«Rev iew P repar ed by Chr is Ferg uso n, Pr o gra m Ass oci ate with c on trib uti ons fr o m M anic a R a mos, Zen a R udo, and L acy W o od June ...»
For policymakers State and national policies should require family involvement and measure that involvement • through mandated accountability systems. The progress of schools in this area should be published.
Federal, state, or local legislation should encourage or require employers to allow flex time or • work leave to attend school activities.
Schools with high concentrations of Spanish speakers should provide incentives for staff to • become bilingual.
Federal and state programs should fund innovative and sound school-family involvement • programs, targeting schools with low-academic performance first.
Funding should support large-scale partnerships between communities, universities, and • schools to promote English language, literacy, and computer training for families in districts with low performance ratings.
For schools and organizations Districts and schools should develop and publicize measurable goals and objectives to increase • family involvement to support student learning.
Activities that target families should be held at times convenient to families and use strategies • and incentives that encourage families to attend.
Teachers and counselors who reach out to families and practice innovative strategies to do so • should be recognized and rewarded for their actions.
Schools should offer professional development for teachers and staff that gives teachers • strategies and examples of best practice.
School-based committees and organizations should recruit representative membership and • use strategies to ensure participation of all families.
Schools should provide a space just for families to learn about how to support their children • and to engage in study or learning to better themselves.
Districts, schools, and organizations should use DVD technology to provide training and • information to families on the U.S. educational system and other areas of need.
Districts, schools, and organizations should give incentives for family members to accumulate • hours of service or volunteer hours.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 82 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Schools and organizations should routinely evaluate their efforts, using surveys and interviews • or other accessible means.
For teachