gibson’s (2002) study on student-teacher interaction effects on deviance as it pertains to low-income African-American males in Bronx, New York, she found 10 things that were common among effective teachers’ contribution to the culture of discipline. They often referred to students by name; kept students on task; provided descriptive and compassionate compliments; utilized instructional time wisely while giving students individual attention;
confronted students about non-productive behavior; employed flexible teaching techniques; sustained a personal demeanor as they acted in the best interest of the student; built sincere and candid relationship with parents; and communicated care and concern to students. In Craig’s (2005) study on corrective action schools in Tennessee, he suggests several components that should be integrated throughout the school improvement process several. Teachers should: engage in purposeful and timely student assessment; utilize data for instructional decisions; engage in peer-reviewed practices; and improve communication with parents. Picucci, Brownson, Kahlert, and Sobel (2004) found that incorporating common elements of the middle school concept helped to improve student performance. More importantly, their study of seven high-poverty middle schools showed that the care, thoughtfulness, and commitment to collaboration that was integrated into the school’s efforts made the most significant impact on student achievement. In their culture of discipline, targeted areas were the focus and revisited often to track progress. In Harris’ (2006) research on best practices for successful principals, she found that in many triumphant situations there was a culture where everyone was accountable for all students. This attitude permeates most schools that were achieving academically. Leaders share the importance of establishing a system that holds all teachers, administrators, and staff accountable for the welfare of all the students, all of the time. This belief became contagious
through effective leadership that models responsible behavior. Campuses that showed great improvement continuously reflected on individual and collaborative efforts that extend to the greater good of the student body. Oftentimes, achievement scores dipped during the seventh and eighth grades. On a campus that has a culture of discipline and accountability, fifth grade teachers explored ways to assist seventh and eighth grade teachers that kept student achievement moving in the right direction. These types of environment lend itself well to collaboration, ownership, and student success. In the case study of Mead Valley Elementary, Reeves (2007) discovered professional practices that could be easily replicated with a culture of dedication and consistency. Like many other high performing ECM schools, the school developed common curriculum and rigorous assessments for all students at all grade levels. They developed the idea of devoting “sacred time” to literacy and to teacher collaborative planning time. Sacred time basically refers to the idea of no interruptions, and a clear and specific focus on the agenda. During collaborative time, teachers examined all available data including test scores and observations; they identified students in need and specified intervention; and they discussed most effective teaching practices. Another factor that contributed to consistent success was the fact that achievement targets were created for each student, each grade, and for the entire school. Integrated throughout the campus culture were recognition ceremonies for the school community.
Wilson and Corbett’s (2001) study in Philadelphia schools shared that the quality of relationships between teachers and students was the primary focus of high achieving turnaround schools. “It was the quality of the relationships in the classrooms that determined the educational value of the setting (Wilson & Corbett, 2001, p. 122).” In many schools with learning gaps, the traditional roles of stakeholders were chiseled in stone: students accepted information, teachers passed on information, principals dictated, and parents supported the process. According to Williams (2003), learning involved transforming information and linking it to prior knowledge, and then using it to build a coherent interpretation of the world and its events. What Jim Collins (2001) suggested was that an organization should build its culture around freedom and responsibility, filled with disciplined people who will accomplish their duties while staying focused on those things deemed important by the group. This occasionally means turning down great opportunities that were not consistent with the goals and vision of the organization. Williams (2003) suggested that in order for a school to eliminate achievement gaps, it must redefine human intelligence, utilize more sophisticated methods of assessment, emphasize collaborative learning, use innovative and adaptive instructional strategies, and solve real-world problems by combining multiple subject areas. Williams like so many others that have researched effective ways in which schools have made a difference in the lives
of economically-challenged minority students, recommended focusing on curriculum and instruction. According to Williams (2003), “small learning communities were an absolute must for lowering the achievement gap” (p. 129). The effectiveness of small learning communities has appeared in many research studies. Most data support the fact that higher achievement normally occurs in small classes and small schools. One significant difference in successful schools was that everyone worked together in the learning community. Everyone continuously evolved as learners and seekers of knowledge in a supportive environment. The learning process was clearly reciprocal among all members of the school. According to Senge (2000), “Parents can also be key participants in learning initiatives, particularly in communities (like many low-income communities) where they have traditionally felt isolated from the school” (p. 26). High performing, high poverty schools were normally found in districts that were viewed as being very supportive. They continually researched effective practices and programs that proved effective for student achievement, then assisted with their implementation. They publicly reported, rewarded, and celebrated school’s accomplishments (Bell, 2001). Schools were not able to properly rebound from challenges without the proper support of campus and district leadership. In highly effective schools of poverty, teachers were provided resources, time, and professional development opportunities. Educators were
provided leadership and decision-making responsibilities, an environment that fosters caring relationships with colleagues, mentors, and leaders; and high expectations from all levels of leadership. The findings of the OCTET study revealed that ultimately schools in economically-challenging situations had to create a culture that built capacity through “empowering, involving and developing teachers to deliver high quality teaching, and through providing systems of learning support, guidance and assistance to ensure learning is maximized” (Harris, James, Gunraj, Clarke & Harris, 2006, p. 150). Most of the OCTET schools managed to sustain their improvement after project completion. Another key finding that was noted by Harris (2006), besides building personal capacity, was the importance of interpersonal and organizational capacity. “Attention was paid to developing an understanding of how individuals interact in everyday situations. They also concentrated on sharing information between staff and improving cooperation within the school (p. 150).” This type of culture promoted shared values among the staff and student population. As for organization capacity, “Building flexible, open structures that actively supported interaction and development was important…These heads…were skilled at seizing opportunities to create, develop, re-energize, merge or deconstruct teams” (p. 150-151). Most high minority, highly economically-challenged schools that have made the leap to academic success have done away with extra programs and
activities that did not show positive academic results for students. In essence, they had streamlined their actions to only doing what was important. Research on high-achieving, high poverty schools had found the following actions to be consistent among them: 1) identified students’ area of need (Goodwin, 2000); 2) gave students extra help (Haycock, 2001); 2) provided students with more academic time (McGee, 2004); 4) provided the appropriate support systems that were necessary for system-wide instructional improvement (Togneri & Anderson, 2003); and 5) teach the curriculum (Black, 2006). Ware (1999) described turnaround schools as having a shared mission based on meeting the needs of the student – even those who were labeled as failures based on demographics. Educational leaders from districts that had high-performing, high poverty schools have redesigned the early grades. “Students who arrive at school from economically disadvantaged homes need to start their educational programs as early as possible. Almost all effective elementary schools engage students as early as possible in preschool programs” (Barr & Parrett, 2007, p. 208). Other districts who wanted to ensure that underserved groups of students were being instructed effectively have created smaller schools to assist in closing the academic gap. What these schools had in common were a compelling vision and an unwavering commitment to graduate all of their students prepared for success in college and beyond. “At the core of these schools is the belief that high expectations and caring supportive communities
will produce higher levels of student engagement and achievement (House, 2007, p. 378).” This seemed to be a common theme that ran through all high achieving, highly challenged schools. Unlike what goes on in many high minority schools, “these schools incorporate inquiry-based teaching, higher order thinking, and authentic learning. One such school in Bronx, New York has a current graduation rate of 75% compared to 31% at another school in the same district (House, 2007, p. 383).” Kannapel and Clements (2005) found varied levels of district support among high-performing, high-poverty schools. The common theme that ran through the data collected on the district’s role was that the staff of the highperforming schools learned how to effectively utilize the available tools and resources. Many of the high-performers took advantage of the expertise of resource teachers, online assessment tools, and staff development. The Arizona study revealed two pertinent insights into reforming ECM schools: stick with the program and built to suit. All of the high achieving “beatthe-odds” schools, used proven, researched-based programs that teachers appreciated and were able to consistently produce results (Waits, et al., 2006). This involved the constant use of data to drive instruction which was consistently monitored for great results. High achieving schools went beyond what the standards mandated to focusing on the individual performance of each child. What ensued was a vital cycle of instruction, assessment, and intervention.
The results of the Laboratory Network Project (2001) suggested that there was a need to hear the perspectives of the students. Some recommended approaches included regular breakfast meetings with the principal and student focus groups. These activities have been effective in monitoring the school climate and aiding in school wide decision making. Resiliency-building factors have been known to positively affect student performance in low socio-economic schools. Research showed that there were six resiliency-building factors that relate to students and educators. Several factors heighten a school’s resiliency level, such as, providing bonding activities, setting clear and consistent boundaries, teaching life skills, providing care and support, setting and communicating high expectations, and providing opportunities for meaningful participation (Henderson and Milstein, 2003). Whenever resiliency was built into a school’s culture, individual efforts were viewed as important; risk taking was promoted; “can do!” attitudes prevailed; individualized growth plans were developed and monitored; students were workers and teachers were coaches; everybody’s contributions were important; members grew and learned by sharing; everyone treated each other with respect; experimentation was encouraged; a positive and supportive climate and culture existed; equity was promoted; visions and missions were clearly communicated and agreed upon; cooperation and support existed; school-wide objectives were shared; members were involved in setting policies and rules;
positive role modeling was practiced; celebrations of success were practiced; leaders spent lots of time with members, and resources were obtained with a minimum of efforts (Henderson & Milstein, 2003). Williams (2003) identified resiliency as a major characteristic of turnaround schools. In her findings, high-performing minority schools allowed their staff an opportunity to personally reflect and then as a collective group. Once a group had reflected, they collaboratively discussed their beliefs about innate resilience. Each educator had to “grapple with questions like: ‘What does it mean in my classroom and school if ALL kids have the capacity for healthy development and successful learning?’ ‘How am I connecting this knowledge to what I do in the classroom?’” (p.133). Resiliency methods have been proven to work. Some schools have started resiliency study groups that help to develop the empathy for others and strengthen the campus culture. Practicing the resiliency approach provides opportunities for both the educators and students to internalize the process that in turn promotes academic success. According to Downey, English, Poston and Steffy (2008), schools should train staff and students to recognize resiliency in themselves and others and openly talk about resiliency as a desired characteristic for students and adults. Hand in hand with resiliency-building was the value of encouragement. For many years, educators have found that for school improvement to sustain
itself, the culture must be integrated with a true sense of care and concern. “Several studies have shown that motivational support is a key factor in the school achievement of many poor and minority children” (Bempechat, 1998, p. 39). Gibson (2002) stated that effective teachers provided students with purposeful and compassionate compliments whereas ineffective teachers provided more generic compliments like “good” often. The true value of the encouragement lies in its purpose and relevance. One sure way to motivate the school community was to focus on the factors that contribute to academic success, instead of many of the deficit thinking models that exist in schools. Many of the deficit models categorize poor and minority children as being underachievers by nature. Studies continue to show that, “demanding teachers and curricula communicate to children that their teachers believe that they have the ability to learn, even if it may take some students longer than others to master certain aspects of a given subject matter” (Bempechat, 1998, p. 93). This same concept applied in the relationship between teachers and administrators. According to Collins (2001), “Spending time and energy trying to “motivate” people is a waste of effort. The real question is not, ‘How do we motivate our people?’ If you have the right people, they will be self-motivated. The key is to not de-motivate them” (p. 89). Oftentimes, people were demotivated because the brutal facts of reality were ignored and processes for school improvement were not implemented. Collins’ research parallels much of
what research has found to be true in ECM schools. Those items normally appear on the list of reasons teachers leave the teaching profession. Technology Accelerators In each good-to great company, technology was not considered a primary factor to gain great performance. Instead specific technologies were used to enhance the transformation process from good to great (Collins, 2001). Technology was not listed as a major indicator in any of the research studies included in this review. When mentioned, it was used as a tool to assist with alleviating paperwork and as a student resource. The Prichard Report (2005) surprisingly noted that the eight highperforming schools in their study did not perform well on the use of technology. The findings further suggested that technology may not have been a necessary component of attaining success. Effective use of technology may enhance what successful schools were already doing, but it was not a crucial ingredient (Kannapel & Clements, 2005).
Table 1 Synopsis of Literature Good to GreatTM Factor Disciplined People – Level 5 Leadership Author/Year/Subject Williams (2003) – Closing the Achievement Gap Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Effective principals designed strategic improvement plans and distributed decisions. Williams (2005) California Elementary Schools Principal leadership focus on effective management of school improvement process; District leadership, accountability, and support. Harris, James, Gunraj, Clarke & Harris (2006) – OCTET Project People-centered leadership; distributed decision making; caring for the well-being of students and staff; and Professional autonomy (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Leithwood and Jantzi (2000) – Distributed Leadership
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Leaders demonstrated an indirect but powerful influence.
Bell (2001) - HP2 Schools
“Moral leadership” at both campus and district level – adult actions major role in shaping student’s lives.
Kannapel & Clements (2005) - Prichard Committee of Academic Excellence
All principals had collaborative approaches to decision making, absence of big ego, and a focus on student academic success. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Teddlie & Springfield (1993) – Louisiana School Effectiveness Study, Schools Make a Difference
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Principals were motivating, had high expectations for student achievement, visited classes frequently, and provided increased instructional time.
Ansell (2004) – Schools in challenging circumstances
“Turnaround leaders”; strong intrapersonal and interpersonal skills; conducted needs assessment then corrective strategies; and articulated clear expectations for everyone. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Waits, et al., (2006) – Arizona’s Beat the Odd Study
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Principals were not flashy superstars; focused on things that improved schools; and kept pushing ahead no matter the roadblocks. An embedded teacher leadership program was used to assist with ongoing improvement.
Barr & Parrett (2007) - Kids Left Behind
Effective leadership was the anchor for each of the other essential elements in the pattern of improvement.
Disciplined People – First Who Then What
Bell (2001) HP2 Schools Teddlie & Springfield (1993) – Louisiana School Effectiveness
Principal autonomy in hiring staff.
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Harris (2006) – Best practices of Award winning principals
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Savvy principals employed secretaries, custodians, food service, and other staff who embraced the overall mission of the school; Principals hired wisely; used an interview team, and didn’t second guess a gut instinct. Kept looking until satisfied.
Harris, James, Gunraj, Clarke & Harris (2006) – OCTET Project
Leaders used financial resources for professional development especially teacher leadership. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Wilson & Corbett (2001) – Philadelphia Schools
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Teacher’s “no excuse” attitude separated successful classrooms from others.
Cultural change happened by modeling the new values and behaviors.
Thernstrom & Thernstrom (2003)
KIPP Academy used budgetary creativeness to pay its teachers 20% more than teachers in other schools.
Barr & Parrett (2007) - Kids Left Behind
The school’s culture either caused a new teacher to remain on the campus or leave the school and/or career. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Reeves (2007) – Mead Valley Elementary
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Professional accountability was expected. Effective instructional leadership and professional excellence were rewarded while ineffective teachers were eliminated.
Disciplined Thought – Confront the Brutal Facts
Hilliard, Perry & Steele (2003)
Excellent performance was the goal.
Waits, et al. (2006) – Arizona Study
Focus was on needs of individual child; looked at achievement per classroom, per teacher, and per student. Embedded an assessment process. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Reeves (2007) – Mead Valley Elementary School
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Culture of commitment existed where each member of the school community questions, challenges, and encourages all students.
Williams (2005) – California Elementary Schools
Prioritize student achievement; implement a coherent, standards-based Curriculum and Instructional program.
Oberman (2005) - California High Schools (Springboard Schools) Bell (2001)
Use consistent curriculum and frequent diagnostic tests. Culture of collegiality and shared decision making were apparent. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Barr & Parrett (2007)
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Districts targeted lowperforming schools, particularly in reading; and Aligned, monitored, and managed the curriculum.
Reyes, Scribner, & ParedesScribner (1999) – High Performing Hispanic Schools
Schools embedded mathematical skills; and Connections were made between subjects and between school and life.
Disciplined Thought – Hedgehog Concept
Schools established builtin criteria for making decisions. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Reeves (2006) – Revisit 90/90/90
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Successful school improvement inversely related to “prettiness” of the plan.
Bell (2001) – HP2 Schools Williams (2003) ASCD Closing Achievement Gaps Hillard (2003) – Project SEED, Dallas, TX
Reduced barriers and distractions.
Students took a stance with self confidence. Teachers discovered rationale behind answer, not correctness. Students motivated by high level content. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Waits (2006) – Arizona’s Beat the Odds Study
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Blaming external, demographic, or economic factors were not part of the culture.
Barr & Parrett (2007) Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis (2004) Disciplined Action – Culture of Discipline Waits (2006) Arizona’s Beat the Odds Study
Assessment was used for learning.
Schools were results oriented; and Opted for proven programs that teachers supported. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Reeves (2003) – 90/90/90 Schools
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Schools focused on academic achievement; Clear curriculum choices; Frequent assessment; collaborative scoring of student work; multiple opportunities for student improvement; and Emphasized nonfiction writing.
Picucci (2004) Charles A. Dana Center
Middle school concept
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Barr & Parrett (2007) Kids Left Behind
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Schools engaged parents and communities as partners; Created a culture of data and assessment literacy; Built and sustained instructional capacity; Reorganized, time, space, and transitions; and Engage students as early as possible. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Reeves (2007) – Mead Valley Elementary
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Schools insisted on a culture of dedication and consistency among
Bell (2001) Henderson & Milstein (2003)
staff; Created achievement targets; and Recognition ceremonies.
Wilson & Corbett (2001) Philadelphia
Schools displayed strong relationships between teachers and students.
Small classes/small schools (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Harris, James, Gunraj, Clarke, & Harris (2006) – OCTET
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Schools built personal student capacity; and Interpersonal and organizational capacity (flexible open structures).
Haycock (2001), McGee (2004), Goodwin (2000)
Schools provided more instructional time for students in need.
Laboratory Network Project (2001)
Schools listened to the perspective of the student. (table continues)
Good to GreatTM Factor
Author/Year/Subject Gibson (2002) – Being Real
Findings – High Performing ECM Schools Effective teachers: Provided descriptive and heart-felt compliments; Utilized instructional time wisely while giving students individual attention; Confronted students about non-productive behavior; Employed flexible teaching techniques; Built sincere and candid relationship with students and parents; and Communicated care and concern to students.
Output Results Collins (2001) selected each of the good-to-great companies in his study based on their consistent output results over time: “fifteen-year cumulative stock returns at or below the general stock market, punctuated by a transition point, then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next 15 years” (p. 6). This measure was used to eliminate companies that may have had a lucky streak for a period of time. The criteria used exemplified the sustained results of these 11 companies which made them enduring great companies. Collins (2001) described the output of each of the companies as delivering superior performance relative to its mission; making a distinctive impact on the communities it touches; and achieving lasting endurance beyond any leader, idea or setback. What was thoroughly and resoundingly clear throughout the research was that economically-challenged minority schools face a complex undertaking when faced with school improvement. What was clear was that despite the overwhelming circumstances, sustainable school improvement and positive student outcomes were possible (Barr & Parrett, 2007). The overarching priority in most of the studies included in this literary synthesis focused on improved instruction. In Barr and Parrett’s (2007) examination of high-performing, high-poverty schools, they found several key output results in the schools that demonstrated the effective components of sustained school improvement. Research shows that when a school continues
to improve it normally exhibits effective district and school leadership; an engaged school community; high expectations; a focus on low-performing students especially in reading; an aligned and monitored curriculum; a culture of data and assessment; sustained instructional capacity; and effective use of time, space, and transitions (Barr & Parrett, 2007). Barr and Parrett (2007) noted common output results from successful ECM schools: high levels of proficiency among students; continued gains in achievement; and widespread effective practices and policies. Waits et al. (2006) described successful output results in terms of student achievement at critical points in a student’s academic career. In her Arizona study, achievement was measured by the Stanford 9 results in third-grade reading and eighth-grade math. These particular junctures of learning were used based on research that showed a strong correlation between a student’s third grade reading capability and his/her future success. Similarly, studies showed a correlation between eighth grade math scores and success in science and engineering careers. She measured success as schools that showed consistent strong performance and or schools that showed steady improvement in performance over time. Sustaining high performance in ECM schools does not look that different from any other high-performing schools, no matter the ethnic makeup or socioeconomic status. According to Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002), professional learning communities were essential to long-term school improvement.
Common characteristics found in schools with sustained school improvement included: values embedded in the school culture; staff pursuit of measurable performance goals; shared decision-making; administrators who pose questions to further the collaborative culture; teachers who function as a team; parents and community resources used to strengthen the school and student learning; ongoing action research; and a systematic gathering and analysis of data. Much of the research on high-performing, high-poverty schools reflected these findings. Many schools in Texas have proven that a combination of several or all of these factors yield high-performing economically-challenged minority schools. In Texas’ terminology, the combination of these factors would yield campuses with recognized and exemplary accountability ratings. In other words, highperforming economically-challenged minority schools have at least 75% of their student population meeting standards on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills; at least 70% of the special needs students meeting standards on the State Developed Alternative Assessment II; and less than a 0.7% dropout rate. Figure 2 demonstrates the process of one or more of the input factors playing a role in producing certain qualitative and quantitative output results in high performing economically-challenged minority schools (Texas Education Agency, Accountability Manual, 2006).
Input Factors Disciplined People
Collaborative leadership Purpose-driven Staff
Output Results High levels of proficiency among students Continued gains in achievement; Effective and enduring practices and policies are widespread.
Output Results in Texas Accountability Rating Terminology Recognized Exemplary TAKS (Met Standard) Reading/ELA Math Writing Science Social Studies SDAA II All Subjects Completion Rate I 75% 75% 75% 75% 75% 70% 85.0% 90% 90% 90% 90% 90% 90% 95.0%
Address Student Need Clear vision Curriculum Focus Data-driven High Expectations/No Excuses Streamlined Activities
Assessment for improvement Distributed Accountability Learning Communities
Annual Dropout Rate
Figure 2. Factors Influencing Greatness in ECM Schools - Literature Review and Texas Requirements for High Performance. Summary Many of the factors that influenced greatness in economically-challenged minority schools were consistent across the board no matter the grade level or ethnicity. Some of the common expressions that appeared in the research on high-performing, high-poverty schools and the Good to GreatTM companies included: leadership, autonomy, responsibility, consistency, endurance, commitment, no excuses, and collaboration. Similar to the climate of Good to GreatTM companies, in many of the cases of high-performing ECM schools, teachers were given a great deal of autonomy. They believed in taking risks as long as the greatest consistency of effective practices and student achievement were attained. The high performing
economically-challenged/minority school’s communities were willing to commit time and energy because there was a culture of learning and getting better at something that has critical importance in the lives of people. “Failure may be the initial motivator, but it is increased competence that leads us to do more and more.” (Fullan, 2006, p. 58) Another factor that became abundantly clear in turnaround, breakthrough, beat-the-odd, HP2, and other high performing economically challenged minority schools was their ability to stay the course no matter the excruciating circumstances. Staying the course meant that there was a “no excuse” attitude that resonated in the learning community and careful attention was paid to increasing leadership capacity among stakeholders and deepening the focus and direction of the school (Bell, 2001; Chenoweth, 2007; Waits, 2006). Chenoweth (2007) summarized what was being done differently in high achieving ECM schools. The list of activities that were found can be arranged nicely within this study’s framework including disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Chenoweth reiterated the findings of all the previous studies that were included in this literature review. In a nutshell, high achieving ECM schools resembled the following description: • They taught their students. They did not teach to the state tests. • They had high expectations for their students. They knew what the stakes were. • They embraced and used all the data they could get their hands on.
They used data to focus on individual students, not just groups of students. • They constantly reexamined what they did. They embraced accountability. • They made decisions on what was good for kids, not what was good for adults. • They used school time wisely. They leveraged as many resources from the community as possible. • They expanded the time students-particularly struggling students- had in school. • They did not spend a lot of time disciplining students, in the sense of punishing them. They established an atmosphere of respect. They liked kids. • They made sure that the kids who struggled the most had the best instruction. • Principals were a constant presence. Although the principals were important leaders, they were not the only leaders. • They paid careful attention to the quality of the teaching staff. They provided teachers with the time to meet to plan the work collaboratively. They provided teachers time to observe each other. They thought seriously about professional development. They assumed that they had to train new teachers more or less from scratch and carefully
acculturated all newly hired teachers. They had high-quality, dedicated, and competent office and building staff who felt themselves part of the educational mission of the school. • They were nice places to work (Chenoweth, 2007, pp. 216-226). Although the numbers were few, there was enough consistency among the disciplined people, thought, and actions of high performing-high economically-challenged minority schools to make a considerable impact on public school children performance (Chenoweth, 2007). In order for a school to be effective it appeared necessary to have a principal who was an instructional leader; teachers with high expectations for themselves and their students; and students who spend all instructional time on task and engaged in creating learning. The literature suggested the need for a continual cycle of data being used to further instruction and student learning (Barr & Parrett, 2007).
CHAPTER III METHOD Overview After implementing performance accountability programs, nationwide, the gap between economically-challenged populations of students and their more affluent counterparts continue to exist. Academic scores of minority groups fall well below white students. Texas was one of the states that led implementing accountability standards in their schools. These efforts did lead to increased knowledge by all groups, but the gap between racial groups did not decrease (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). Despite overwhelming obstacles, several schools with a large population of economically-challenged minority (ECM) students have achieved academic excellence (Barr & Parrett, 2007). These schools have made remarkable transitions to becoming great. Through interviews with five individuals (administrators and teachers) on each of 12 ECM campuses: seven high performing and five acceptable performing, the researcher explored all exceptions to the pattern of low income/low performance. There were enough schools that defied the trend to prove that the background of the student body does not have to determine achievement results (Kannapel & Clements, 2005). The purpose of this study was to explore the distinguishing factors that exist among successful ECM schools compared to similar
acceptable performing schools. Three high performing ECM school feeder groups were compared to two school feeder groups that remained acceptable over time. This study used the characteristics consistent with the research on highperforming, high poverty schools and the inspiration and method gleaned from Jim Collins (2001), author of the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. An in-depth exploration of three ECM feeder pattern groups that were outperforming schools with a similar demographic makeup was conducted. These three feeder groups consisted of two elementary, one sixth, one fifth-sixth, and three seventh-eighth grade schools. Just as Collins did in his study on successful corporations, the high performing feeder groups in this study were compared to two similar school feeder groups that had acceptable performance. All schools had a high population of economically-challenged minority students. The in-depth descriptive study focused on a thorough description of the five before mentioned feeder groups. Two qualitative research questions, using a private face-to-face interview with five individual from each of the 12 campuses including administrators and teachers, were explored to gain a deep understanding of the actions and behaviors that occurred in economicallychallenged minority schools that either led to superior or acceptable performance.
Research Questions The method used in the Good-to-Great™ framework inspired a qualitative analysis. The two research questions that were thoroughly explored include: 1. What distinguishing characteristics predict that economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools will be recognized or exemplary in the state of Texas? 2. What practices associated with the transition from elementary to middle schools are predictive of student achievement in high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) feeder groups? Research Design A qualitative approach was utilized. It included an embedded design that involved the interconnection of more than one technique in an effort to gain an intense and extensive understanding of the phenomenon in question (Caracelli & Greene, 1997). The embedded design was employed to identify factors that enabled the selected schools to exceed the student achievement of their comparison schools. Several of the interview questions that were posed to participants were quantitative in nature, but used to compliment the qualitative data. “The data resulting from dovetailing these methodologies convey both the meaning of naturally occurring behaviors in their social contexts and the frequencies representing macrolevel relationships” (Caracelli & Greene, 1997, p. 24). This approach “aims to integrate elements of disparate paradigms and
have the potential to produce significantly more insightful, even dialectically transformed, understandings of the phenomenon under investigation” (Caracelli & Greene, 1997, p. 24). Jim Collins’ Good to Great™ (2001) model framed this investigation. This study replicated much of Collins’ research methods altering portions to fit the context of educational organizations rather than corporate structures. Collins used a direct comparison analysis to create as close to a “historical controlled experiment” (p. 228) as possible. By using a comparison type model, he was able to learn about differences among these companies. To explore the 12 schools (seven high performing and five acceptable performing) included in the study, private face-to-face and/or online interviews with a total of five staff members from each campus including administrators and teachers were utilized to gather pertinent data. Each participant had an opportunity to view and respond to the questions prior to the face-to-face interview via the online software, Survey Monkey. This was an effort to allow more concise and well-thought out responses. After receiving permission from Jim Collins, many of his original interview questions were slightly modified to fit the scope of this study. Essentially, the word “corporation” was replaced with the word “school”. In Collins’ model, the factors that led the 11 companies to the top positions in their respective industry included disciplined people, disciplined
thought, and disciplined action. The outcomes were superior performance, distinctive impact on the community served, and lasting endurance. In approaching the questions of why some economically-challenged minority schools succeed in spite of socio-economic status and ethnic makeup, a similar method was adopted. In addition to uncovering what makes an ECM school feeder group successful, the study explored what sets the high performing and acceptable performing schools apart from each other. These schools received either a recognized or exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency for at least two of the four years from 2004-2007. These high performing school groups were compared to lower performing ones that were similar based on five factors: grade span, total student population, percentage of disadvantaged students, percentage of minority students, and their location. Population and Sample Criteria for Sample Through purposive sampling, schools were selected that had similar demographic characteristics. Schools strongly influence student achievement (Mazzeo, 2001), and individual circumstances dictate the success of particular intervention strategies. This study identified the particular factors that led to the ECM school’s impact on student achievement, either positive or negative. To be included in this study, middle schools met the following conditions: • Received an Exemplary or Recognized rating for at least two of the four years from 2004-2007. Each middle school had to be associated with an elementary
school that received a rating of recognized or exemplary within the years of 2004-2007. The comparison middle schools received an acceptable rating under the accountability rating system for Texas public schools for the past four school years. Their respective elementary feeder schools received an acceptable rating. (Unacceptable schools were not selected for participation because the study wanted to focus on schools that were already having a measure of success with some of their current strategies.) • Exhibited at least a 50% economically disadvantaged student population; • Exhibited at least a 50% minority student population made up of African American and/or Hispanic students; • Considered small, medium or large campus size; and • Located in or near one of the three largest urban areas in Texas – Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas/Fort Worth. Several schools were excluded from the study for not meeting one or a combination of the above listed criteria. Unfortunately, there were no exemplary or recognized accountability ratings assigned to any high schools in the state of Texas with at least 50% of their student population considered to be economically disadvantaged. Therefore, high schools were not included in the sample. The middle schools were selected as the core of the study, because there were so few that met the criteria for participation. Next, elementary schools were selected that fed into the chosen middle schools. Most of the literature that was already in existence on high performing, high economically-
challenged schools focused on elementary schools, with little research on secondary schools and none exclusively dealing with success in feeder pattern groups. In Collins’ (2001) collection and scoring of all obvious comparison candidates for his good-to-great companies, he considered factors such as business, size, age, and stock chart fit. In order to find comparison candidates for the recognized and exemplary schools in this study, grade span, total size, location, economically disadvantaged percentages, and total minority makeup were considered. Grade Span Most schools in the state of Texas were grouped in categories of elementary, middle, or high school. Several schools included grade spans that intersected these lines. The most common grade configurations in the state of Texas included elementary schools which consisted of early childhood/prekindergarten/kindergarten/ grade 1 through grade 5; middle/junior high schools which included grades 6-8; and high schools which included grades 9-12. In the search to find a recognized or exemplary school in each grade level that met the required criteria, it became obvious immediately there were very few high performing ECM schools. Hardly any high schools in the entire state were rated exemplary or recognized during the 2004-2007 time frame. The ECM high schools that received the recognized or exemplary ratings were characterized as being very small, charter, or magnet in nature. Ultimately, this
staggering fact led the researcher to focus on 11 high-performing elementary and middle schools. Four of these schools did not participate in the study. Campus Size - Total Student Population In the state of Texas, school sizes range from as small as a single class size to campuses as large as some universities. School size was considered to positively affect student achievement as student enrollment rises to about 200 students in elementary schools and 400-600 students in secondary schools, levels off, and then begins to decrease after the top of the size range was reached (Bracey, 1998; Fine, 1998; Williams, 1990). According to a study conducted by the Texas Education Agency, major urban areas consisted of 34 “very large” schools compared to zero in nonmetropolitan areas. This report grouped Texas schools by sizes based on student enrollment: very small (under 300); small (300-599); medium (600-899); large (900-1,999): and very large (2,000+). Thirty-four percent of schools were considered medium, 29% large, 28% small, 5% very large, and 3% very small (Stevens, 1999). For purposes of this study, selected schools fell into the small-medium or medium-large category as reported on the state Academic Excellence Indicator System report since these types of schools, collectively, make up 91% of the total schools in the state of Texas.
Location Schools analyzed for the study existed in or near one of the three Texas cities ranked in the nation’s top 10 largest urban areas (U. S. Census, 2005) – Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Due to the explosive population growth facing school districts in these major urban areas, increased challenges were inevitable. This included schools in Regions 4, 11, and 20, respectively. According to the Texas Education Agency Report, Enrollment in Texas Public Schools 2005-06 (2007), a district was classified as major urban if: (a) it was located in a county with a population of at least 700,000; (b) its enrollment was the largest in the county or at least 75% of the largest district enrollment in the county; and (c) at least 35% of enrolled students were economically disadvantaged (McMillion & Roska, 2007). Economically Disadvantaged Minority Percentages For the purposes of this study, 2006-07 Texas Education Agency data were used to define an economically-challenged minority school as consisting of at least 50% of their students classified as economically disadvantaged with 50% of the students coming from a minority group – African American and Hispanic. A student was reported as being economically disadvantaged if he or she was: (a) eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Program; (b) from a family with annual income at or below the federal poverty line; (c) eligible for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or other public assistance; and (d) eligible for benefits under the Food
Stamp Act of 1977 (McMillion & Roska, 2007). The schools selected ranged from 70% - 90% economically disadvantaged students. Sampling Procedures In the process of selecting the most appropriate elementary and secondary schools, data collected from several Texas Educational Agency Reporting Systems: Academic Excellence Indicator System, Performance Education Information Management System, Comparison Group Reports, and Accountability Downloadable Data were used. The analysis began with the dataset of all 7,957 Texas schools. Student demographic data from all Texas schools were downloaded into two separate Excel spreadsheets. One spreadsheet included school name, district, total student enrollment, percentages of economically disadvantaged students and ethnic makeup, and number of limited English proficient students. The second spreadsheet included each school’s name, district, and accountability rating. Once all necessary data had been downloaded and formatted, both spreadsheets were merged into one Access database file. The documents of all 7,957 schools in Texas were sorted according to the number of economically disadvantaged students. Next, the analysis was restricted to those schools that had 50% or more of their total enrollment made up of economically disadvantaged students, leaving a total of 4,906 schools. A further restriction was made to include only those schools falling into Region 4 –Houston area, Region 11- Dallas-Fort Worth area and Region 20 – San Antonio area. Thirty-
two percent of all schools in Texas with at least 50% of their populations consisting of economically-challenged students fell into Regions 4, 11, and 20, totaling 1,570 schools. After a comprehensive analysis of the regional data, the need to focus exclusively on Houston and its surrounding was based on the following reasons: • • Fifty percent or 791 of the 1,570 schools were located in Region 4. Enough exemplary or recognized middle schools existed in Region 4 that had either an exemplary or recognized elementary feeder school that qualified as a feeder group. (See Table 2 for actual numbers of recognized and exemplary elementary and middle schools in each of the three noted regions.) Not enough exemplary or recognized middle schools existed in Region 11 or 20 that had either an exemplary or recognized elementary feeder school that qualified as a feeder group. Most of the high-performing schools fell into the elementary level. For example, there was only one middle school in Region 11 that would have made it through the final analysis, but each of its feeder elementary schools received a rating of acceptable.
Table 2 Regional Makeup of Schools Qualifying for Study Number of Schools with Exemplary and Recognized Ratings Region 4 Exemplary Middle Schools Exemplary Elementary Schools Recognized Middle Schools Recognized Elementary Schools 2 28 31 192 Region 11 0 6 6 75 Region 20 0 6 17 125
The 791 Region 4 schools were then sorted by grade level, accountability rating, and the economic disadvantaged population. Several schools were eliminated from this list based on the following: (1) did not receive an accountability rating in one or more of the years between 2004-2007; (2) received an accountability rating of unacceptable; (3) considered an alternative education program (AEP) which was a separate program within a K12 public school district or charter school; an AEP was established to serve and provide a choice or option to youth whose needs were not being met in the traditional school setting; (4) had fewer than 50% economically disadvantaged students; (5) considered rural (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006); (6) did not meet the size requirement to be considered small, middle or large in size; and (7) did not have at least a 50% representation of African American and/or Hispanic students.
After a final analysis, a total of 439 schools met the criteria for the study. Of the 351 elementary schools, 17 were exemplary, 159 recognized, and 175 acceptable. A total of 89 middle schools qualified for the study. One science academy (6th – 9th grade) was rated exemplary, 19 middle schools were recognized, and 69 were acceptable. All high schools were eliminated due to the fact that none of them met the criteria to remain in the study. Only two high schools that met the economically disadvantaged criteria had a recognized rating. One had a very small student population and the other was rural and consisted of only eleventh and twelfth grade students. The 19 middle schools that emerged through this process became the foundation for selecting all other schools for the study. The process of streamlining the schools selected began with the middle schools because there were so few in numbers. While further screening the 19 middle schools that received a rating of recognized or exemplary for at least two of the four years between 2004 and 2007, it became evident that 73% of the 19 schools were located in only three school districts. Because the majority of the successful schools qualifying for the study were located in three districts in Region 4, it was decided that the high performing feeder groups would be selected from these three areas. Seven of their middle schools were selected for further exploration (two sixth-eighth, three seventh-eighth, one fifth-sixth, and one sixth grade campus), all of which had sustained their recognized accountability rating for at least two of the four years from 2004-2007.
Before finalizing the middle school sample, each campus needed at least one elementary school that fed into it that showed similar performance. Those feeder elementary schools that rated either exemplary or recognized within the 2004-2007 school years were included in the study. The actions of the successful feeder groups were considered, in addition to the individual campus, in order to glean a deeper understanding of the transition period between the elementary and middle school years. This period normally marks decreases in both student and school performance. In the Region 4 schools that were examined for this study, there were 220 high-performing elementary schools compared to only 33 middle schools. Four of the selected middle schools have granted approval for participation in the study. To ensure the anonymity of each school, school names were not used in the text of this study. Instead, each school has been given a label. Each of the middle schools in the study was assigned a number ending with the designation of middle (MID). Each of the feeder elementary schools received similar labeling respectively (ELEM). Each of the comparison schools’ labels began with a C. The chart on the following page details the demographics of all schools in the study.
Table 3 Schools in Study Group District School HP 1 ELEM1 Sixth1 MID2 MID1 C 2 CELEM1 CMID1 HP 3 ELEM3 FifthSixth3 MID3 C 3 CELEM3 Tot. 653 ED 81.3 Min. 96.2 88.5 83.7 93.1 96.5 98.8 98 95.9 96 98.2 97.6 96.4 ‘04 E R R R A A E R R A A A ‘05 E R A A A A E A R A A A ‘06 E R R R A A E A R A A A ‘07 E R R A A A E R R A A A Part.
1112 68.9 1299 67.9 938 696 68.3 73.7
1090 61.7 891 949 971 799 88.8 90.8 86.5 92.4 87.3 79.9
CFifthSixth3 780 CMID3 971
Note. The group column represents whether a school was considered a high performing school (HP) or a comparison acceptable performing school (C). The other column headings represent total campus population (Tot.), percentage of economically disadvantaged (ED) and minority (Min.) students. Each school’s accountability rating for the years 2004-2007 (Texas Education Agency, 2007) are represented with an E for Exemplary, R for Recognized, and A for Acceptable. A checkmark in the last column represents the schools who gave permission to participate in the study.
Of the 18 schools requested to participate in the study, 12 granted permission. All six of the other schools denying permission resided in one district. The district cited timing as the reason for not participating. Instrumentation In this study, the researcher was the “instrument of choice.” She has been an educator in ECM schools for approximately 15 years. She has prepared extensively for this role through a thorough literature review and practice as an interviewer. Lincoln and Guba (1985) suggest using the human as the instrument because humans are responsive to environmental cues, and able to interact with the situation; they have the ability to collect information at multiple levels simultaneously; they are able to perceive situations holistically; they are able to process data as soon as they become available; they can provide immediate feedback and request verification of data; and they can explore atypical or unexpected responses. As the instrument in this qualitative study, the researcher was not only interested in the processes used at ECM schools, but in a deeper understanding that may be gained through interviewing campus staff at both high achieving and acceptable performing campuses. A conscious attempt was made to be as objective as possible. A journal was kept by the researcher upon completion of each interview and throughout the data analysis. The journal was used as a monitoring tool to examine the effects of the research process on the researcher (Gibson, 2002). The journal
assisted the researcher in limiting these effects on the description of the findings. To most accurately describe the results of each interview and analysis of each supporting document, the researcher transcribed the data within two hours of the data collection. An on-line version of the interview questions (APPENDIX C) was made available to each participant using the on-line program, Survey Monkey, in advance of the face-to-face interview. Each participant shared information in a private, face-to face interview, a private, on-line interview, or a combination of both. Each interview lasted for approximately one hour. Validity and Reliability Merriam (1988) listed six basic strategies that enhance internal validity. These include triangulation, member checks, long-term observation at the research site, or repeated observations of the same phenomenon, and participatory modes of research. A high degree of reliability and validity have already been established for the interview questions that were used in the study. The same questions were utilized by Jim Collins in his research on good-togreat companies. Waits et al. (2006) used Collins’ framework in the Beat the Odds Study in Arizona, but a team of researchers recreated interview questions for the participants. The triangulation method was used to contribute to the reliability and validity of the study. Participants had the option of answering the interview questions in an on-line format prior to the face-to-face interviews. There was a
window of about two weeks between the participant’s access to the on-line interview questions and the private, face-to-face interview. This process resembled a test-retest format. When necessary, the researcher employed an inter-rater strategy that allowed the dissertation chair to assist with coding any significant ideas that emerged throughout the interview process that did not have an obvious fit into a pre-determined coding category. The researcher collected and reviewed any documents such as newspaper clippings, campus newsletters, and district websites that supported the interview findings. Research Procedures As set forth in the Protection of Human Subject Policy, all research proposals involving human subjects must be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to data collection. The primary function of the IRB was to assure that risks to human subjects were minimized and were reasonable in relation to the anticipated benefits, that there was informed consent, and that the rights and welfare of subjects were maintained (Kritsonis et al., 2007). An Informed Consent (APPENDIX I) was created by the researcher and dissertation chair that explained the procedures of the study, the minimal risk, potential benefits, and the method utilized to ensure complete confidentiality of the participant and data collected. Participant, school, and district names were not used when findings were reported. Each participant, school, and district was assigned a codename. For example, the first district was referred to as District1, likewise the elementary school, ELEM1. Each participant in that school was
coded respectively, ELEM1.1A, ELEM1.2A, ELEM1.3T, and so on. The code reflected the school level, district number, participant number, and whether the participant was an administrator or a teacher signified by an A or a T. To increase the security and safety of the participant, the researcher carefully created a plan for contacting the participant, deciding when and where to interview, checking the environment prior to the interview, developing an awareness of safeness and confidentiality, and changing the time, date, and place of the interview if concerns came up. Each of the four selected school districts was contacted for approval to conduct the face-to-face interviews. Three of the four school districts granted permission to conduct research. After receiving district approval, each school’s principal was contacted for permission (APPENDIX G & H) to participate in the study by e-mail, postal mail, and follow-up phone call. If the principal did not respond within a two-week period of time, a second contact was made by e-mail, postal mail, and/or telephone. When necessary after the second contact attempt, a visit to the school was made to secure permission from the principal. After receiving permission from the campus principal and the IRB, letters, emails and telephone communications began with the five staff members who were named as participants. Informed Consent Forms (APPENDIX I) were given directly to each participant before the interview. Each participant was provided access to an on-line version of the interview questions, created with Survey Monkey prior to the face-to-face
interview in an effort to collect more concise and thorough responses. Each participant had the option to view and complete the on-line version of the interview questions prior to the face-to face interview. They were given the option of completing either the on-line interview or the face-to-face interview. In the face-to-face interview, each participant was given a copy of his or her on-line responses. The participant was then asked to elaborate further on each of the questions. Each interview was scheduled in a location that was convenient to the participant and private for just the interviewer and participant. The entire interview took approximately one hour. Research guidelines were followed to ensure minimal or no risk to the participants. To ensure consistency that risks to subjects were minimized, informed consent was obtained, and adequate provisions were made to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the subjects. Data Collection and Data Analysis The private, face-to-face interviews served as the main data collection tool. It was qualitative in nature and geared toward pinpointing significant distinguishing factors in successful economically-challenged minority schools. Each of the 12 schools that agreed to participate in the study was given options for interview dates between the months of August through October. After a date had been agreed upon by the principal and researcher, each of the five campus participants were contacted by email for an interview time. The participant chose a convenient and private place for the interview. In order to maintain privacy, the interview took place behind closed doors.
The Good to Great™ (Collins, 2001, cover) study sought to answer the question: “Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?” The study examined 11 elite companies that experienced great results and sustained them over time. Their performance was better than twice the results of some of the world’s greatest companies. Interview The Good to Great™ interview questions had to be slightly adapted for the population being studied (Appendix C: Interview Questions). The word “corporation” was simply replaced with the word “school”. The interview questions guided this examination of the ECM schools that have sustained greatness over the past four years and their comparison schools who have maintained an acceptable standing. The high performing ECM schools selected for the study were a rarity among schools with similar demographics and needed further exploration. The interview was used to gather information and collect other pieces of data from individuals with special knowledge or perceptions that would not be accessible through any other techniques. The interview questions were available to each participant, in an on-line format, prior to the interview session. Each participant had the option of viewing and responding to the interview questions prior to the face-to-face interview via the on-line software, Survey
Monkey. This approach contributed to more concise and thorough responses. A total of five members of the staff including administrators and teachers at each school were asked to participate in the interview. In the interview, each participant was given a copy of their on-line responses. They were asked to elaborate further on each of the questions. The researcher transcribed the interview data collected within a few hours. Prior to transcription, the data were analyzed to determine its fit within 15 pre-determined coding categories. Based on the literature review and the nature of the interview questions, the researcher entered the interview with several predetermined themes that fit into the broader conceptual framework that was utilized. Some of the themes that emerged throughout the literary synthesis include: • Disciplined people - focused leadership, purpose-driven staff, autonomy in hiring; • Disciplined thought – data-driven, student needs addressed, clear vision, curriculum and instruction focus, high expectations, no excuses, and streamlined activities; and • Disciplined action - assessment for improvement, distributed accountability, learning communities, and an “I-care” environment. Each participant’s responses was written then analyzed to fit into either of the pre-determined themes/categories.
Coding Documents After all participant responses were collected, they were consolidated, according to question number, into two separate response document for the high-performing schools and their comparison schools (APPENDIX D: Interview Questions Responses). As responses were entered into this document, a coding system was employed to highlight important topics based on the coding categories. All coding categories were created to match possible responses from participants. For example, if a response dealt with leadership characteristics it was highlighted for the disciplined people category (see coding categories on pgs. 98-101). Once all responses were compiled, two separate coding documents (APPENDIX E: Coding Matrix), created in Microsoft Word, were used to record the significant thoughts that surfaced. These ideas were copied from the Interview Question Responses (APPENDIX D) and pasted into the Coding Matrix (APPENDIX E). All of the ideas from the high-performing ECM schools were recorded in one document. The other document contained the relevant responses from the acceptable performing schools. When appropriate, the dissertation chair was used in the coding process to confirm the most appropriate coding for some of the vague but important responses. The researcher developed a separate dossier on each group of schools: high-performing and acceptable performing. The coding matrix that was created contained the key themes as they emerged. Although 15 coding categories
nested within the studies’ framework have been created prior to the interview, they were considered a “start list”. Miles and Huberman (1994) suggested that data can be coded descriptively or interpretively. They suggest creating an initial "start list" (p. 58) of codes and refining these in the field. Coding Categories The process of coding the significant portions of the responses involved consistently using the questions that were included in each of the following coding category: Disciplined People Coding Category 1 – Leadership: Who were the leaders? What were the characteristics of the leaders? Was leadership distributed to others? What was the leadership behaviors? Was the leadership visible? What were the priorities of the leader? Coding Category 2 – Recruiting and Retaining Highly Qualified: What were the hiring practices? Was there collaboration before hiring? What types of qualities were looked for in staff? Was there autonomy in hiring? How were teachers placed? What was the turnover rate? Were mentoring programs in place for new hires? Did the staff help to determine the direction of the school? Disciplined Thought Coding Category 3 – Strategic Plan/Procedures: What programs or activities brought about clear transitions? What was the strategic plan? How did the strategic thinking process look? Were there clear benchmarks and goals?
How were they developed? Were the benchmarks and goals articulated? Was the plan monitored? Were there rewards and consequences associated with campus goals? Was the plan revisited and revised based on needs? How were priorities set? What was important? What was not important? What were the procedures for adding and removing programs? Coding Category 4 – Vision, Core Values, and Purpose: What were the core values? Were they consistent? Did the staff believe in the core values of the school? Were they internalized? What was the system of accountability? Was there a sense of commitment? Coding Category 5 – Continuous Learning: What type of professional development? Was time allotted for learning? Was there value added to school community? Was there on-going research? How was learning transitioned into the classroom? Did modeling occur? Were experts utilized? Was learning considered a product or a process? Were new teachers supported and mentored? Were teachers expected to lead learning? Coding Category 6 – Collaborative Environment: Who developed the core values? Were learning communities being utilized? Were they effective? Were there clear and open lines of communication? Was there a team approach? Did collaboration occur in planning lessons? Were all members of the school community involved in campus decisions? Was there a “we” versus “I” way of thinking?
Coding Category 7 – Curriculum and Instruction Precedence: Did the taught curriculum align with the standards? Was critical thinking integrated into the curriculum? Was the rigor of instruction appropriate? Were there common strategies used across the campus? Was curriculum and instruction monitored? Was instruction adjusted when necessary? Did instruction meet the needs of the students? Was the staff being effectively used for instructional purposes? Coding Category 8 – Student Focus: Were student needs assessed individually? Were the needs of student sub-populations addressed? Did instruction match the needs of students? Did differentiation and individualized instruction occur? Were special need students included? Were special need students getting the proper instruction? Were the needs of language learners being met? Did students participate in campus decisions? Coding Category 9 - Assessment/Data-driven Decisions: Were there ongoing assessments? Were there varying forms of assessment? Were common assessments used? Were assessments aligned with the curriculum? Were assessments purposeful? Who translated and interpreted assessment results? Who created assessments? Were assessments used to monitor all aspects of the campus? What types of data were used? Who disaggregated the data? Were the data used as justification for program development? Did everyone understand data implications? Were campus actions determined by data? Were data displayed for everyone? Were data updated regularly?
Disciplined Action Coding Category 10 – High Expectations: What was the climate of the building? Was there a “no excuses” mindset? Was there a “we-care” environment? Were high expectations infused into instruction? Were all students and teachers held to the same high expectations? Coding Category 11 - Accountability: Who was responsible? What was each person responsible for? What were the incentives? What were the consequences? Coding Category 12 – Resiliency: How roadblocks were dealt with? What were the procedures for handling crisis or challenging situations? How were students and staff in need supported? Was there a mentorship program for staff and students? How did the school move forward after a challenge? Coding Category 13 – Autonomy: Did the school have the ability to structure its learning program to fit its population? Were teachers allowed flexibility and creativity in their teaching practices? Did students have options for the final product? Did the campus control the master schedule and course options? What was the buy-in? What about teacher efficacy? Was the staff
highly qualified? Was the support staff focused on student needs? Coding Category 14 - External Support: Was there a sense of support from the district? Did the community support the school’s efforts? Were parents involved? How did they show their support?
Coding Category 15 – Resources: Were resources being effectively used? Was technology integrated into the curriculum? Did teachers have the materials that they needed to effectively facilitate learning? Was the campus budget being used effectively? Was the budget designed based on student need? Were funds allocated appropriately? Did the school receive funds from other sources? Throughout the coding process, insightful and significant quotes were highlighted to strengthen the value of each of the themes that surfaced throughout the data. After all the data had been coded and categorized, similarities between responses were noted. A tabulation system was employed to count the repetitions of each important idea. Next, thoughts that appeared most often were consolidated into a concise list of important findings for both the high performing and acceptable performing schools. Drawing Conclusions After completing the coding matrix, the researcher looked down the columns of the table and formed a general idea of the activities that took place on the high performing and acceptable performing campuses. Patterns and themes were noted and comparisons were made between the two groups. Viewing the data in the matrix based on three factors: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action (Collins, 2001); the researcher was able to determine if there were any missing categories.
Displaying the Findings A partially ordered display (Miles & Huberman, 1994) was used to share the findings of the study. More specifically, a checklist matrix was utilized because this study sought to uncover and describe what was happening in the setting of both high performing and acceptable performing ECM schools in the state of Texas. Utilizing the patterns and themes compiled in the coding matrix (Appendix E), a Checklist Matrix: Predictors of Recognized or Exemplary ECM Schools (Appendix F) was created. The coding categories were collapsed into the three major categories: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Each heading consisted of its respective sub-categories: “level 5 leadership,” “first who then what,” confront the brutal facts, “hedgehog concept,” a culture of discipline, and technology accelerators. In creating this checklist, a column was designated for the themes and patterns that were found in high performing ECM schools with a second column dedicated to acceptable performing ECM schools. A thick and descriptive narrative followed that made a clear comparison between the two groups of schools. The researcher clarified the findings by putting them into the three before mentioned overarching categories. The data were transformed into easy to understand chunks. Trustworthiness Throughout the process of conducting this research, there was frequent communication with the dissertation chair and other members of the committee.
Gleaning knowledge from their expertise on the research process, sound techniques were applied to support this study’s credibility. The triangulation process was utilized to strengthen the integrity of the interview and data collection process. The in-depth, private, face-to-face or online interview was provided in a non-threatening and trusting environment for respondents to share the most accurate and honest answers to each question that was posed coupled with responses to the on-line version of the interview. Having access to the on-line version of the interview questions prior to the face-to-face gave each respondent an opportunity to thoroughly address the components of the questions. Supporting documentation was viewed such as news stories and campus documents. Summary Data obtained from a review of documents, on-line interview questions, and face-to face interviews were used in a qualitative approach to answer the research questions. The two questions pertinent to this study included: 1. What are the distinguishing characteristics that cause economicallychallenged minority (ECM) schools to become recognized or exemplary? 2. What are the practices associated with the transition from elementary to middle schools that lead to student achievement in high performing ECM feeder groups?
Faced with accountability standards, a number of Texas ECM schools performed at recognized and exemplary levels. Several of these schools have taken bold steps to ensure high levels of student performance. These bold steps have closed gaps in academic success, in educational excellence, and in proving that a high quality education was accessible to all. This study explored the distinguishing factors that exist among successful ECM schools compared to similar acceptable performing schools.
CHAPTER IV ANALYSIS OF DATA Introduction Studies indicate a strong correlation between high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools and the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, as represented by accountability measures (U. S. Department of Education, 2002). In reality, the majority of ECM schools depict a much weaker relationship. The purpose of this study was to explore the distinguishing factors that exist among successful ECM schools compared to similar acceptable performing schools. This chapter presents the results of the data analysis for the two research questions. 1. What distinguishing characteristics predict that economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools will be recognized or exemplary in the state of Texas? 2. What practices associated with the transition from elementary to middle schools are predictive of student achievement in high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) feeder groups? The data analysis was based on responses to interview questions completed in the on-line and/or face-to-face format.
Organization of Data Analysis The data that were collected to answer Research Question 1 stemed from Interview Questions 1 through 17. This information was shared in a descriptive narrative, figures, and tables. The data collected from Research Question 2 were descriptive data presented in a narrative format. Characteristics of Respondents Originally, 12 ECM schools agreed to take part in the study. One school withdrew from participation prior to the scheduled interviews. The principal decided not to participate, citing that the school did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress, therefore many new responsibilities existed. This chapter analyzes each research question individually, based on the data collected from interviews with the staff of 11 (92% of the total) economically challenged minority campuses. Those 11 campuses were spread among three high achieving ECM feeder pattern groups that received a recognized/exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency for at least two of the years between 2004-2007 and two acceptable performing groups, referred to as comparison schools. All schools in the study were similar in five areas: grade span, campus size, percentage of disadvantaged and minority population, and location. Five staff members from each of the schools were asked to respond to the interview questions. This would have provided data from 55 participants. Interview responses were collected from 43 staff members (78%). The
respondents include 87% of the staff of the exemplary or recognized schools and 85% of the staff from the acceptable schools. Of the 43 respondents, 11 participated in both the on-line and face-to-face formats; 19 participated in the on-line format only; and 13 participated in the face-to face only. All interviews were conducted in a secure room with a closed door. Each participant chose the location that was most comfortable. Interviews were held in either an administrative office, conference room, or an empty classroom. Face-to-face Interviews ranged from 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours in length. Within this time frame, participants had an opportunity to view previous responses and elaborate when necessary. When necessary, on-line participants were contacted via email for follow-up clarification. The researcher used newspaper clippings, Internet articles, and district and state website information to support the interview findings. In summary, five feeder groups in the study involved 11 campuses. Data collected from the interviews of 43 staff members of these schools were analyzed and coded based on the three categories in the Good to Great™ Framework: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Data Collected - Research Question 1 Interview Questions 1 through 17 were used to answer Research Question 1: What distinguishing characteristics predict that economicallychallenged minority (ECM) schools will be recognized or exemplary in the state of Texas? The responses from each school were consolidated in Appendix D:
Interview Question Responses. Appendix K provided a sample of the interview responses from one of the comparison schools. The responses to the interview questions were then coded using the Coding Matrix (Appendix E). Responses were coded into pre-determined categories that corresponded with the Good to GreatTM Framework: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Table 4 provides this data. Interview Question 1: General Information Interview Question 1 provided general information about the participant’s relationship with the campus and their primary responsibilities. Of the 43 respondents, 26 were teacher leaders (had leadership/administrative responsibilities for a grade level or subject area), and 17 were campus administrators. Interview Questions 2 – 4: Performance Factors Interview Questions 2 through 4 specifically asked respondents about the five factors that contributed to their respective school’s performance during the years 2004-2007 (years since TAKS). Each participant was asked to distribute 100 points among the five factors, giving the greater value to what they believed was the most important factor. Given that the schools had varying numbers of participants, a percentage was used to show the highest valued items in the point distribution. The four factors that showed the biggest differences among the two groups of schools were leadership, teamwork, data-driven decisions, and student interventions (See Figure 3). The responses have been
summarized in Table 4. A more comprehensive explanation of each factor was provided in this chapter with an analysis in Chapter 5.
Overall Importance (%)
18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0
Figure 3. The results of this study showed four distinguishing factors that existed between the recognized/exemplary schools compared to the acceptable performing schools. The overall importance is shown as a percentage based on the total points allocated to each category divided by the total possible points per group. The percentages reflect both positive and negative perceptions of the distinguishing factors.
Table 4 Factors Contributing to School Performance
Level 5 Leadership First Who Then What
4 3 4
70 (3.7%) 15 45 (2.4%)
Confront the Data Use Brutal Facts Assessment
135 (5.6%) 40
Aligned C&I Recognition Training Goals/Vision
18 6 6 4
359 (15%) 105 92.5 75 20
300 (15.8%) 20 145 10 20 153 45 20 20 10
Recognition 1 Training Vision 9 1
Relationship 2 Student Beh 8 School Progr 3 Master Sche 1 Procedures 1 Homework 1
Culture of Discipline
290 (12.1%) 82
2 45 (2.4%) 80
Parent & Community Commitment Motivated staff 5 1 1 12.5 15 50 100 30 10 30 5
Parent & Community Support Resources 7 10 1 35 2 20
Teacher Expect. 2 Student Expect. District Support 5 1
Teacher Expect. 1 25 District Mandates 1 35 Teacher Efficacy 1 15 Transition 1
Monitor Learning 1 Budget/Grant Elem. Feeder Technology Accelerators Technology 2 1 1
Note. *Twenty of the 45 points allocated for the data use factor represents a lack of data use.
Table 4 represents the responses to interview questions two and three. The most valued factors of the 24 participants from the exemplary and recognized campuses and the 19 participants from the acceptable performing campuses are shown. Each participant distributed 100 points among their responses allowing a total of 2400 points for the exemplary/recognized campuses and 1900 points for the acceptable campuses. A percentage was included for the most frequently occurring responses. Elaboration of Top Factors Interviewees were asked to elaborate on the most valued factors that contributed to the current performance of their school. The factors that showed the largest differences among the two groups of schools were leadership, teamwork (collaborative environments), data-driven decisions and student interventions. The following narratives provide a thorough explanation of the most valued factors given by both groups of schools. For a condensed version see Table 5.
Leadership – Exemplary/Recognized Schools
According to Collins (2001), the leadership in the Good to Great companies knew the key to lasting success. The answer was not the product or profit but the ability to get and keep the right people on the bus. The analysis in this study revealed that leadership, both positive and negative perceptions, was a leading factor that contributed to the school’s performance. One teacher from an exemplary elementary school stated,
“Strong leadership was the key that led the way for success. The energy and ‘can do’ attitude filtered down from the top to the teachers and then to the students.” According to the literature review, leadership was a strong indicator of student performance in high achieving ECM schools (Barr & Parrett, 2007; Harris et al., 2006; Waits et al., 2006; Williams, 2005). “The research evidence consistently demonstrates that the quality of leadership determines the motivation of teachers and the quality of teaching in the classroom.” (Harris, et. al., 2006, p. 121) Another teacher responded, “The principal supported the teachers with what they were doing in the classroom. She counted on the teachers to use their professionalism to do what was needed and didn't dictate to them how they should teach. She also supported us with the parents.” Another teacher thought that the administrators and teachers collectively “paid attention to the real needs of the staff and students. They were aware of the subtle forces that shaped the daily life of our staff.”
Leadership – Acceptable Schools
One teacher leader from an acceptable middle school ranked leadership as an important factor. Her description of the campus leader was not favorable, “The principal’s focus was not on academic/curriculum, and instead he dealt with discipline issues. The top leader did not hold teachers accountable and there was too much teacher autonomy.”
Another participant stated, “Leadership was confusing. There was no articulation of a clear vision or plan of action. Bad decisions were often made.” A middle school teacher believed that the leaders were not visible enough, “There is less administrative involvement in daily campus routines. Administrators are not visible during transition times, in high traffic areas where problems were reported, not visible in classrooms on a regular walkthru/participation time (reading), and don’t have positive contact with teachers and students.”
Teamwork – Exemplary/Recognized Schools
According to Collins (2001), management teams in the Good-to-GreatTM companies consisted of people who seriously debated the issues. When the best answers were agreed upon, everyone unified behind that course of action, no matter the individual interests. According to the responses, educators in the exemplary and recognized schools valued teamwork or a collaborative environment 8.1% more often than those from acceptable campuses. The literature suggests that collaboration was a strong indicator for high performing ECM schools (Barr & Parrett, 2007; Reeves, 2003; Harris, 2006; Picucci, 2004). Trimble (2002) found that high performing, high poverty schools have built-in criteria for making decisions. These procedures are crucial when numerous issues attempt to cause distractions that could take the campus off track from their goals.
One principal shared, “collaboration is key to any campus becoming successful. Our teachers have really come together to make our school successful. Relationships and trust are of high importance to our staff. This makes the collaboration process more cohesive.” A teacher said, “The teachers felt that their input was valuable. Teachers felt comfortable sharing ideas, plans, activities, and tests. The environment was a learning one.” Another teacher shared, “In addition, our principal has scheduled a common planning time for grade level teachers to meet to plan lessons, develop assessments, and talk about student data.”
Teamwork - Acceptable Schools
The acceptable campuses did not allocate as much value to collaboration as the exemplary/recognized campuses. Within the group of acceptable schools, there was a difference of opinions depending on the campus. For example, one middle school teacher responded, “There is not enough organized and/or focused teaming and planning time (data-driven/strategies). Planning and teaming time is not focused. Teachers do not bring success stories to share, ideas or concerns, but use time to gripe and/or complain about students, other teachers, parents or administration.” Conversely, a teacher from a separate middle school stated, “The school collaborated with its stakeholders prior to making any decision. Several meetings and mock sessions were held on developing goals.”
Data-driven Decisions – Exemplary/Recognized Schools
Collins (2001) suggested that the path to greatness began with confronting the brutal facts of the current reality. Good choices were based on infusing the facts into the decision making process. When done correctly, the right decisions become self-evident. Participants from the exemplary and recognized campuses allocated 135 points to data use. These educators shared various sources and ways that their campuses utilized data to make decisions. One teacher responded, “Vertical teams reviewed the AEIS report, INOVA (statistical data report that predicts a student's outcome using prior performance data), ADM data (district data report that records district and state assessments), and the Campus Improvement Plan. Professional Learning Communities used assessment data and tracked reading levels of students.” Another teacher reported on the commitment to data utilization from the leadership, “In 2007, our principal initiated professional learning communities to allow teachers additional time to disaggregate data and make instructional decisions.” One principal stated, “Looking at data and training teachers to look at data has also been a shift in our thinking and ultimately to our success. Data drives instruction. Our teachers are trained to look at data, and collaborate on the results to decide what the next step is in aligning our curriculum to meet and differentiate for student needs.”
This declaration is similar to the results of the Beat the Odds Study (Waits et al., 2006), California Springboard Schools (Oberman, 2005) research, and the 90/90/90 schools study (Reeves, 2003). Each of these studies revealed the importance of collaboration in various aspects of the school community. Waits et al. (2006) suggested that high performing schools “Focus on the needs of the individual child as they look at achievement per classroom, per teacher, per student. This approach unmasks poor performance and forces everyone at the school to take responsibility for student performance (p. 6).”
Data-driven Decisions – Acceptable Schools
The acceptable campuses allocated 45 points to the use of data to drive decisions. Twenty of those 45 points allocated by this group represented the lack of data-driven choices. Educators from the acceptable schools had differing beliefs about data use on their campus. One middle school teacher stated, “Our principal worked with department chair people to conduct needs assessments and to analyze data. Bi-monthly meetings are held to monitor progress and to adjust strategies as needed. Meetings are also used as professional development to identify student strengths and weaknesses through data. We used TRIAND as a staff to identify strengths & weaknesses.” An elementary educator responded, “In efforts to increase academic performance, our school was encouraged to look closely at the data. The data
reflected the deficiencies the students exhibited. Thus, instruction was driven in the direction to improve the areas in need of improvement.” A teacher leader on another middle school campus had a different perception of data use. “Our campus also lacked a data-driven decision making process. Teachers all gave routine test on Friday, but did not use the data to impact instruction. They never looked back at the results. They just moved on to the next concept. The basic response was ‘my students did not do well’ rather than ‘I didn’t teach that concept well.’”
Student Intervention – Exemplary/Recognized Schools
Student interventions received 2.4% of the total possible points from acceptable schools. On the other hand, recognized and exemplary schools allocated 12.1% of their points to this area. These schools understood what needed the most focus and how to be the best at it. According to Collins (2001), the more an organization knows what it can excel in; it eliminates those things that are not being productive, and concentrates on those things that provide opportunities for growth. “In the ‘built to suit’ paradigm, high achieving schools went beyond the big picture that standards posed to focusing on the individual performance of each child. In essence, what was present was a vital cycle of instruction, assessment, and intervention.” (Waits, 2006, p. 7) Several respondents from recognized and exemplary schools suggested that providing immediate and appropriate student interventions was key to their
success. One participant stated, “Struggling students work with instructional specialists in reading and math to receive extra help in a small group setting. The specialists pull groups of students, re-teach lessons that students had difficulty with, or sometimes co-teach with the teacher. Other interventions used are computer assisted instruction, mentoring, and scheduled tutorial or enrichment times, both during the school day and after school.” McGee’s (2004) research revealed that high performing ECM schools usually provide students with more academic time for interventions to address their areas of need. Another teacher listed what she considered to be student interventions, “Extended day, extended year, pullouts, use of programs within the school day such as PLATO and READ 180, double blocking classes are used for students who are not being successful in math.”
Student Intervention – Acceptable Schools
Although the participants from the acceptable campuses did not assign a high value to student intervention, some of the responses led the researcher to believe that student interventions may take place on their campus. For example, one teacher responded, “Students were grouped in below expectation, met expectation, and exceed expectation. These results were used for tutorials. Results were charted after each test.” Another teacher stated that “an organized intervention plan” was one of the top five factors that contributed to their academic performance.
As shown in Table 5, the perspectives of the two groups of participants on leadership, teamwork, data use, student interventions, and other important factors clearly highlight differences and similarities.
Table 5 Elaboration of Top Factors Contributing to School Performance
Exemplary/Recognized Administrative support Knew needs of campus High expectations “Can do” attitude Teachers as leaders
Acceptable Discombobulated; bad decisions made No articulation of clear vision. Enjoy job Knowledgeable; sets high expectations; guides needs assessment
Acceptable Common planning Principals plan with teachers School-wide book study Scheduling conflicts Teachers plan on their own
*Collaborative Relationships and trust Environment Researched and redefined programs aligned to curriculum (team) Value teacher input Learning environment Vertical/Horizontal Team Common planning time Extended day/year Pull outs PLATO/READ 180 Double block classes Flexible schedules
Exemplary/Recognized Specialist small groups In-school tutorial Computer assisted instruction Mentoring Enrichment programs
Acceptable Specialist work with special needs students
Curriculum & Instruction
School-wide reading programs Differentiated instruction Objectives based assessments created by vertical team Data drives instruction Aligned, layered lessons Benchmark assessments Scope and Sequence School-wide content, vocabulary, warm-ups Frequent walk-throughs
Use current data to plan instruction No curriculum expectations No expectations for teacher leaders What do we do with the data?
Factor *Data Use
Exemplary/Recognized Vertical teams, campus improvement teams, PLC use assessment data Daily time allocated for disaggregating data
Acceptable Focus on deficiencies Students grouped by levels Identify strengths and weaknesses Use data to inform instruction Experienced teachers mentored new teachers All staff committed to team goal High turnover rate
Committed to student Low-turnover High quality Care for students Diverse personnel Selective hiring process Self-disciplined Knowledgeable “Whatever it takes” attitude
Low teacher morale No guidelines No expectations
Note. *The four areas that emerged repeatedly throughout the comparison of the six high performing ECM schools to the five acceptable schools were leadership, teamwork, data-driven decisions, and student intervention.
Input Factors Disciplined People • Leadership Capacity • Teamwork Disciplined Thought • Data-driven Teaching and Learning Discipline Action • Individualized Student Intervention
Output Results High levels of proficiency among students
Output Results in 2007 Texas Accountability Rating Terminology Recognized Exemplary TAKS (Met Standard) Reading/ELA 75% 75% 75% 75% 75% 70% 85.0% 0.7% 90% 90% 90% 90% 90% 90% 95.0% 0.2%
Continued gains in Writing achievement;
Effective and enduring practices and policies are widespread.
Social Studies SDAA II All Subjects Completion Rate I Annual Dropout Rate
Figure 4. Factors Influencing Greatness in ECM Schools -Research Findings
Interview Questions 5 – 7: Change/Transition In this portion of the interview, participants were asked to talk about what sparked any major change or transition that took place on their campus between 2004 and 2007.
Participant responses from the exemplary/recognized schools centered on high expectations, goals, and better instruction. Their responses suggested that changes were sparked by the increased availability of data and the need to focus in certain areas. These schools cited specific subject areas, grade
levels, and student groups in need of attention. Change was initiated by greater expectations and a demand for collaboration in working as a team accountable for increasing student performance. Williams’ (2005) study of high performing California elementary schools revealed that district and principal’s high expectations and provisions for data use were influential in the school improvement process. House (2007) suggested that at the core of high performing schools is the belief that high expectations will produce higher levels of student achievement. One participant said, “Data initiatives were undertaken to improve student performance. A three tiered approach to instruction was instituted. Successes were recognized and celebrated and expectations were high. Status quo was not accepted. There was a school-wide culture to excel.” Another educator stated, “When the science TAKS test first came about, this kept our school from becoming exemplary, so a conscious decision was made to focus on science. Math, reading, and writing also continued to be monitored and maintained so as not to lose momentum. Our goal is for all students to pass to the best of their ability.” One teacher shared, “We haven’t made a major transition. We just looked closer at what we were already doing, and decided that we needed to work smarter, not harder.” Another teacher said, “the concept of maintaining either recognized or exemplary campus status,” was enough to keep them moving forward.
In three of the five acceptable schools, the interviewees cited change in leadership and high teacher turnover as being the major impetus causing a conscious transition in the operation of the school. District initiatives and academic concerns were shared as major reasons for beginning a transition. One middle school specialist shared, “teachers left based on academic problems, discipline problems, principal/teacher relationships, and principal/community relationships.” A teacher stated, “In 2005, accountability as well as administrative changes, i.e. new superintendent and new principal.” Another teacher shared, “The district became increasingly involved in our day to day routine. Tests were provided. In Language Arts, layered lesson plans were introduced.” One assistant principal stated, “When classroom observations showed that teachers were still teaching using TAAS strategies, we began disaggregating data often and used it to begin the critical thinking process.” Interview Questions 8 – 13: Decision Making Process In this section of the interview, participants described the process by which the school made key decisions and developed key strategies during the school improvement process.
All six of the exemplary/recognized schools described a process of collaboration between stakeholders. Although slightly different on each campus,
the decision making process included many functioning committees, ranging from subject area, grade levels, and campus improvement areas. Data from committee meetings was reported regularly to a site-based team. Some teams convened weekly, whereas others met monthly. Several of the principals met with curriculum leaders weekly. Generally, decisions were based on solid research, current data and student need. The committee structures at these schools were set up in a way that represented all facets of the school, allowing input from everyone. Several of the studies on high performing ECM schools reiterates the importance of utilizing a collaborative decision making team. Harris (2006) noted that high performing schools concentrated on sharing information between staff and promoting interaction within the school in flexible open structures. Others believed in the power of collaboratively discussing campus needs and concerns before making decisions (Ansell, 2004; Kannapel & Clements, 2005; Williams, 2003). For example, in one of the elementary schools, a teacher stated, “The school went about making decisions through collaboration. We have a Site Based Management Team that consists of teachers, parents, and administrators, as well as community members. Any major decision is brought before this team to discuss and decide. That information is then brought before the rest of the campus to get feedback.”
Another participant responded, “Student needs were at the core of all decisions. Grade level teams addressed needs of individual students. School wide initiatives were addressed through grade level, vertical teams and the SBDM (site-based decision making team).” An elementary teacher stated, “Our principal, met with vertical team leaders, specialists, and teacher leaders on the campus to create new strategies. She also studied success stories from other successful campuses.” In each of these cases, representatives were responsible for gathering and sharing the thoughts of their respective groups. They then distributed the results of meetings or decisions to the staff and student body.
Three of the acceptable schools described a collaborative process similar to the one shared by the exemplary/recognized schools. For example, one educator responded, “The school collaborated with its stakeholders prior to making any decisions. Several meetings and mock sessions were held on developing goals.” A principal stated, “As the principal, I could not do it all on my own. We developed a school-wide decision making process of looking at data. We decided to put the data up-front and let it guide all of our decisions.”
Conversely, two of the acceptable performing schools stated that decisions were made based on district mandates. Both shared evidence of the principal being the sole decision maker who then informed the staff of what needed to be done. For example, one assistant principal stated, “The principal made decisions solely…did not accept recommendations from administrative team. There was no collaboration.” Another educator shared, “There was a shell of a Campus Building Leadership Team that held meetings twice a month. Everything looked good on paper. Administrators began doing classroom walk-throughs (CWTs). The data collected from the CWTs showed that we were a “seat work” campus. That was the extent of the CWT process. We collected data, but there was no follow-up as to what to do next. Decisions were ultimately made by the principal, dean of instruction, and associate principal.” A teacher responded, “Administrators made the decisions without any buy-in. They shared what needed to get done. There was no process of training involved.”
For the exemplary/recognized group of respondents, the average confidence score in their school’s decisions was 8.82. A score of 10 meant great confidence in good decisions. A score of one meant that the respondent had little confidence in the decisions that were being made.
One respondent said, “10, because decisions were not made arbitrarily. They were based on solid research and student need.” Another assigned a confidence score of 10, “I knew the principal and the teachers on the site based team had the children’s best interest in mind.” Another participant gave a confidence sore of 10 because of leadership. Participants from the two acceptable schools that did not share a collaborative process for decision making also gave their schools a five or less confidence score on a scale of 1 to 10. The other three acceptable schools gave an average confidence score of 7.85 in their school’s decisions. One participant shared, “8, I think that having the school all on the same page is a good move. I trust our principal and her leadership. I feel like I have a say in what we do.” Another educator stated, “8, we were not shooting in the dark. We let the data guide us. We also researched any program or plan we considered implementing.” Interview Question 16: Perception of Differences Each school in the study was asked to share their perception of the differences between their school and the ones to which they were being compared (See Table 6).
Table 6 Participant Perceptions of Differences in School Groups
Exemplary/Recognized Schools “What are they missing?” Strong leadership (II) Takes risk Supportive (II) Open-door policy Data-driven Collaborative environment (IIII II) Student interventions (III) Teachers Self-disciplined Experienced Curriculum knowledge Committed (II) Continuous learners Preparation/Consistency High Expectations (IIII) “Whatever it takes” attitude (IIII) Parent/Community Involvement (II) Trusting/Positive climate District support
Acceptable Schools “What do they have that we don’t have?” Leadership (III) Builds leadership capacity
Effective use of data (II) Collaboration (II) Student Intervention Teachers Curriculum knowledge Committed Hard-working Buy in (II)
High expectations “No excuses” attitude Parent Involvement Campus Culture District support (HR)
Exemplary/Recognized Schools “What are they missing?” Student needs priority (II) Caring relationships
Acceptable Schools “What do they have that we don’t have?” Play accountability game Different communities/Home Life (III) Vision Monitoring (II) Only a few percentage points (II)
Note. The tally marks following certain areas represents the frequency of that response.
When the participants from the exemplary and recognized schools were asked what was different about their school when compared to similar schools that were acceptable, they responded with statements about leadership, commitment, collaboration, and a “whatever it takes attitude.” For example, one teacher said the difference was, “strong administrators and teachers working together.” Another teacher said she believed the biggest difference was “team work, high expectations, and doing whatever it took to be successful.” A principal responded, “Our teachers have great dedication to student achievement. I believe this has developed through strong supportive leadership. Teachers ideas are accepted and valued and teachers are held accountable to
high expectations just as the students are.” Another participant said, “Our school has true dedication. We have a ‘whatever it takes, everyday’ attitude. Our teachers do a great job building relationships with students and parents. We have several interventions in place for students. Caring is our true secret.”
Participants from the acceptable schools were asked to share what they believed to be the difference between their school and the exemplary/recognized schools that had similar demographics. Responses included such factors as leadership, staffing, student attendance, campus culture, and different communities served. For example, one teacher responded, “In my opinion, the difference would be leadership and campus culture. I truly believe that our campus culture is challenging at times which impacts the delivery of instruction and academic performance.” One teacher believed the difference was, “leaders that lead by example with no excuses.” Another participant stated, “Student transition is an issue here. Students come and go without consistency in instruction and attendance.” A principal stated, “Staffing. It is a tough job to find and hire teachers who understand the curriculum, especially when some in the district believe and tell new teachers that they don’t want to go to that school.” Another participant said, “Focused teachers and teams that address student needs made evident through
assessments and support of administration and school system.” Other educators stated that the differences included: “a lower special education population and a different community,” “only a few percentage points,” and “not much difference except that 99.9% of our students come from economically challenged backgrounds.” Data Collected - Research Question 2 Interview Question 18: Feeder Schools The Researcher posed Interview Question 18 in an effort to answer Research Question 2: What practices, associated with the transition from elementary to middle schools, are predictive of student achievement in high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) feeder groups?
Each of the exemplary/recognized schools cited examples of how they communicated with their feeder schools. The communication was more systematic and comprehensive depending on the district. For example, two feeder schools in one district shared similar responses. They both stated that each school in the district had a partner school. One principal stated, “Each campus in our district is assigned a partner school. Meetings are held a minimum of twice a semester. During the partner meetings, grade levels are given an opportunity to share best teaching practices, assessments, and any other information that may relate to their grade level.” Networks between different subject area teachers were developed
through district sponsored meetings in order to vertically align the curriculum and instruction. For example, one teacher stated, “Communications for science that
goes on between campuses in the district are provided by our science curriculum specialist in meetings and emails throughout the school year.” In another district, the feeder school’s communication included joint activities hosted by the guidance counselors for college and career days, open houses, and springtime visits. The other schools in the study cited principal meetings that were required between the feeder schools. It was stated by one principal that “the principals in this feeder pattern have a genuine concern for each other and have a common vision.” Campus specialists from each feeder school met monthly with district specialist to discuss strategies that work and those that did not. Follow up was then expected to take place at the campus level.
Three of the acceptable schools responded to this portion of the interview with “No” or “None”. No communication took place between their feeder schools throughout the 2004-2007 school years. The two other acceptable schools had limited communication, mostly at the beginning and end of the school year. This communication was centered on student records transfer and student placement. For example, “Since the onset of the Student Success Initiative, we
discussed the history of a child and effective interventions with their elementary campuses. These are normally last minute discussions held between the campuses’ data team leader.” Another example of this exchange was provided by an elementary teacher. “With Individual Education Plans, we communicate between feeder schools to make the transition easier for students and teachers. This process prevents down time of necessary service provisions for students.” One acceptable middle school stated that the high school that it feeds into communicates about fine arts, student scheduling, and specific programs such as International Baccalaureate and AVID. The principal stated, “We do have college student tutors for Saturday school in the past. IB supports conversations between feeder schools. Teachers from our feeder schools have met several times as a group.” This middle school principal went into the elementary classes at the end of the school year to meet each student and provide him or her with a pencil. In her words, “she wanted to put a face with a name of the student’s new school.” Summary The data collected from the 43 respondents to the interview were shared in a comparison/contrasting format. This arrangement clearly highlights the four distinguishing factors that existed between the two groups that were studied. Leadership capacity, teamwork, data-driven decisions, and individualized student interventions surfaced. Each of these areas was viewed significantly
different by the two groups. The leadership team in the exemplary/recognized schools put the best interest of the school first and shared in the successes as well as the disappointments. The comparison schools viewed leadership differently. When participants were asked to assign value to the factors that contributed to or caused the academic performance of their campus between 2004-2007, leadership was valued 8.6% higher by the staff from acceptable campuses than exemplary/recognized campuses. This was due, in part, to the fact that the leadership was blamed for the current status of the school. The second factor that emerged was teamwork. The higher performing schools created an environment of trust where each person’s input was highly valued. Each person was accountable for sharing the responsibility of accomplishing school goals; therefore their perspective was respected and considered. In the words of a teacher from an exemplary campus, “Teamwork is the key.” Eighty percent of the acceptable schools believed constant transitions such as staff and administrator turnovers did not lend itself well to collaboration. The third factor that surfaced was data-driven decisions. The exemplary and recognized schools aligned the curriculum with common instruction and assessment in each subject within each grade. The focus in these schools was to use data to drive decisions for teaching and learning and achievement per child per classroom. Common planning time was created for teachers to collaboratively plan lessons, develop assessments, and discuss student data.
Conversely, 75% of the schools in the comparison group of schools either did not mention or responded that there was a lack of data utilization in their schools. As described by one of the participants, “there was no ownership of the teaching and learning process on the campus.” The final and most significant distinguishing factor between higher performing ECM schools and their comparison schools was their provision for individualized student intervention. When assigning value to this factor, the exemplary/recognized ECM schools rated student intervention 10% higher than their acceptable performing counterparts. Higher performing schools in the study offered a wide variety of interventions to students. For example, tutoring, Saturday schools, individualized, and computer-aided instruction were used. Based on their use of data, they were able to pinpoint exactly which child was in need of which intervention. Many were able to analyze data in such a way that even pulled apart the objectives in the curriculum that were in need of re-teaching. The acceptable schools were aware that student problems existed, but were unaware of the best course of action to fix the problem. According to participants, they were sensitive to the group of students that needed the intervention, causing a one-size-fits-all approach.
CHAPTER V FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Introduction This chapter will provide a summary of the study. It will present the findings from the data analysis, a conclusion based on the research questions, implications of the findings, and suggestions for future research. Summary of the Study After countless performance accountability program implementations nationwide, the gap between economically-challenged populations of students and their more affluent counterparts continued to exist. Academic scores of minority groups, namely African American and Hispanics, continue to fall below the scores of Caucasian students. Although Texas’ accountability system has been a model used by other states, it has not been able to eliminate the gaps between minority students and other more affluent sub-groups. According to a Texas Education Agency Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Performance Report (2007), scores for third grade students in each sub-group have increased from April 2003 to April 2007. The gap between groups, however, has decreased minimally. In 2007, third grade Caucasian students scored 12% higher than Hispanic students, 21% higher than African American students, and 15% higher than economically disadvantaged students. These gaps were extreme in the subject areas of mathematics and
science and in the upper grades. For example, in 2007 on all TAKS tests taken by eighth graders, 77% of Caucasian students met standards, whereas 43% of African American, 49% of Hispanic, and 46% of economically disadvantaged students met standards. The achievement gap continues to look dismal for eleventh graders. On all TAKS tests taken by eleventh graders in 2007, 83% of Caucasian students met standards compared to 52% of African Americans, 57% of Hispanics, and 54% of economically disadvantaged students. Despite these overwhelming figures, several schools with a large population of economically-challenged-minority (ECM) students have achieved academic excellence. These schools have made remarkable transitions to becoming great. This inspired the researcher to use the Good-to-Great™ framework and a qualitative analysis. The two research questions that were thoroughly explored included: 1. What distinguishing characteristics predict that economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools will be recognized or exemplary in the state of Texas? 2. What practices associated with the transition from elementary to middle schools are predictive of student achievement in high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) feeder groups? Using the characteristics consistent with the research on high-performing, high poverty schools and the inspiration and method gleaned from Jim Collins (2001), author of the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the
Leap…and Others Don’t; this study conducted an in-depth exploration of three
ECM feeder pattern groups that were outperforming schools with a similar demographic makeup compared to two feeder groups that have remained acceptable over time. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the actions and behaviors that occurred in economically-challenged minority schools that either led to superiority or to mediocrity, face-to-face and/or on-line interviews were utilized. Findings (Research Question 1) Before outlining the factors that distinguished the high performing ECM schools from the acceptable ones, a broader discovery needs to be discussed. According to the data collected, it appeared that most schools looked quite different depending on the school’s level of school improvement. These differences led the researcher to describe natural phases along a school’s improvement journey. These distinct phases reflected a more thorough examination of the data that highlighted a clear division in the stages of a schools’ overall performance. The commonalities among certain schools in the study led the researcher to refer to the schools’ stages as being transparent, transforming, and transitional. All of the schools in the study fell along this continuum with the higher performing schools falling into the transparent stage and the acceptable performing school ranging between the transforming and transitional stages. Within the three school improvement phases: transparency, transforming, and
transitional, the researcher found various levels of leadership capacity, teamwork, data-driven decisions, and individualized student intervention. Transparency is a common word that is being redefined. The traditional definition of transparent is a material that is clear or permeable to visible light. According to Yukna (2003), when an organization is transparent, everything is made available to everyone, at least those working inside the organization. Based on the data collected, schools that were in the transparent stage had stakeholders who were well-informed of the goals and vision of the school. The staff and students worked collaboratively to establish, monitor, and reach goals. The major distinguishing factor of this stage of the school improvement process was the “no excuses” attitude that permeated the schools, staff, and student bodies. Transforming schools had many of the same characteristics of the schools in the transparent stage. The collaborative environment was evident, but the schools were lacking the full commitment of the staff and the complete faith that students could be successful, no matter the circumstances. Ongoing staff development was documented as being a strong force in the transformation to a higher performing school. Transitional schools were described as constantly going through transition. Several transitions were sparked by changes in leadership and high teacher turnover. Other major transitions were mandated by the districts to address the need for curriculum alignment and accountability. The ultimate
distinction in this stage of development, however, appears to be the mindset of the staff members. Many staff members in the transitional stage continued to blame external circumstances for its academic status. The researcher used the discovery of these three stages in the school improvement process as benchmarks to discuss the four distinguishing factors. The four areas that surfaced repeatedly throughout the comparison of the six high performing ECM schools to the five acceptable schools were leadership capacity, teamwork, data-driven decisions, and student intervention. Although these four factors were highly valued by most schools in the study, the main difference was the intensity level among each group of schools. To illustrate this point, the six exemplary/recognized schools fit comfortably in the transparent stage, while one of the acceptable schools was considered transforming and the other four were in the transitional stage. The narrative below provides a description of the two extreme stages, transparent versus transitional, based on the four distinguishing factors that were exposed. The participating acceptable school that fit into the transforming stage exhibited characteristics of both stages. Disciplined People The collected data showed that a great amount of importance was assigned, by most respondents, to two specific areas: leadership capacity and teamwork. These two factors were similar to Jim Collin’s (2001) version of disciplined people: Level 5 Leadership and First Who…Then What. Although
both areas were significant to each group of schools, their view of each area was quite different depending on their stage of overall school performance. Leadership Capacity Jim Collins (2001) described Level 5 Leadership as leaders who build enduring greatness through a blend of humility and professional will. These leaders channeled their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. Their ambitions were first and foremost for the institution. Within the data collected in this study, the Level 5 Leadership theme resounded, not only for the principal, but for the leadership team. The leadership team in the exemplary/recognized schools put the best interest of the school first and shared in the successes as well as the disappointments. When participants were asked to assign value to the factors that contributed to or caused the academic performance of their campus between 2004-2007, leadership was valued 8.6% higher by the staff from acceptable campuses than exemplary/recognized campuses. This was due, in part, to the fact that the leadership was blamed for the current status of the school. One staff person described the leadership as being “discombobulated, and having no articulation of a clear vision or plan of action” and stated that “Research strategies were shared and mandated with no support or monitoring.” Another respondent from an acceptable school said “the leadership focus was not on academic/curriculum, but on dealing with discipline issues (i.e. drugs)…top leaders were not holding teachers accountable.”
Leadership Capacity (Transparent Stage)
Schools that reached a level of transparency did not have one leader, but many. Although the principals took a hands-on approach to every aspect of the campus, leadership expectations and responsibilities were filtered throughout the school and became its culture. Effective and reflective conversations were held often to monitor campus goals. The energy, guidance, can-do attitude, and the success of the school enthusiastically rested in each staff member and student’s hands. Teachers were self-motivated and self-directed and never complacent. Leaders took action rather than being reactionary. The transparent campus functioned effectively in the absence of the principal. Trust was a twoway street where the leaders and the staff relied on each other to accomplish campus, classroom, and student goals. Four principals from the schools receiving an exemplary/recognized rating and one of the acceptable performing school’s principal attributed much of the success of the school to the hardworking staff and students. Similar to Level 5 Leaders, none of them said that the school’s success was, even in part, due to their leadership. Additionally, stories were shared by the principals, pinpointing themselves as the reason why the school had not progressed further in certain areas. For example, one principal cited a bad hiring-decision. Another focused on the monitoring process (conducted by campus leadership) used for instruction in science as part of the reason why the science scores had not
soared. The principal stated, “Until we looked deep into the data, we (administrators) thought we were seeing good instruction.” Conversely, many of the teacher respondents from the exemplary/recognized schools said that the principal was responsible for much of the success of the school. In one school, four of the five respondents named the principal as the number one factor for the school’s success. According to one respondent, “Strong leadership was the key that led the way for success.” Another teacher responded, “Our leaders are aware of the subtle forces that shaped the daily life of our staff.” Another common characteristic sited by the participants of high performing schools was the willingness of the leaders to take risks. One participant from an exemplary school shared, “We had a principal that wasn’t afraid to try things. She supported her teachers in every way. As long as you did your job, she was your best cheerleader.”
Things That Principals of High Performing Schools Do Differently
According to the respondents, principals in high performing ECM schools: 1. Define and articulate goals; 2. Make data (multiple sources) driven decisions; 3. Inspire a “whatever it takes” attitude; 4. Focus on students; 5. Assist students in need, immediately; 6. Create a collaborative environment;
7. Supply necessary training for staff; 8. Provide leadership opportunities to staff; 9. Support and valued staff; and 10. Demand high expectations from everyone.
Leadership Capacity (Transitional Stage)
Schools that were in the transitional stage saw the principal as the sole leader. Although groups met to review data, there was no monitoring of supposed goals and the principal normally made all the decisions. Staff members were hesitant about taking on leadership responsibilities and refused to take ownership for the academic performance of the school. Many curriculum leaders had no guidelines or expectations. External circumstances, including student discipline and lack of parental involvement, were blamed for performance. Leaders were satisfied with the status quo and reacted to change only when necessary. Interview responses clearly showed that the staff in the schools at this stage blamed the principal and/or leadership team for the condition of the school. For example, one participant shared, “The leadership focus was not on academic/curriculum…dealing with discipline issues (drugs). Top leader did not hold teachers accountable.” Jim Collins (2001) referred to this as the “simplistic ‘credit the leader’ or ‘blame the leader’ thinking.” On the other hand, one principal’s response discussed the poor attitude and knowledge base of the teachers as one of the
primary causes for the campus’ performance. Self-reflection had not become a part of the culture of the school. Teamwork Jim Collins (2001) discussed the First Who…Then What concept. His research showed that great companies often chose the right people for the right positions then forged a vision and strategy. This study on high performing ECM schools showed similar results. The right staff and the right strategy was a never-ending cycle in high performing schools. Both groups of schools weighed staff as a strong determining factor in the performance of the school. The exemplary/recognized schools gave the importance of staff 11.8% of their overall points. The acceptable or comparison schools assigned the same factor 10.9% of its points. A significant difference was found in the way the staff operated on a campus. The higher performing schools agreed that a collaborative staff was worth 11.8% of their points whereas the comparison group assigned only 3.7% of their point value to collaboration.
Teamwork (Transparent Stage)
The higher performing schools created an environment of trust where each person’s input was highly valued. Each person was accountable for sharing the responsibility of accomplishing school goals; therefore their perspective was respected and considered. In many of the exemplary/recognized schools, each person on campus was involved in strategic planning, from the custodian to the principal. Although each staff
person on the campus could not attend every decision-making meeting, a representative from each grade level and/or department was able to speak on behalf of the group. The representatives normally gathered weekly to create strategies, monitor goals, and tweak the current plan of action. Although the teams had different names on each campus, like cabinets, site-based decision team, or school improvement teams, their purpose was to guide the vision of the school through constant dialogue grounded in current data. Some schools even recorded minutes in the meetings and made them available for everyone. One participant shared, “The teachers felt that their input was valuable. Teachers felt comfortable sharing ideas, plans, activities, and tests. The environment was a learning one. “ The data showed that in transparent schools everyone was familiar with the daily processes and goals of the school. Even in the absence of the leaders, the school improvement process continued.
Teamwork (Transitional Stage)
Eighty percent of the acceptable schools fell into the transitional stage. One respondent described her school as transitioning every two years depending on who was named principal. The transitional stage was characterized as having a constant turnover of staff and not lending itself well to collaboration. Four of the acceptable performing schools cited teacher turnover as an issue leading to the performance of the school. One school said that it was difficult to find the right teachers who were all about the students. Another
respondent said that teachers left the school because of academic problems, discipline problems, and/or teacher-principal relationships. Although these campuses had decision-making teams in place, most often teachers were not allowed to become involved in the decision-making process. One respondent said that decisions were made by the principal and the dean on the campus, period. Mandates were normally distributed at monthly faculty meetings with no follow-up. Disciplined Thought Jim Collins (2001) described two factors that made up the disciplined thought of the 11 great companies that he studied: Confronting the brutal facts and the hedgehog concept. In this study, similar aspects were found that pointed directly to a process used for the teaching and learning cycle. In this process, two drastic differences were noted between the higher performing ECM schools and their comparison schools: streamlining of programs (Hedgehog concept) and the utilization of data (confronting the brutal facts). Even though both groups of schools gave almost identical value to curriculum and instruction as being a key factor for their respective school’s performance, the higher performing schools gave a succinct list of only four other items that fell into this category compared to a list of 10 items given by the acceptable performing schools. Coming in second to curriculum and instruction in acceptable schools was the idea of student behavior and/or discipline issues.
Student discipline was not mentioned once on the list of factors for higher performing schools. Although other factors were listed as important, data-driven teaching and learning was the factor that most distinguished high-performing schools from their lower performing comparison schools. According to the exemplary/recognized schools, they valued teaching and learning decisions, based on data, 3.2 times more than their comparison schools.
Data-Driven Decisions (Transparent Stage)
Transparent schools aligned the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), Texas’ curriculum, with common instruction and assessment in each subject within each grade. The focus in transparent schools was achievement per child per classroom. Team instructional planning time (horizontal and vertical) was honored and protected. Common planning time was created for teachers to collaboratively plan lessons, develop assessments, and discuss student data. Instruction was driven by current data and was adjusted and agreed upon by the teaching staff and monitored by the leadership team. Common assessments were aligned with the TEKS and were given often. Reflective practices were integrated into the data-disaggregation process in order to monitor both student and teacher practices. Academic data were plastered all over transparent campuses. Campus and classroom data were visible for all to see. Everyone was cognizant of the current performance of the
campus. In transparent schools, teachers worked together to make sure all students succeeded. Participant responses revealed that a part of this process involved constant monitoring of the learning process by administrators as well as colleagues. With monitoring came immediate feedback. Some campuses relied on trend data from snapshot walk-throughs and more comprehensive data from PDAS (Professional Development and Appraisal System) evaluations. The results of the monitoring process was not stored in a folder, but became the topic of dialogue and strategy sessions. Quite often teachers were given support in areas that needed improvement. Teacher efficacy was crucial, one principal responded that it was her responsibility to “monitor student progress (and)…remove the uncommitted (teachers).”
Data-Driven Decisions (Transitional Stage)
Seventy-five percent of the schools in this category either did not mention or responded that there was a lack of data utilization in their schools. As described by one of the participants, there was no ownership of the teaching and learning process on the campus. Campuses in the transitional stage took direction from the district, and simply formed a paper trail with no lasting impact on students. High-level instruction was mandated with no modeling, support, or follow-up by internal and external leaders. Most of the campuses in the transitional stage did not provide common planning time during the school day. Teachers either planned lessons and
assessments alone or met before or after school to collaborate on instruction. There was no standard process for “check-and-balance” on curriculum, instruction, and assessment alignment. The transitional stage can be described as knowing the need to gather data, but not knowing how to use the data to address areas of concerns, to inform instructional practices, or to self-reflect on teacher-efficacy. Typically, the blame was rationed off to others. One participant replied, “Teachers say, ‘My students didn’t do well rather than I didn’t teach the concept well.’” Disciplined Action Jim Collins (2001) said that “A culture of discipline was not just about action. It was about getting disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action” (p. 142). Collins (2001) mentioned the importance of turning down opportunities that do not fall in line with the goals of the organization. The most significant distinguishing factor between higher performing ECM schools and their comparison schools was their provision for individualized student intervention. When assigning value to this factor, the exemplary/recognized ECM schools rated student intervention 10% higher than their acceptable performing counterparts.
Individualized Student Intervention (Transparent Stage)
When schools were in the transparent stage, they offered a wide variety of interventions to students. Based on their use of data, they were able to
pinpoint exactly which child was in need of which intervention. Many were able to analyze data in such a way that even pulled apart the objectives in the curriculum that were in need of re-teaching, tutorials, or some other form of intervention. These schools suggest that to offer intervention that work, the intervention must be individualized, flexible, and different from previous instruction. Normally, a team was gathered to decide on the proper student intervention. As a team, teachers and specialists used a “no-excuse” approach to ensure that students received what was needed in order to be successful. Some examples of interventions that were mentioned by some higher performing campuses included: one-on-one or small group time with subject area specialists, computer-assisted instruction (ex. READ 180), differentiated instruction, mentoring, scheduled tutorial/enrichment time, and during the day, after school, and/or Saturday tutorials. One teacher described a situation where a student entered the school from another district with what seemed to be behavior problems. Within the school’s process, the student was evaluated and found to struggle with numeration, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills. An intervention plan that included 20 minutes a day with the math specialist was created to assist with the deficient areas. The student began feeling more successful causing a positive attitude and behavior shift.
Individualized Student Intervention (Transitional Stage)
Schools that were in the transitional stage were aware that there was a need to fix a problem that existed, but were unaware of the best course of action to repair it. Many times they were aware of the group of students that needed the intervention. Most often the intervention used was a one-size-fits-all approach. Group goals were more important at this stage than the success of each individual student. One respondent shared that “the principal put the worst teacher with the students that have the greatest need.” According to the data, in some acceptable performing schools there was no indication that interventions were given at all. Summary of Findings The four distinguishing factors that set the high performing ECM schools in this study apart from the acceptable performing ones were extremely significant to the school improvement process. The high performing schools each created a process involving leadership capacity, teamwork, data-driven decisions, and individualized student intervention. Their attention to the details of each individual child may be the impetus that has caused them to reach their level of academic performance. The data provide evidence that schools that consistently hone each of these four factors become transparent allowing all stakeholders to work collaboratively to ensure success for all students.
Findings (Research Question 2) The data collected from Interview Question 18 provided minimal differences in the two groups of schools studied. In regards to the transition of students from elementary to middle schools, limited evidence was found that would predict student achievement in high performing economically-challenged minority (ECM) feeder groups. What was found was that some districts put a greater importance on schools in the feeder groups communicating with each other. Two school districts recently began providing meetings that allow feeder group principals, lead teachers, and specialist to meet and talk about successes, disappointments, strategies that work, and students need. Both exemplary and recognized schools from one of the districts described the meetings as being meaningful and supportive. In the other district, the meetings were spearheaded by district personnel. The participants from the recognized school provided details about the meetings and the positive impact that the discussions had on their school. The staff from the acceptable school did not mention the meetings at all. Moreover, the other three acceptable schools stated that there was no communication between schools other than that surrounding the exchange of records and/or extra-curricular activities. Structured communications between schools in feeder groups appears to be a new endeavor. Due to this fact, this strategy may not have had a chance to impact student achievement.
Conclusions The six high performing ECM schools discussed in this research revealed four distinguishing factors that set them apart from other schools that were like them in grade span, campus size, disadvantaged and minority population, and location. Those four factors were building leadership capacity, teamwork, datadriven decisions, and student intervention. Just as important as the four instructive factors were two broader strategies for school reform that emerged. The first strategy has been described by the researcher as creating a culture of transparency. Each of the schools that were rated exemplary or recognized by the Texas Education Agency Accountability Department described this atmosphere in a clear and concise manner. Transparent schools had no secrets. These schools functioned as if walls, both physical and intellectual, were made of translucent material. Each member of the staff and student body radiated trust and commitment to the vision of the school. Within the building, meetings were held regularly as checkpoints in the mission to achieving the goals of the school. A constant system of analyzing data brought about reassurances of what worked and what did not. Details of meetings were shared through regularly scheduled department and grade level meetings. Common planning, instruction, and assessment were part of the culture. Sharing ideas and initiatives were commonplace. Everything was on the table. School-wide and classroom scores were posted for all to view. This practice was viewed by the staff as both an
incentive to provide the best instruction and to assist one another in areas of need in order to promote the general well-being of the entire school. The second overarching strategy that successful schools impart was their ability to focus on the true issues that were in their locus of control. Having a streamlined focus on individualizing each child’s education moved them into a class of their own. The more successful ECM schools do not emphasize external factors such as family life, economic status, or behavioral concerns. The “no excuse” attitude of the staff and students allow both groups to trust the processes that have been established to promote learning for all. Instead of bringing in different programs that were said to be the new magic cures, the high-achieving schools stuck to simple, sure, and effective practices. The accountability data describing Texas’ schools consistently show that there are not enough high performing ECM schools, but that it is possible to create more. The six high performing ECM schools in this study can serve as a resource to any ECM school that is determined to raise student achievement levels. The greatest lesson is to focus on the right things for children. Summary Despite the many inequalities faced by a large portion of Texas schools, a number of ECM schools performed at recognized and exemplary levels. Their straightforward and bold steps closed gaps in academic success, in educational excellence, and in proving that a high quality education is accessible to all. This
study explored what these high performing ECM schools were doing differently from comparison schools to set them apart and make them academically productive. It is the researcher’s belief that the four distinguishing factors that were found in high performing ECM schools coincide with Jim Collins’ (2001) research on highly successful companies. Although Collins’ (2001) list disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action as stages within a company’s success, the researcher in this study prefers to view the factors as a part of an unending cycle of ongoing school improvement. The factors that surfaced were leadership capacity, teamwork, data-driven decisions and individualized student intervention. The high performing schools in the study did not have just one leader. Although these principals were hands-on, many leadership expectations and responsibilities were filtered to others on the campus. Effective and reflective discussions became a natural and inclusive part of the decision making process. Collaboration or teamwork was viewed as being more important in the exemplary/recognized schools as compared to their comparison schools. Each person’s views were highly valued and considered on the more successful campuses. Common planning time within the school day was allocated and protected, and was considered a means to a more productive end. Planning
time was focused on creating high quality lessons and assessments and reflecting on current data in order to quickly and effectively address student needs. The focus in the higher performing ECM schools in the study was on data-driven decisions. Emphasis was placed on achievement per classroom per child. Classroom instruction was driven by current data derived from common assessments. Teachers were able to use data in order to inform their own teaching practices. Data-driven campuses endorsed a quick turnaround in closing or preventing achievement gaps. Student interventions were not mandated for the entire campus, student group, or grade level. Instead, high performing schools looked at individual student performance and created personalized intervention plans that best suited the child’s needs. With the emergence of the four distinguishing factors, this study confirmed many of the same results found in the review of educational research and professional literature. Leadership, teamwork, and data-driven decisions were quoted numerous times in the review of literature (Bell, 2001; Reeves, 2003; Waits et al., 2006). Although other studies alluded to student intervention (Waits, 2006), this particular factor noticeably separated high performing ECM schools and acceptable schools in this study. The use of student intervention was valued 12.1% by exemplary and recognized schools as compared to 2.4%
by acceptable performing schools. This fact along with the application of these factors has powerful implications for student achievement in ECM schools. The application of the four factors that emerged proved that successful ECM schools do things quite differently from acceptable ECM schools. Although there was not much of a distinction in the communication of feeder groups for either high performing or the comparison schools, there was a great bit of evidence that success happens within schools. Successful schools viewed accountability from a different lens than acceptable performing schools. Accountability was viewed as an opportunity as opposed to a mandate. According to the data, the four factors that appeared in most schools looked quite different depending on the school’s level of school improvement. These differences led the researcher to describe natural phases along a school’s improvement journey. The phases were referred to as transparent, transforming, and transitional. The transparent phase was descriptive of schools that worked as a team to make decisions that were best for kids. Figuratively speaking, there were no walls. Information was gathered and shared willingly and student’s needs were addressed head-on. Academic value was constantly being added to students and measured through a rigorous and constant stream of assessment data. All of the high performing ECM schools in this study fell into the transparent phase. The transforming phase was descriptive of one of the acceptable schools in the study. Their scores showed a steady increase in overall academic
performance. They were very similar to the schools in the transparent phase, but had not reached the level of collaboration and commitment. Most of the acceptable schools fell into the transitional stage. Participants in these schools described them as ever changing depending on the new principal or the high turnover in staff. Excuses were made for academic scores ranging from the home life of the students to ill-prepared principals and teachers. Although this study shared significant differences in the way successful ECM schools operate as compared to acceptable ECM schools, there were ultimately minor differences in the demographic makeup of their student bodies. Successful ECM schools focused on the things that work best for students and those things that were within their locus of control. Conversely, acceptable performing schools focused on a plethora of things, many of which were insignificant to creating a high quality learning environment. The reality is simple; the education system has the opportunity to drastically improve the accessibility and quality of education for its entire population in order to enrich their future. The value of this study resides in the hands of educators and policymakers and their willingness to apply the factors that have been revealed to be the most effective and predictive of successful economically-challenged minority schools.
Recommendations Even though most of what is gleaned from this study points to successes being attributed to the internal culture and processes of schools, it is important that policy changes and/or grass root efforts occur on all levels of administration in order to support the work that is being conducted by ECM schools. Four recommendations are being made after examining the data gathered within this study. There is an urgent need to improve the quality of school leaders, hire high quality staff, train all educators in developing a deeper understanding of student needs by analyzing data, and build transparent organizations. Leadership Training Although many training programs for educators have sprouted across the United States in recent years like the New Teacher Project, Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools, and Aspire, this trend is not apparent in colleges and universities. The demand for high quality educational leaders is exceeding the supply. Crucial to solving this problem is the need for governmental officials to apply policy changes to the way in which school leaders are prepared. School reform begins with leadership. Redefining leadership is an important step in the school improvement process. Leadership does not refer to the principal alone anymore. Even though it is important to understand traditional matters such as budgets and facilities, leadership, especially in ECM schools, must be highly competent in turn-around strategies and connecting with people and resources. They must be equipped with the knowledge base necessary to
build leadership capacity on the campus. The findings from studies on high poverty, high performing schools should be infused into leadership preparation programs. In order to accomplish a new style of leadership instruction, universities too, must be willing to reform. Universities will have to let go of some of its antiquated curriculum and methods of instructing school leaders and welcome new approaches and partnerships with K-12 communities. Universities can build professional development relationships with school communities and provide practical experience for aspiring leaders in the real environment that matters – the K-12 school. High Quality Educators The second recommendation is to hire based on quality and not just qualifications. Many ECM schools are faced with tough decisions to hire teachers who may have the paper credentials, but are not suited to work with children. Additionally, many leaders in ECM schools inherit weak teachers who are not willing to obtain the knowledge necessary to move students forward. In this study, two school administrators at acceptable performing schools noted that even their district human resources departments convince prospective teachers to take positions at higher performing schools rather than their schools. There is a desperate need for policy change and productive collaboration between districts and campuses. Districts must assist campuses in order to provide high quality teachers and leaders to all students, especially those in
ECM schools, who in many cases are already behind academically. Beyond checking paper credentials, hiring practices must consider the capacity of the teacher to get the job done. Although it is more time consuming, having potential candidates actually teach a class before hiring can save money, and more importantly, learning time for children. Also, allowing some of the current teaching staff to take part in the hiring decisions can prove effective in bringing the right people on board. Studies have shown that increased pay is not enough to attract and retain effective teachers (Barr & Parrett, 2007); however, providing leadership responsibilities and valuing the educator’s input can assist. Districts should consider higher pay for teachers and leaders on ECM campuses along with more leadership opportunities and recognition for contributions toward school improvement. Districts may want to consider an innovative marketing study aimed at recruiting high quality educators. Deeper Understandings via Data According to the data in this study, an overwhelming difference in successful ECM schools and acceptable ones is the way data are utilized. The third recommendation is to replicate the methodical approach of using data to determine student needs that is suggested by exemplary and recognized ECM schools. It is a priority to produce data often through vehicles such as pre-test, common assessments, and walk-throughs (observations). The second and
more significant piece of the strategy is for educators to constantly disaggregate (technology assisted) and reflect as a group on what is meant by the data. As a group, deeper understandings are derived about the current needs of the student based on current data. Students are seen as individuals and are discussed in that light. The results of this reflective practice may suggest the need for re-teaching or an immediate intervention for the student. The third and most crucial step in this cycle is the need to provide immediate intervention, when necessary. Learning gaps increase when students are not allowed to obtain critical skills when required. Suggestions for intervention could include a personal tutor, guided practice, computer-aided instruction, and flexible time with subject-area specialist. To begin this process, campus leaders must schedule time for grade-level subject area teachers to plan and collaborate on instructional and student needs. This time must be valued and protected in order to promote effective planning. Teachers may need guidance from educational leaders on how to implement the different aspects of the data utilization, reflection, and intervention process. Beyond the teacher role, the process must be constantly monitored and adjusted to fit the campus’ needs. Transparent Organizations Finally, the culture of the school can be the primary asset or roadblock on a school’s improvement journey. The term transparent has been used in this study to describe the accountability culture of the high performing ECM schools.
It encompasses a “no-excuses” mentality, a high degree of collaboration in decision-making, blurred or non-existent walls between people, trust in each other, value in differences of opinion, and no secrets. Reforming the culture of the school can be one of the most difficult processes in a school’s transformation. Each detail involved in a transparent school should be a part of staff developments and/or training modules. Those that are charged with restructuring must have the knowledge base to become models of transparency. Transparency goes beyond putting everything on the table, posting scores and sharing outcomes of meetings, it becomes the mentality of all staff then driven downward to the students. Suggestions for Future Research This qualitative approach to examining the factors that predict greatness in some ECM schools revealed the need to conduct future research that could bring more meaning to the results. 1. The depth of this study could have been enhanced by adding an observation component. Future researchers could select one high performing school along with a comparison school to conduct observations of instruction, decision making meetings, faculty meetings, and other campus activities. The additional annotations could provide a more thorough understanding of each of the areas reported in the findings section of this chapter. Additionally, gathering data through student interviews could have provided another perspective.
2. Several participants in the high performing schools mentioned having a “no-excuses” or “whatever it takes” attitude. Future researchers may want to look at how these mentalities are developed in ECM schools. 3. Clearly, staff is crucial to all schools. There has been research on what causes staff retention and turnover at schools (Barr & Parrett, 2007), but there is limited research on the type of training certain teachers and leaders bring to a campus. How much of a principal’s or teacher’s success or lack thereof has to do with pre-service training? Researchers may want to examine the type of institutions/organizations that are supplying effective teachers and leaders to ECM schools. 4. The notion of student interventions surfaced in every high performing ECM school. Educational researchers need to capitalize on this academic trend. What types of interventions are creating academic successes for students in economically challenging environments? 5. In an age where there are so many mechanisms and technologies that lend themselves well to making classrooms and schools transparent, there are still many issues of inequalities and ineffectiveness. Researchers should take a look at successful schools that are transparent. How does a leader bring everyone to the table? What factors contribute to creating a “culture of transparency”?
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U. S. Census Bureau. (2005). 2005 Population Estimates. Retrieved September 15, 2007 from http://www.census.gov/ U. S. Census Bureau. (2007). Poverty: 2006 highlights. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty06/pov06hi.html U. S. Department of Education. (2002). No child left behind. (DOE Publication No.234/4-90/05). Washington D. C.: Author. Yukna, C. (2003). The transparent school. Advanced Learning Technologies. Retrieved February 13, 2009 from http://www.emse.fr/~yukna/infosmiths/TheTransparentSchool.html Waits, M. J., Campbell, H. E., Gau, R., Jacobs, E., Rex, T., & Hess, R. K. (2006). Why some schools with Latino children beat the odds…and
others don’t. Tempe, AZ: Morrison Institute for Public Policy School of
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struggling to attract and retain high-quality teachers. Is it time we paid them for performance? New York: Time, Inc.
Ware, A. (1999). Turnaround schools: Four case studies based on a study of
perceived characteristics of professional relationships, teacher efficacy and teacher responsibility contributing to student academic success in four North Carolina turnaround schools. Unpublished doctoral
dissertation, Appalachian State University, North Carolina. Williams, D. (1990). The dimensions of education: Recent research on school
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Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs. (ED 347 006). Williams, B. (2003). Closing the achievement gap: a vision for changing beliefs
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Why do some schools do better? A large scale survey of California elementary schools serving low-income students. Mountain View, CA:
EdSource. Wilson, B., & Corbett, H. (2001). Listening to urban kids: School reform and
the teachers they want. New York: State University of New York Press.
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APPENDIX A – REQUIREMENTS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY RATING (Texas Education Agency)
Academically Acceptable Base Indicators TAKS (2006-07) • All students and each student group meeting minimum size: • African American • Hispanic • White • Econ. Disadv. meets each standard: • Reading/ELA ... 65% • Writing.............. 65% • Social Studies.. 65% • Mathematics .... 45% • Science ............ 40% OR meets Required Improvement Meets 50% standard (Met ARD Expectations) OR meets Required Improvement Recognized Exemplary
meets 75% standard for each subject OR meets 70% floor and Required Improvement
meets 90% standard for each subject
SDAA II (2007)All students (if meets minimum size criteria)
Meets 70% standard (Met ARD Expectations) OR meets 65% floor and Required Improvement
Meets 90% standard (Met ARD Expectations)
Completion Rate I (class of 2006) • All students and each student group meeting minimum size: • African American • Hispanic • White • Econ. Disadv. Annual Dropout Rate 2005-06) • All students and each student group meeting minimum size: • African American • Hispanic • White • Econ. Disadv.
meets 75.0% standard OR meets Required Improvement
meets 85.0% standard OR meets 80.0% floor and Required Improvement
meets 95.0% standard
meets 1.0% standard
meets 0.7% standard
meets 0.2% standard
APPENDIX B – PERMISSION TO USE GOOD TO GREAT™ INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
APPENDIX C - INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and other’s don’t. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 1. Could you briefly give an overview of your relationship to the school – years involved and primary responsibilities held? 2. What do you see as the top five factors that contributed to or caused the upward shift in performance during the years 2004-2007 (years since TAKS)? 3. Now let’s return to those five factors, and I’d like you to allocate a total of 100 points to those factors, according to their overall importance to school improvement (total across all five factors equals 100 points). 4. Could you please elaborate on the top two or three factors? Can you give me specific examples that illustrate the factor? 5. Did the school make a conscious decision to initiate a major change or transition during this time frame? 6. If so, to the best of your recollection, when did the school begin to make the key decisions that led to the transition? 7. If so, what sparked the decision to undertake a major transition? 8. What was the process by which the school made key decisions and developed key strategies during the school improvement process – not what decisions the school made, but how did it go about making them? 9. What was the role, if any, of outside consultants and advisors in making the key decisions? 10. On a scale of 1-10, what confidence did you have in the decisions at the time they were made, before you knew their outcome? (Ten means you had great confidence that they were very good decisions with high probability of success. One means you had little confidence in the decisions; they seemed risky – a roll of the dice.) 11. If had confidence of 6 or greater, what gave you such confidence in the decisions? 12. How did the school get commitment and alignment with its decisions? 13. Can you cite a specific example of how this took place? 14. What did you try during the transition that didn’t work?
15. How did the school manage the short-term pressures of accountability/NCLB while making long-term changes and investments for the future?
16. High performing ECM: I will be comparing schools like yours to others that are similar but have not shown a significant shift in performance. What is different about your school that enabled it to make this transition? Other schools could have done what you did, but didn’t; what did you have that they didn’t. –or- Low performing ECM: I will be comparing schools like yours to others that are similar but have made a shift in performance to the recognized or exemplary levels. How is your school different?
17. Can you think of one particularly powerful example of vignette from your experience or observation that, to you, exemplifies the essence of the shift from good to great in your school? 18. Describe any activities or communications that goes on between your feeder schools that assist students in the school community with academics and/or transitions from one school to another. 19. Are there any questions we didn’t ask, but should have?
APPENDIX D - INTERVIEW QUESTION RESPONSE FORM (HIGH PERFORMING ECM SCHOOLS) Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and other’s don’t. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
1 Could you briefly give an overview of your relationship to the school – years involved and primary responsibilities held?
What do you see as the top five factors that contributed to or caused the upward shift in performance during the years 2004-2007 (years since TAKS)?
Now let’s return to those five factors, and I’d like you to allocate a total of 100 points to those factors, according to their overall importance to school improvement (total across all five factors equals 100 points).
Could you please elaborate on the top two or three factors? Can you give me specific examples that illustrate the factor?
Did the school make a conscious decision to initiate a major change or transition during this time frame?
If so, to the best of your recollection, when did the school begin to make the key decisions that led to the transition?
If so, what sparked the decision to undertake a major transition?
What was the process by which the school made key decisions and developed key strategies during the school improvement process – not what decisions the school made, but how did it go about making them?
What was the role, if any, of outside consultants and advisors in making the key decisions?
On a scale of 1-10, what confidence did you have in the decisions at the time they were made, before you knew their outcome? (Ten means you had great confidence that they were very good decisions with high probability of success. One means you had little confidence in the decisions; they seemed risky – a roll of the dice.)
If had confidence of 6 or greater, what gave you such confidence in the decisions?
How did the school get commitment and alignment with its decisions?
Can you cite a specific example of how this took place?
What did you try during the transition that didn’t work?
How did the school manage the short-term pressures of accountability/NCLB while making long-term changes and investments for the future?
High performing ECM: I will be comparing schools like yours to others that are similar but have not shown a significant shift in performance. What is different about your school that enabled it to make this transition? Other schools could have done what you did, but didn’t; what did you have that they didn’t. –or- Low performing ECM: I will be comparing schools like yours to others that are similar but have made a shift in performance to the recognized or exemplary levels. How is your school different?
Can you think of one particularly powerful example of vignette from your experience or observation that, to you, exemplifies the essence of the shift from good to great in your school?
Describe any activities or communications that goes on between your feeder schools that assist students in the school community with academics and/or transitions from one school to another.
Are there any questions we didn’t ask, but should have?
APPENDIX E - CODING MATRIX (HIGH-PERFORMING SCHOOLS)
Responses Category 1: Leadership Freq. Significant Quotes
Disciplined People Disciplined Thought
Category 2: Recruiting and Retaining Staff
Category 3: Strategic Plan/Procedures
Coding Category 4: Vision, Core Values, and Purpose
Coding Category 5: Continuous Learning
Coding Category 6: Collaborative Environment
Coding Category 7: Curriculum and Instruction Precedence
Coding Category 8: Student Focus
Coding Category 9: Assessment/Datadriven Decisions
Coding Category10: High Expectations
Coding Category 11: Accountability
Coding Category 12: Resiliency
Coding Category 13: Autonomy
Coding Category 14: External Support
Coding Category 15: Resources
Disciplined Action Culture of Discipline Hedgehog Concept Confront the First Who Brutal Facts Then What Level 5 Leadership
Exemplary/Recognized Campus Acceptable Campus
APPENDIX F – CHECKLIST MATRIX: PREDICTORS 208
APPENDIX G – LETTER TO PRINCIPALS
December 11, 2007 Building Principal Independent School District
Dear Building Principal: My name is Margaret Curette Patton, and I am currently working on a doctoral dissertation study for the Educational Leadership Doctoral (PhD) program at Prairie View A & M. University. I am requesting permission to conduct my research in ___ Independent School District during the spring semester of 2008. The name of my study is Factors that Influence Greatness in Economically-challenged Minority Schools. The purpose of my study is to determine the distinguishing factors that contribute to high academic performance in economically-challenged-minority (ECM) schools. My study will examine five high performing ECM school feeder groups compared to three school feeder groups that have remained acceptable over time. Using the characteristics consistent with the research on high-performing, high poverty schools and the inspiration and methodology gleaned from business guru, Jim Collins, author of the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, the AEIS data describing ___ Middle School and their respective elementary and intermediate feeder schools (___) make them suitable participants for my study. Just as Collins did in his study on successful corporations, I will compare the high performing feeder groups with similar school feeder groups that have acceptable performance. All schools have a high population of economically-challenged minority students. The Prairie View A&M University’ Institutional Review Board (IRB) will only grant approval of my study based on preliminary contingent permission granted from your district. I am sure you granting permission will also depend on the IRB’s ultimate approval. If granted permission, I will conduct private interviews with the leadership team at each school. The interviews should last no longer than one hour each, and all of the information will be anonymous. For purposes of my study, the leadership team includes administrators and teacher leaders. To ensure privacy, nothing that the staff in your schools shares with me will be identifiable by school name or by person. Anything I learn from them during the interview will be reported in my research in a general way using a codename for the school. Prior to the interviews, each member of the leadership team will be asked to complete the Good to Great™ survey. My focus is to try and understand how some economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools have made the leap to recognized or exemplary ratings while others have remained acceptable. As an incentive for participation in my study, each school will receive a gift card that can be used however the school chooses. The person on each campus who will serve as the contact person (collect surveys and set up interviews) will also receive a gift card.
I look forward to learning more about the great work that your district is doing. Should you have any additional questions about this project, you may contact me or my faculty advisor. Thank you in advance for your time and cooperation with this study. I would be more than happy to share the results of my research with your district. Sincerely, Margaret Curette Patton, Principal Investigator Advisor email@example.com 281-239-2313 281-795-5168 Douglas S. Hermond, PhD, Faculty Prairie View A & M University firstname.lastname@example.org 936-261-3648
APPENDIX H – PRINCIPAL PERMISSION FORM
Factors Influencing Greatness in Economically-Challenged Minority Schools
Permission Request to Conduct Doctoral Research Purpose of Study: The purpose of the study is to determine the distinguishing factors that contribute to high academic performance in economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools in Texas. The study will examine five recognized/exemplary ECM school feeder groups compared to two school feeder groups that have remained acceptable over time. The researcher will use the characteristics consistent with the research on high-performing, high poverty schools and the inspiration and methodology gleaned from business guru, Jim Collins, author of the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t to frame the study.
Contact Information: Margaret C. Patton, Doctoral Student 1203 Colonial Heights Dr. Richmond, TX 77469 Home: 281-239-2313 Douglas S. Hermond, PhD. Faculty Advisor Prairie View A & M University email@example.com Office: 936-261-3648
Cell: 281-795-5168 Fax: 281-342-2960
Approval to conduct the doctoral research study has been granted from _________ Independent School District, Contact:
Approval to conduct the doctoral research study has not been granted.
School: Principal: I. Approval:
□ We will participate in the study. A total of five campus administrators and department heads will each participate in a face-to-face interview. Please share the results of the study with our campus. □
We will not participate in the study. II. Participants: List the name of the five participants with their title and email address. Participants for this study include a combination of campus administrators and department heads. Name of Participant Title of Participant E-mail address
III. Schedule of Interview: Choose the best time for your campus’ interviews. Which week is best for you? Dates August □ 4-8
September October Which day is best for you?
□ 11-15 □ 18-22 □ 25-29 □ 1-5 □ 8-12 □ 6-10
□ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Thursday □ Friday
APPENDIX I - INFORMED CONSENT
Title of Research: Factors that Influence Greatness in Economically-challenged Minority Schools Principal Investigator: Margaret C. Patton Faculty Advisor: Douglas S. Hermond, PhD Before agreeing to participate in this research study, it is important that you read the following explanation of this study. This statement describes the purpose, procedures, benefits, risks, discomforts, and precautions of the program. Also described are the alternative procedures available to you, as well as your right to withdraw from the study at any time. No guarantees or assurances can be made as to the results of the study. Explanation of Procedures This research study is designed to explore the distinguishing factors that exist among successful economically-challenged minority (ECM) schools. Margaret C. Patton, a doctoral student at Prairie View A & M University, Prairie View, Texas, is conducting this study to learn more about what high performing ECM schools are doing differently from comparison schools to set them apart and make them academically productive. Participation in the study involves completion of the Good to Great™ diagnostic tool and a private interview which will last for approximately one hour. The interviews will be hand recorded by the researcher with consent from each participant and later transcribed for the purpose of data analysis. The interviews will be conducted at the participant’s school or on-line using Survey Monkey. Risks and Discomforts There are minimal psychological and emotional risks that are anticipated and generally associated with participation in an interview. Benefits The anticipated benefit of participation is the opportunity to provide information to a body of research that may further the overall achievement of economically-challenged minority schools and their student populations. Alternative Treatments Because this study does not involve specific treatments or procedures, there are no known alternative treatments to participating in this study. Confidentiality The information gathered during this study will remain confidential in a locked drawer during this project. Only the researcher, faculty advisor, and Prairie View A & M University IRB will have access to the study data and information. There will not be any identifying names on the tapes, and participant’s names will not be available to anyone. The tapes will be destroyed at the completion of the study. The results of the research will be published in the form of a dissertation and may be published in a professional journal or presented at professional meetings. To ensure privacy, nothing that the staffs in your schools share will be identifiable by school name or by person. Anything that is learned during the interview will be reported in the research in a general way using a codename for the school. The information will help schools and school districts, and others to better understand how to provide quality instruction to students in economically-challenged minority schools. Withdrawal without Prejudice Participation in this study is voluntary; refusal to participate will involve no penalty. Each participant is free to withdraw consent and discontinue participation in this project at any time without prejudice from this institution.
Participant’s initials: ____ Informed Consent Title of Research: Factors that Influence Greatness in Economically-challenged Minority Schools Principal Investigator: Margaret C. Patton Faculty Advisor: Douglas S. Hermond, PhD New Findings Any significant new findings that develop during the course of the study, which may affect a participant’s willingness to continue in the research, will be provided to each participant by Margaret C. Patton Cost and/or Payment to Subject for Participation in Research There will be no cost for participation in the research. Also, individual participants will not be paid to participate in this research project. Each school that participates will receive a $50 gift card. Questions For any questions concerning the research project, please contact Margaret C. Patton, firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-795-5168 (doctoral student) or Douglas S. Hermond, PhD (faculty advisor for this project) at email@example.com or 936-261-3648. Questions regarding rights as a person in this research project should be directed to Prairie View University IRB chairman at 936-261-1589. Agreement This agreement states that you have received a copy of this informed consent. Your signature below indicates that you agree to participate in this study. Signature of Subject: ______________________________________________________ Date: __________________________________________ Subject name (printed): ____________________________________________________ Signature of Researcher: ___________________________________________________ Date: __________________________________________
APPENDIX J: IRB APPROVAL LETTER
APPENDIX K: SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTION RESPONSES (Acceptable Performing ECM Schools - CMID1-5 Responses)
1 Could you briefly give an overview of your relationship to the school – years involved and primary responsibilities held? CMID1A3 CMID1A1 CMID T1, T2, T4 2 What do you see as the top five factors that contributed to or caused the upward shift in performance during the years 2004-2007 (years since TAKS)? Parental involvement - II Lack of Aligned Curriculum and High Level Instructional Strategies - III Leadership - III Accountability Transition District Mandates Teacher Preparation Student Programs/Climate Lack of Data Driven Decisions No Staff Development Limited Campus Incentives Master Schedule (Scheduling conflicts) Student Engagement Resources Student Discipline Teacher Turnover Parent Support Low Teacher Expectation Antiquated Technology Limited Focused Planning 3 Now let’s return to those five factors, and I’d like you to allocate a total of 100 points to those factors, according to their overall importance to school improvement (total across all five factors equals 100 points). II, Parental involvement 15; 30 Curriculum and High Level Instructional Strategies 15; 40; 20 II, Leadership 30; 40, 30 Accountability Transition 15 District Mandates 25 II, Limited Focused Time for Teacher Preparation 10, 15 Student Programs/Climate 10 Lack of Data Driven Decisions 20 No Staff Development 20 Limited Campus Incentives 20 Master Schedule (Scheduling conflicts) 20 Student Engagement 50 Resources 25 Student Discipline 10 Teacher Turnover 10 Parent Support 5 Low Teacher Expectation, 10 Antiquated Technology, 15 4 Could you please elaborate on the top two or three factors? Can you give me specific examples that illustrate the factor? Leadership • Leadership described as discombobulated; no articulation of clear vision or plan of action; campus based leadership team met regularly to look at school data but no follow through or monitoring of campus goals/SMARTgoals; bad decisions were made; researched based strategies were shared and mandated with no support or monitoring. • Leadership: focus was not on academic/curriculum – dealing with discipline issues (drugs)…Top leader not
holding teachers accountable; too much teacher autonomy. • Less administrative involvement in daily campus routine: administrator not visible during transition times, in high traffic areas where problems were reported, not visible in classroom on a regular walk-thru/participation time (reading), not having positive contact with teachers and students. Curriculum/Instruction • Curriculum and High Level Instructional Strategies: teachers continued to teach basics using TAAS strategies; although staff development was offered, there was no modeling on how to teach high level thinking/teaching; staff development did not transition to the classroom and to kids being successful on the TAKS. • Curriculum/Instruction: not tailored to prepare kids for TAKS; no high-level teaching; staff development was provided preparing teachers to teach high level; monitoring process was lacking District mandates: • No ownership from campus; different mandates from district that became a paper trail with no lasting impact on students. No Curriculum Accountability • No expectations for curriculum leaders • No monitoring on curriculum • No guidelines for curriculum leaders • No reflective practices • No teacher use of qualitative data Data Driven Decision Making • Routine test on Friday; never look back at results • Not using data to impact instruction • TAKS data: Teachers say “my students didn’t do well rather than I didn’t teach the concept well.” Parental involvement • No incentives for parents to participate in parent/teacher conferences or school functions other than sports. Need more community connections and ways to bring parents to the school, not just during times of trouble. Teacher Preparation • Not enough organized and/or focused teaming and planning time (data driven/strategies): planning/teaming time is not focused, teachers not bringing success stories to share, ideas or concerns, but use time to gripe and/or complain about students, other teachers, parents or administration. Need more presentations on what works or has worked and how it works. More book studies or strategy studies based on data from standardized test. 5 Did the school make a conscious decision to initiate a major change or transition during this time frame? Test scores in math decreased drastically as the school transitioned from TAAS to TAKS. Attempts were made to implement differentiated instruction and thinking maps – no monitoring; overload of paperwork Unaware; nothing big took place
If so, to the best of your recollection, when did the school begin to make the key decisions that led to the transition? Yes, Right before Christmas break, an audit team came in to assess problem areas, as well as, needs, concerns, issues of all faculty: teachers, assistants, custodians, cafeteria, administration, counselors, etc. This led to key decisions leading to transition at the beginning of 2007.
If so, what sparked the decision to undertake a major transition? The audit teams assessment of the campus.
What was the process by which the school made key decisions and developed key strategies during the school improvement process – not what decisions the school made, but how did it go about making them? Principal made decision solely – did not accept recommendation from administrative team; no collaboration The audit team met with administration, as well as, with academic teams, custodians, school improvement, school leadership teams regarding changes that needed to take place and timelines. The teams went to work in processes this information, making decisions about how to implement, and persenting it to the parties that needed to assist in making the changes happen within the timelines given.
What was the role, if any, of outside consultants and advisors in making the key decisions? Yes, CAM – assigned days to campus; collaborate with principal; things needing improvement The role of the audit team was to assess all aspects of the edcuational facility, document and present it to the superintendent. Superintendent approved and information was presented to administrator, along with the timelines, who inturn put together committees to bring about the necessary changes. In other words, the key decisions were forced by the audit team and superintendent.
On a scale of 1-10, what confidence did you have in the decisions at the time they were made, before you knew their outcome? (Ten means you had great confidence that they were very good decisions with high probability of success. One means you had little confidence in the decisions; they seemed risky – a roll of the dice.) 1, 8
If had confidence of 6 or greater, what gave you such confidence in the decisions? 8 - It was obvious the changes were necessary, but administration was going about the process in a different way. The process was not successful and administrator was not open to input from faculty or staff. It was evident in the probing questions and the final result of the audit team the changes were necessary and were going to take place one way or another.
How did the school get commitment and alignment with its decisions? • Did not talk curriculum • A letter and commitment from the superintendent and the audit team convinced us that they were in it to support students, teachers, staff, and parents.
Can you cite a specific example of how this took place? • Presentation in faculty meeting • Presented material; no involvement • When we returned from the Christmas/New Year break, we were brought in and briefed on how the school would work as a team on positive behavior supports. The process was clear and concise: documenting behaviors, discussing behaviors with students and having them sign off when minor infractions occur, regular teaching session to make sure students were familiar with what is expected in various environments around campus. Teachers were made aware of how to address major infractions and what would be considered major. If issues arrose the positive behavior support team could be consulted.
What did you try during the transition that didn’t work? • Contacting parents was not always favorable. Discussion or attempt at discussion with administration was not always supportive or favorable to the needs of the students or teachers involved.
How did the school manage the short-term pressures of accountability/NCLB while making long-term changes and investments for the future? Not a full awareness of SPA (sub-pops; how accountability was measured) Regular meetings and discussions about what was working and addressing problem areas - comming up with
additional solutions. 16 High performing ECM: I will be comparing schools like yours to others that are similar but have not shown a significant shift in performance. What is different about your school that enabled it to make this transition? Other schools could have done what you did, but didn’t; what did you have that they didn’t. –or- Low performing ECM: I will be comparing schools like yours to others that are similar but have made a shift in performance to the recognized or exemplary levels. How is your school different? • • • • 17 Instruction – understand use of data (our school – use of data beginning states of data teams) Leadership – change mindset Staff – Buy-in; understand what it takes to get there… Focused teachers and teams that address students needs made evident through assessments and support of administration and school system.
Can you think of one particularly powerful example of vignette from your experience or observation that, to you, exemplifies the essence of the shift from good to great in your school? Climate: didn’t focus on TAKS; did not make TAKS a priority; did not celebrate it or notify students of what TAKS is/was… In my school the shift from good to great began with great leadership, fostering positive relationships, ecourageing and supporting each other through teams, mentoring and sharing what works.
Describe any activities or communications that goes on between your feeder schools that assist students in the school community with academics and/or transitions from one school to another. No/None With Individual Education Plans we communicate between feeder schools to make the transition easier for student and teachers. This process prevents down time of necessary service provision to students.
Are there any questions we didn’t ask, but should have?
INTERVIEW RESPONSES – EXEMPLARY/RECOGNIZED SCHOOLS
What do you see as the top five factors that contributed to or caused the upward shift in performance during the years 2004-2007 (years since TAKS)? • Strong leadership; purpose and goals clearly defined; accountability in regard to curriculum alignment, strength and delivery; order and discipline; sense of community. • Administrative support for teachers; rewarding students when they were successful on TAKS practices; expecting good behavior from the students, not only in the classroom, but also, in the cafeteria and anywhere else in the school; lower grades buddied up with an upper grades for encouragement on the TAKS test; rewarding students for using strategies • Staff dedication; instructional intervention; parent involvement; low teacher turnover; disaggregating data • Common grade level planning; more vertical alignment and accountability of objectives being taught at each level; use of data; core team who monitors learning/success at each grade level; a systematic set of interventions when students are struggling. • Strong leadership from administrators and teachers; order and discipline established through general consensus; a planned and coordinated curriculum; school-wide recognition of academic success; strong sense of community. • Extremely well-qualified personnel; district exemplifies extremely effective organization, top-to-bottom; emphasis on teamwork among employees, parents, students; employees feel personally valued; positive relationship with the community. • Building teacher leaders within the campus; more collaboration among grade levels; closer look at data; teacher training/staff development; parent involvement • Grants, commitment, self-motivation, tutorials, technology • Department and team planning; double blocking of Math and English; use of data for placing students in extra help classes; after-school tutorials; Saturday classes • Teamwork; environment; support; instructional time; focus • Leadership at campus and district level; school interventions for students atrisk; staff development; budget and how it has been utilized; curriculum
• Administrator support in different learning styles; before and after school tutorials; offering of Saturday school; teacher dedication to teaching and motivating our students; student commitment to learning and achieving Elaborate on the top two or three factors? Give specific examples that illustrate the factor? • Strong Leadership was the key that led the way for success. The energy and “can do” attitude filtered down from the top to the teachers and then to the students. The expectations were high for all. However, there was a sense of family that permeated the school. Positives were celebrated and negatives dealt with immediately. • Students used the 55 Essential Elements throughout the school day. They knew what was expected of them and how to act. The principal expected them to behave and they did. They were also rewarded for their behavior with various outings in the neighborhood. The principal at that time supported the teachers with what they were doing in the classroom. She counted on the teachers to use their professionalism to do what was needed and didn't dictate to them how they should teach. She also supported us with the parents. • Disaggregating data- Vertical teams reviewed the AEIS report, INOVA (Statistical data report that predicts a student's outcome using prior performance data.), ADM data (District data report that records district and state assessments.), and the Campus Improvement Plan. Professional Learning Communities used assessment data and tracked reading levels of students. Instructional interventions- Students report to the math, reading, and ESL specialists to provide a lower student to teacher ratio. Students work on computer programs (Waterford, Study Island, Star fall, Success Maker, Accelerated Reader). Differentiated instruction, guided reading, running records, after school and before school tutoring were all used to assist with student instruction. • Struggling students work with instructional specialists in reading and math to receive extra help in a small group setting. The specialists pull groups of students, re-teach lessons that students had difficulty with, or sometimes coteach with the teacher. The specialists work to support the teacher and students. Other interventions used are computer assisted instruction, mentoring, and scheduled tutorial or enrichment times, both during the school day and after school. In addition, our principal has scheduled a common planning time for grade level teachers to meet to plan lessons, develop assessments, and talk about student data. In 2007, our principal initiated professional learning communities to allow teachers additional time to disaggregate data and make instructional decisions. Vertical teaming has also been a major factor in all content areas. Grade levels are held
accountable for creating assessments and mastering the skills being taught at their grade level. This has helped maintain a common vision among the staff providing a clear goal for all staff. • Strong leadership from administrators and teachers- Paid attention to the real needs of our staff and students (culture of our school). Aware of the subtle forces that shaped the daily life of our staff. We created classrooms that were productive and effective, dealt with problems immediately/systematically with open and ongoing communication with all stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, administrators, staff members, etc.). • Our district has implemented technology within the classrooms that the students can also utilize at home. Our teachers and students have become more committed to their overall education. • Collaboration is key to any campus becoming successful. Our teachers have really come together to make our school successful. Relationships and trust are of high importance on our staff. This makes the collaboration process more cohesive. We have researched and redefined many of the programs we are currently using to make them more relative to the curriculum across the campus. Looking at data, and training teachers to look at data has also been a shift in our thinking and ultimately to our success. Data drives instruction. Our teachers are trained to look at data, and collaborate on the results to decide what the next step is in aligning our curriculum to meet and differentiate for student needs. • Organization: Employees seem to put top priority on their responsibilities, and this applies from superintendent to janitors. When someone says he or she will do something, it gets done... When plans are made or meetings are set, they happen. When someone needs something, they get it. When a student needs assistance, it is top priority. Notes of appreciation and words of thanks are commonplace. Even the janitors respond rapidly to any issue that arises. Qualified personnel: It is not uncommon for teachers in our district to have a minimum of a Masters Degree. Even those that don't usually have some sort of area of real expertise. Also, the employees seem to genuinely care for the welfare of the students. In addition, the hiring process is very selective, and the principals and human resource department are looking for an "all-around" good person when they interview. Diversity is considered a strength and not simply a characteristic. • The teachers felt that their input was valuable. Teachers felt comfortable sharing ideas, plans, activities, and tests. The environment was a learning one. Students knew that they were at school to learn and not get into trouble. Once you where able to get your work completed then you could play. • School interventions - Extended day, extended year, pullouts, use of programs within the school day such as PLATO and READ 180, double blocking classes for students who are not being successful in math. Budget extra teachers paid for through Comp Education and Title I funds, use of Title III funds for tutorials, OEYP for extended day and year programs, Comp. Ed.
for tutoring, Comp. Ed. and Title I funds used to buy researched based technology. Money budgeted for outside resources to be brought in for staff development. Curriculum - aligned, layered lessons, benchmark assessment, scope and sequence were utilized. • Teachers who are dedicated to teaching our students is most important because when you have a teacher who wants to see ALL of her students succeed, he/she will invested time (paid or not) to his/her student success. An example of this would be providing his/her students with supplies needed to be successful and providing individual tutorials to students before and/or after school. Student commitment to learning would be my next factor because some students would only do enough to get by but should be motivated by their teacher to ALWAYS grasp for high expectations for themselves. Students who are committed to learning and achieving are those students who would show up for tutorials regardless of door prizes or free snacks. My third factor would be the full support of our administrators who are interested in our different methods of teaching a student. Although we are a "Gum Free" school, my principal allows me to use a candy/gum project to demonstrate learning the keyboard by giving my students a "Build a Keyboard using Candy" project. Also as an elective teacher, he also allows us (the elective teachers) to use objectives (TAKS problems) from our core subjects as Instructional Focus Activities (IFA's) for our classes to assist with TAKS. What sparked the decision to undertake a major transition? • Data initiatives were undertaken to improve student performance. A three tiered approach to instruction was instituted. Successes were recognized and celebrated and expectations were high. Status quo was not accepted. There was a school-wide culture to excel. Motto= ____, where the best get better. • The principal expected and we did it. • The school climate is that we will do what is best for our students. • When the science TAKS Test first came about, this kept our school from becoming Exemplary, so a conscious decision was made to focus on science. Math, Reading, and Writing also continued to be monitored and maintained so as not to lose momentum. Our goal is for all students to pass to the best of their ability. • All staff constantly observing all students and their needs which was a gradual process and constantly changing. • The change came from the district to undertake an attitude of excellence. • We haven't made a major transition. We just looked closer at what we were already doing, and decided that we needed to work smarter, not harder. • The concept of maintaining either Recognized or Exemplary Campus status.
What was the process by which the school made key decisions and developed key strategies during the school improvement process - not what decisions the school made, but how did it go about making them? • Student needs were at the core of all decisions. Grade level teams addressed needs of individual students. School wide initiatives were addressed through grade level, vertical teams and the SBDM (site-based decision making team). • The site based team made the decisions. This team was made up with a representative from each grade level as well as parents and business leaders from the community. They looked at the type of students we had and what was needed to motivate them to be successful. • The campus’ core team meets before the start of school. The team reviews the school's mission and focus for the school year. The team would give suggestions on how to achieve that goal. Vertical teams are responsible for reviewing the Campus Improvement Plan goals that pertain to their content area. • Our principal, met with vertical team leaders, specialists, and teacher leaders on the campus to create new strategies. She also studied success stories from other successful campuses. • Everything was based on student needs. Campus members chose to support each other in focusing on what made our school better. School-wide teamwork accomplished in grade level and vertical teams in addition to our campus SBDM. • By assuring that the staff was trained and qualified to enhance the student as they prepared for testing. • The school went about making decisions through collaboration. We have a Site Base Management Team that consists of teachers, parents, and administrators, as well as community members. Any major decision is brought before this team to discuss and decide. That information is then brought before the rest of the campus to get feedback. • Decisions were made during department, team meetings, and site based decision making team meetings. Each instructional team meets every other day on their designated team time. Administrators also meet often to make decisions. • Stakeholders were involved in the process (parents, business partners, teachers, students, etc.). The campus improvement team & steering committee also participated in the decision making process. On a scale of 1-10, what confidence did you have in the decisions at the time they were made, before you knew their outcome? (Ten means you had great confidence that they were very good decisions with high probability of success. One means you had little confidence in the decisions; they seemed risky - a roll
of the dice.) If had confidence of 6 or greater, what gave you such confidence in the decisions? • 10. Decisions were not made arbitrarily. They were based on solid research and student need. • 10. I knew the principal and the teachers on the site based team had the children's best interest in mind. • 8. Staff and community support • 8. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience among our staff and by everyone working together and utilizing the small group teaching approach with teachers and specialists, it seemed that our students would have to have value added to their learning. • 10. Open communication and the opportunity to be a part of the decision making process, therefore, increasing probability of success. • 9. I felt very sure if the decisions due to the fact that as a SBDM member, we thoroughly discussed the pros and cons and how this would impact our school and community. Usually it takes more than one meeting to do this. We validated all concerns school wide, and made a decision based on what we thought was best for our students and campus. • 8. The plans were well thought out as a team. Pros and cons were voiced and debated for the best results. • 10. Leadership How did the school get commitment and alignment with its decisions? Cite a specific example of how this took place. • There was open communication and trust among staff. Dialog occurred where ideas were openly discussed and reviewed according to merit, success, etc. If things were not successful, changes were made. • I am not sure how we did, we just did. Our principal was very enthusiastic and that carried over to us. She supported us so we wanted to support her. Teachers were also allowed to go on the field trips that the children went on for the Essential 55 Elements. The kids had fun and we had fun, too. When students behaved in the cafeteria, which is a hard place to do because it is so loud, teachers would select two students from each class who exhibited good behavior in the cafeteria. At the end of the six weeks, 6 or 7 students were randomly chosen to eat in the community, for example, McDonalds, Incredible Pizza, or Rain Forest Cafe. All of the teachers names were also put in the drawing and 5 or 6 teachers were randomly chosen to be chaperones. The children knew they were selected because of their good behavior in the cafeteria and were expected to behave in the community. By
expecting this good behavior everywhere at school, the teacher was able to focus on teaching instead of discipline and the students were able to focus on learning. • Teachers are able to give feedback in making all decisions. Our campus is awarded the Texas Governors Grant. The staff had to set parameters on who gets what share of the money. They had to set goals in which they had to reach in order to earn the money. Our school focuses on the needs of the students on a day-by-day basis. The goal is to have students leave our campus with gains. I do train the staff on the AYP requirements that are to come. • By utilizing teacher leaders, everyone eventually got on board with new initiatives. Also, our administrators closely monitor campus non-negotiables. Our principal usually shares new ideas with grade level chairmen or other leaders on the campus to share with the staff. During staff meetings, she always refers to our campus goals and focuses on teamwork, or everyone working together to meet these goals---that one grade level/teacher can not do it alone. We continually monitor success/areas of weakness by using proficiency test scores, benchmark scores, as well as mini assessments used in the classroom. We make changes as necessary based on the data, such as creating a group for an instructional specialist, sharing strategies among teachers, etc. • There was an ongoing effort to develop trusting relationships which helped staff through issues and risk-taking during vulnerable times of change. Relationships were built in informal ways (forum); staff was acknowledged and rewarded through drawings, team building out of school, and all members focused on the expectation of their role. • By making sure the staff was trained for the job. It took away the negative issues and replaced them with positive commitment, causing all decisions to be aligned with excellence. • We collaborated as a school in order to discuss decisions made. If there was any difficulty in obtaining alignment, it was brought before the SBMT, and we discussed and made a decision with the campus' support. When a new program or decision about something had to be made, our administrator would present the information to SBMT, along with research or other information and history behind it. The SBMT would discuss that information as well as what decision needed to be reached as a consensus. Then, the information was taken to the grade levels to discuss and agree/disagree upon. Those results were then brought back to the SBMT to make a final decision. • The administrative team and department chairs were in agreement and both groups were on the same page. The information and expectations were the
same from both groups. Department, team and administrative meetings are posted on the monthly school wide calendar. All decisions made were shared during monthly faculty meetings. • Expectations communicated, and common goals reached during faculty and parent meetings. I will be comparing schools like yours to others that are similar but have not shown a significant shift in performance. What is different about your school that enabled it to make this transition? Other schools could have done what you did, but didn't; what did you have that they didn't. • Strong leadership, trust and positive climate. • We had a principal that wasn't afraid to try things. She supported her teachers in every way. As long as you did your job, she was your best cheerleader. The students respected her, too. • Our school has true dedication. We have a “Whatever it takes, everyday” attitude. Our teachers do a great job building relationships with students and parents. We have several interventions in place for students. Caring is our true secret. • Our teachers have great dedication to student achievement. I believe this has developed through strong supportive leadership. Teachers ideas are accepted and valued and teachers are held accountable to high expectations just as the students are. • Strong administrators and teachers working together. • Support from the district and administrators. • I believe we have the Passion, Vision, and Courage to do whatever it takes to be successful! • Team Work, high expectations, doing whatever it took to be successful. • Team work; everyone had to be involved. Every class worked on promoting the math and reading. • Strong leadership, community buy in, high expectations Can you think of one particularly powerful example of vignette from your experience or observation that, to you, exemplifies the essence of the shift from good to great in your school? • There was a true sense of Family. It was often verbalized, "We are like a family and we will take care of each other." This filtered from top to bottom. Relationships were very important. • We have a motto that is ____, where the best get better. We would tell the students all the time that they were the best, but they could always improve. We lived by that motto. It meant something to the teachers and the students.
• My original answer was the picture of our school with all our state awards posted on it. Recently our students wore red, white, and blue created a ribbon in the field behind our campus. To me this is the true meaning of excellence. The picture shows unity between our students, staff, and community. • The culture of our campus was caring and if you looked and listened to what was going on in the classrooms, hallways, and office area, you would have observed how people treated each other with respect and showed compassion. • It is personally a pleasure to work in a district where one has the ability not only to teach, and not only to have your students become proficient in your subject area, but also to be part of district, school, and community success. It really says something for our district, that it is such a large district and still able to maintain such high professional standards across the board. • Just the idea of collaboration - either working to overcome an obstacle or celebrating all successes - we do it as a team approach! Our school is successful because of dedicated teachers, supportive administrators, and use of proven research-based programs. Our system of interventions when students struggle is a key to our success. Teachers use creative scheduling to find time to implement in-school tutorials or enrichment times. Bringing in additional teachers has helped to make groups smaller to focus on targeted objectives. Last year, my team utilized instructional specialists and even pulled in a 2nd grade teacher familiar with 4th grade objectives to provide inschool tutoring. A very qualified paraprofessional was used during this 30 minute block to provide instruction to the 2nd grade class. Our teachers always think out of the box to find a plan that works for students! • I think in the past, we were trying to do things individually. Now, we are pushing the flywheel together as a team. We are working smarter, setting goals, and achieving them. • Teachers are never satisfied with status-quo. Our faculty is very competitive, and we benchmark against others. We have a school culture that expects high achievement. Our school culture expects student success and outsiders comment about that all the time when they visit. We have a sense of commonality in all areas of the school, and careful administrative thought goes into every decision made. We are a magnet school and have a reputation of excellence that contributes to our culture and that parents are well aware of. Describe any activities or communications that goes on between your feeder schools that assist students in the school community with academics and/or transitions from one school to another. • We meet for reading/ELA (elementary) monthly to address successes, concerns, etc. We have developed a very strong network. • The district has links which goes along with the TEKS. It tells the teachers
what they should be teaching each 6 weeks so that when a student moves from one school to another, they would at least be on the same TEKS. • Each campus in our district is assigned a partner school. Meetings are held a minimum of twice a semester. During the partner meetings, grade levels are given an opportunity to share best teaching practices, assessments, and any other information that may relate to their grade level. Minutes from each group is recorded and reviewed by the campus administrators. • I know our district has committees that align feeder schools that meet to discuss transitions from school to school, but I am not aware of other activities. • Communications for science that goes on between campuses in the district are provided by our Science Curriculum Specialist in meetings and emails throughout the school year. • Students from our feeder schools come to visit us during the springtime. They are welcomed into a very positive, inclusive environment, and given a school tour while classes are in progress. • The feeder schools prepare the students for transition from one school to the next by making sure they have completed all academic requirements and helped students and parents know what to expect on the next level by having conferences with them and their student. • Off the top of my head, I know we usually have the feeder schools come to our campus every year to discuss with students upcoming expectations for middle school. They have the students visit their campus, and share academic information with future parents. • Parent involvement joint meetings, College and Career Day joint activities, Guidance counselors from the feeder school assist students with course selections for the next school year. Feeder Schools hold Open House Activities for prospective students and parents. • We attend our feeder's open house in the spring and begin communicating our expectations to our incoming parents and students. All of the principals in our vertical respect and care about each other and we all have a common vision.
APPENDIX M INTERVIEW RESPONSES – ACCEPTABLE SCHOOLS
What do you see as the top five factors that contributed to or caused the upward shift in performance during the years 2004-2007 (years since TAKS)? • Student motivation; data analysis and tracking; staff development; researched-based instructional strategies; increased awareness of content pedagogy • Lack of data driven decisions; no staff development; no curriculum accountability; limited campus incentives; scheduling conflicts. • Differentiated instructions; facilitative support; specialist; co-teaching; intervention specialist • Differentiated instruction; integrating subject matter, tracking students; reading, math, and science specialist; helping teachers from district. • Identifying student’s areas of strengths and weaknesses through data; teacher training; principal leadership; planning effective lessons/collaboration among teachers; IB program • Staffing; CBLT; TAKS; parental involvement; instructional strategies • Improved teaching strategies from district and principal staff development workshops; organized intervention plans; unification of departments; TAKS strategies and practices; more collaboration as a school. • Parental involvement; reduced teacher expectations; less administrative involvement in daily campus routine; technology not updated in classrooms to meet today’s student’s needs; not enough organized and/or focused teaming and planning time (data driven strategies) • Experienced teachers; parent participation; student cooperation; incentive programs; good leadership • Lack of consistent good instruction; lack of consistent and trained staff; lack of researched based strategies and materials; lack of parental involvement and home support; lack of student motivation to learn. • Leadership; curriculum and instruction; teacher preparation; student programs and climate • Staff commitment; student dedication; curriculum; teacher training; supportive parents. • Student engagement (not taking ownership of education; lack of resources in all instructional areas; discipline issues (student self-control); teacher turnover (lack of consistent faculty); and parental support. • Lack of clear vision by leader; no cohesive instructional strategies; no
preparation for transition from TAAS to TAKS; lack of parental involvement; district mandates Elaborate on the top two or three factors? Give specific examples that illustrate the factor? • Data Analysis and Tracking - In efforts to increase academic performance, our school was encouraged to look closely at the data. The data reflected the deficiencies the students exhibited. Thus, instruction was driven in the direction to improve the areas in need of improvement. Staff Development Teachers were encouraged to attend staff development sessions in efforts to improve academic performance in their classrooms. The staff development opportunities included and was not limited to the following: - ResearchedBased Instructional Strategies (Marzano) - Classroom Management - Journal Studies - Technology Awareness Development. • There were no expectations for curriculum leaders and no curriculum accountability. Our school lacked a monitoring process, guidelines and curriculum expectations for teachers and no reflective practices. Our campus also lacked a data-driven decision making process. Teachers all gave routine test on Friday, but did not use the data to impact instruction. They never looked back at the results. They just moved on to the next concept. The basic response was “my students did not do well” rather than “I didn’t teach that concept well.” • Leadership was confusing. There was no articulation of a clear vision or plan of action. Bad decisions were often made. The school did not let students know what the TAKS test was. Teachers were still using basic knowledge level teaching strategies. • The staff loves kids. They are committed to what they do, although middle school is a hard age to work with. Our school has a low teacher turnover rate. Once when a teacher could not continue to work on the campus, the teachers decided to divide up the students among them so that they would not fall behind. A great deal of effort goes into training the staff. • Differentiated Instruction - Teachers taught skills to meet all of the students needs in their classroom. Facilitative Support - The Special Education teacher or paraprofessional went into the classroom to give support to the special needs student in the general education setting. Co-Teaching - The Special Education teacher and General Education teacher collaborates on lesson plans, class activities, homework, and assessments for the special needs student as well as general education students. • Differentiated Instruction was used to teach and reach each student on their level. We also used it to teach on each student's learning style. Tracking the student's progress was used to show the weakness and strengths in various objectives. Students were grouped in below expectation, met expectation, and exceed expectation. These results were used for tutorials. Results were charted after each test.
• Principal Leadership-Our principal worked with department chair people to conduct needs assessments and to analyze data. Bi-monthly meetings are held to monitor progress and to adjust strategies as needed. Meetings are also used as professional development Identifying student strengths and weaknesses through data-We used TRIAND as a staff to identify strengths & weaknesses. An in-service training was provided at the beginning of the school year to show teachers & staff how to use TRIAND. Planning effective lessons/collaboration among teachers-In the master schedule, all departments have the same planning time to collaborate. This also allowed the principal to meet individually with departments. • Staffing, in my opinion is one of the key factors leading to academic improvements our students. First, several staff members were hired that really were goal oriented, magnificent teachers. Secondly, several moves were made that proved to be vital to student success. TAKS/AYP: In my opinion, our knowing that we were moving ever so close to unacceptable and further academic sanctions really served as a motivator to rally the staff to improve Instructional Strategies! New strategies were adopted school wide that proved to be very beneficial. Thinking Maps and Costas Levels of Questioning, among others. • Organized intervention plans - This included looking at data, working with the teacher, and planning a time to meet with a student or a group of students to give more personal individualized attention to weaknesses and needs. TAKS strategies and practices - We became very familiar with the test and how the questions were asked. We used data to chart growth. We gave practice TAKS tests from the district and used the data for re-teaching. We made warm-ups and homework to help support the objectives. There was more collaboration as a school. Everyone was aware of scores through TRIAND and posting testing results. Electives and PE helped with skills, and were always willing for students to attend tutoring sessions from their classes. We read the play Rodeo Mongolia as a school and worked together to help students be successful. Staff development-Our principal reinforces all of the district strategies, provides workshops and requires we read books and discuss best teaching practices. Departments were unified. They used the same skills, warm-ups, homework, tests, etc. • There are no incentives for parents to participate in parent/teacher conferences or school functions other than sports. Need more community connections and ways to bring parents to the school, not just during times of trouble. There is less administrative involvement in daily campus routines. Administrators are not visible during transition times, in high traffic areas where problems were reported, not visible in classrooms on a regular walkthru/participation time (reading), not having positive contact with teachers and students. There is not enough organized and/or focused teaming and planning time (data-driven/strategies): planning/teaming time is not focused. Teachers do not bring success stories to share, ideas or concerns, but use time to gripe and/or complain about students, other teachers, parents or administration. We need more presentations on what works or has worked
and how it works. It would be helpful to have more book studies or strategy studies based on data from standardized test. • Experienced teachers were able to address the student’s individual needs using a variety of strategies (ex. learning disabled students with auditory deficits-teacher would repeat directives, stress important facts). Parental involvement was important to the student's overall academic success. Parents were able to instill confidence in their child and assist the teachers with carryover (ex. helping their child with homework and making sure their child has adequate sleep and nutrition). Students were expected to participate and cooperate in classroom activities. Non-compliant students were removed from the classroom to avoid disruption in the teaching process. • If a student is motivated to learn, he or she can be taught anything. They are like sponges that soak up everything. They have a desire to learn. Next, if you have trained teachers who can take this student motivation and turn it into learning, the students will be successful. • Students do not take initiative. When given an assignment, students have a short attention span. They look for the lesson to be fun all the time. There are not enough practice resources in any of the instructional areas. The process of ordering resources involves too much paperwork, even when money is available. There is also a long time to get materials especially when it involves Title 1 money. • The leadership focus was not on academic/curriculum dealing with discipline issues (drugs). Top leader did not hold teachers accountable. There was too much teacher autonomy. The curriculum and instruction was not tailored to prepare kids for TAKS. There is no high level teaching. Staff development was provided to prepare teachers for a high level of instruction, but the school is lacking a monitoring process. What sparked the decision to undertake a major transition? • During the spring of 2007, the school decided to implement school-wide and departmental goals. Goals provided the administrators and teachers with an opportunity to collaborate on the students' needs in efforts to define the goals. The goals were specific, strategic, attainable, and measureable. This decision was sparked by low student performance in specific content areas. • In 2005, accountability as well as administrative change, i.e. new superintendent, and new principal. • In 2005, change of administrators. • When classroom observations showed that teachers were still teaching using TAAS strategies. We began disaggregating data often and using it to begin the critical thinking process.
• IB was a partnership with an intermediate school, 2 middle schools and the 9th grade center. The opportunity to become an IB school was offered and acted upon by the administration with in the vertical team. • In 2004-5, the district became increasingly involved in our day to day routine. Tests were provided. In Lang. Arts, layered lesson plans were introduced. The TRIAND program was implemented. As a school, we adapted to this transition. Also, in the year 2006, the words International Baccalaureate were becoming a part of our vocabulary. This program will prove to be a large transition, but between the years 2004-7 it was just starting to be implemented. The decision to undertake a major transition was sparked by wanting to become a recognized/exemplary school again is always a catalyst for change. The district, as I said before, created many changes. The district was a major factor in deciding that we should try to become an IB campus. • Right before Christmas break, an audit team came in to assess problem areas, as well as, needs, concerns, issues of all faculties: teachers, assistants, custodians, cafeteria, administration, counselors, etc. This led to key decisions leading to transition at the beginning of 2007. • Between the school years of 2005-07, student’s behavior and dress code were extremely poor. • The transition was sparked by a constant high teacher turnover rate and a new principal coming in every 3 years. Teachers left based on low test scores, academic problems, discipline problems, principal/teacher relationship, and principal/community relationships. • The school did not meet adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years. Then we started losing our students to other campuses. The school tried to implement differentiated instruction and thinking maps, but there was no monitoring process. What is not monitored won’t get done. What was the process by which the school made key decisions and developed key strategies during the school improvement process - not what decisions the school made, but how did it go about making them? (Based on school years 2004-2007) • The school collaborated with its stakeholders prior to making any decision. Several meetings and mock sessions were held on developing goals. After the leadership team felt comfortable with rolling out goals school-wide, the implementation process began. • There was a shell of a Campus Building Leadership Team that held meetings twice a month. Everything looked good on paper. Administrators began doing classroom walk-throughs (CWTs). The data collected from the CWTs showed that we were a “seat work” campus. That was the extent of the CWT process. We collected data, but there was no follow-up as to what to do next. Decisions were ultimately made by the principal, dean of instruction, and associate principal.
• As the principal, I could not do it all on my own. We developed a schoolwide decision making process of looking at data. We decided to put the data up-front and let it guide all of our decisions. We also used book studies to assist with collaboration. • Administrators made the decisions without any buy-in. They shared what needed to get done. There was no process or training involved. • Transitions were sparked by administrative changes including Professional Learning Community (PLC), Intervention Specialist, Campus Improvement Specialist, and a move toward facilitative support for all students. • Principal • For IB, decisions were made in conjunction with the administration partnership, the magnet school offices and IBNA. It was and continues to be a collaborative effort. • As a school, our process usually involves a department chair meeting with the principal to discuss issues. The department chair then takes the information to the individual departments for discussion. We, as a department, decided when we would give district tests and what we would do with the results. We made calendars as a group. We attended staff development sessions and shared lesson plans that included the strategies. Our IB coordinator met with our departments regularly to get our input on issues relating to curriculum and implementation of the program. • The principal and other administrators made all the decisions. They lacked information to support their plan of action. • The audit team met with administration, as well as, with academic teams, custodians, school improvement, school leadership teams regarding changes that needed to take place and timelines. The teams went to work in processing this information, making decisions about how to implement, and presenting it to the parties that needed to assist in making the changes happen within the timelines given. • Massive contact of parents/guardians regarding behavior (parent nights) and getting the parents involved in their child's academic performance. • The school followed district initiatives in making decisions and school-wide changes. A campus based committee was in place to discuss the initiatives and decided how to implement the changes. • The principal made decisions solely. He did not accept recommendations from administrative team and there was no collaboration. On a scale of 1-10, what confidence did you have in the decisions at the time they were made, before you knew their outcome? (Ten means you had great confidence that they were very good decisions with high probability of success. One means you had little confidence in the decisions; they seemed risky - a roll of the dice.) If had confidence of 6 or greater, what gave you such confidence in
the decisions? • 8. Setting goals is a way of tracking progress. Whenever you set goals, you are expecting a specific outcome. Thus, as a natural competitor, I was confident that the goals we set were attainable and measureable. The biggest challenge was getting the teachers to exercise the goals. On-going collaboration is required in efforts to make adjustments to the devised goals. How do you know if what you are doing is working if collaboration does not take place? •5 •5 • 8. The reputation of the IBNA program and the partnership formed with the 4 schools. • 8. I think that having the school all on the same page is a good move. I trust our principal and her leadership. I feel like I have a say in what we do, and if I like what we're doing, I feel like it will be a success. The IB program is all about good teaching and higher level thinking. I have confidence that this is a good way to go. • 8. We were not shooting in the dark. We let the data guide us. We also researched any program or plan we considered implementing. • 8. The decisions were informed decisions based on research, information, and previous experiences. • 8. It was obvious the changes were necessary, but administration was going about the process in a different way. The process was not successful and the administrator was not open to input from faculty or staff. It was evident in the probing questions and the final result of the audit team the changes were necessary and were going to take place one way or another. •1 • 7. The passion of all the staff involved. • 3. Things that weren’t working continued. English language learners and special education student issues were not being addressed. • 3. There was not enough information shared with the staff. The school’s vision was based on 2-3 people. •2
How did the school get commitment and alignment with its decisions? Cite a specific example of how this took place. • When the teachers helped create the goals, they bought in on the concept.
Thus, commitment was achieved. An entire day was spent on introducing goals to the faculty and staff. After the faculty and staff were introduced to goals, the leadership team tied the need to develop goals into their performance on TAKS. Once the purpose was set, the teachers developed goals in groups with the assistance of a facilitator from the leadership team. • Principal said, “You have to do it.” • Commitment was not important to the administrators. There was not any collaboration. The principal mandated certain things. There was no staff ownership in the direction of the school. For example, the principal brought in several math teachers and “brow beat” them. He blamed the math teachers for the math test scores. The blame game was often played. A visionless leader leads to chaos. • The staff trusted the system that was in place and they trusted me as their leader. They wanted to do well. The scores weren’t great, but they had experienced some success. This success gave them momentum. We also went through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program which promotes a great deal of collaboration. • By communicating with staff via staff meetings, staff development and support from administration. PLC - Professional Learning Communities provided the opportunity for teachers at different grade levels and administrative staff to collaborate and discuss academic intervention to determine what works or not. • Teachers pulled together for the betterment of the students. It was always about the education of the students. Teachers shared different strategies and information with other teachers. Teachers of same grade levels shared information and strategies that helped new teachers. • Most staff participated in training. Many staff members were able to participate in curriculum writing. • Most of our commitment and alignment comes from department meetings and discussions. Once a month, the principal has a school-wide after-school meeting where all hear the same information and talk as a group. Sometimes we do a survey. Waiver Day was up for discussion at one point. We discussed it in department meeting. We took it back to our individual departments. We discussed it. I put out a survey for a vote. I gave the results of the survey/vote at the next after school meeting. • A letter and commitment from the superintendent and the audit team convinced us that they were in it to support students, teachers, staff, and parents. When we returned from the Christmas/New Year break, we were brought in and briefed on how the school would work as a team on positive behavior supports. The process was clear and concise: documenting behaviors, discussing behaviors with students and having them sign off when minor infractions occur, regular teaching session to make sure students were familiar with what is expected in various environments around campus. Teachers were made aware of how to address major infractions and what
would be considered major. If issues arose the positive behavior support team could be consulted. • All staff was committed. It was not difficult. Administrative staff made phone calls. They also sent out letters to the parents and the advocates of the students. • The organized plan was presented to the committee who in turn shared this information with their grade level teams, other parents and community members. The committee bought into the plan first and then they sold it to their team members. An example was the implementation of a homework policy. The teams brought information on what practices their team was using for assigning homework. The committee reviewed the information. The administrator and specialists brought information on the purpose of homework and what research says is best practice for assigning homework. With this information, the committee developed a campus homework policy. • Through a group of teachers that had concerns. • Faculty meeting presentations were made to present materials. There was no curriculum discussion or involvement. I will compare economically-challenged minority schools like yours to others that are similar in demographics but have received a Recognized or Exemplary rating. What could be the difference between your school and these other schools? • In my opinion, the difference would be leadership and campus culture. I truly believe that our campus culture is challenging at times which impacts the delivery of instruction and academic performance. • Student transition is an issue here. Students come and go without consistency in instruction and attendance. • Staffing. It is a tough job to find and hire teachers who understand the curriculum, especially when some in the district believe and tell new teachers, “You don’t want to go to that school.” • Leader lead by example; no excuses. • Genuine collaboration/involvement; no blame game; team effort; leadership support for teaches and students; data-driven; all are held accountable; focused and genuine leadership; student involvement. • If I am not mistaken, in 2004, we received a recognized rating but after changing administrators in 2005 we went to acceptable. I think the difference between my school and those other schools is that most of our students are in and out. We rarely have students that stay from pre-K to fifth grade. • Staffing. • Not much difference. 99.9% of our students come from economicallychallenged backgrounds.
• Only a few percentage points. • Focused teachers and teams that address student needs made evident through assessments and support of administration and school system. • Lower special education population; different communities. • Instruction based on data; leadership; staff buy-in. • Consistent well trained staff with strong instructional practices Can you think of one particularly powerful example of vignette from your experience or observation that, to you, exemplifies the essence of the shift in your school? • Improvement in test scores due to more support from intervention specialists and parent involvement. • Full commitment of faculty working together for the betterment of the student. • As the principal, I couldn’t figure out why our Science scores were suffering. I decided to observe first. I noticed that some teachers were getting great results and others weren’t, but they all seemed to be teaching the curriculum. I looked deeper into the data. Those teachers that were getting 80% or higher on Science exams had a science background. All of the other teachers were “generalist,” meaning that they had a few hours in all core areas and could teach any subject in certain grade levels. They were teaching science on a basic level. I had to change teacher schedules and some contracts were not renewed. • The collaboration of the IB partnership during the authorization visit. • I remember sitting in the principal’s office when he called the math teachers into his office individually to face the team of administrators. The principal shared the math data. The principal then questioned the teachers about what he or she was planning to do. The principal threatened the teachers and blamed them for the scores. No suggestions were made to assist the teachers. I watched as each teacher left the room deflated. During this year, we had the highest teacher flight. • When we were becoming authorized to be an IB school. The looks, attitudes, and feel of our campus shifted to a more powerful place. Having the entire school read a play together and using that as a commonality helped this to happen. • In my school, the shift began with great leadership, fostering positive relationships, encouraging and supporting each other through teams, mentoring and sharing what works. • The staff worked extremely hard to promote the changes. We all must invest in our disadvantaged children because they are really the future of America. • Teacher collaboration about students. Sharing best practices of instructional
strategies that can be used for students who are not successful. Describe any activities or communications that goes on between your feeder schools that assist students in the school community with academics and/or transitions from one school to another. • We are in the process of holding vertical alignment meetings so that the different grade level teachers can cross-share information i.e. grade levels in middle school and high school. • High school students come in to tutor our students. • The elementary school principal has changed so we have not been able to visit since. I used to visit each elementary school classroom and give a pencil to each child. We wanted to put a name with the face of their upcoming school. • We have met once that I know of. • There is no communication. • Since the onset of the Student Success Initiative, we discussed the history of a child and effective interventions with their elementary campuses. These are normally last minute discussions held between the campuses’ data team leader. • There is a lot of collaboration and communication within the vertical team. One example is ESL placement and LPAC. Each school communicates with the next school when passing cumulative folders/LEP folders. This helps us to place students in the appropriate level of ESL. • We do have college student tutors in the AVID program. We have had high school student tutors for Saturday school in the past. IB supports conversation between feeder schools. Teachers from our feeder schools have met several times as a group. We have also attended IB training in out of state programs. This, of course, helps with lesson plans and our students. • With Individual Education Plans we communicate between feeder schools to make the transition easier for student and teachers. This process prevents down time of necessary service provisions for students. • Concerned Black men and other agencies collaborate with our school and others to assist our students.
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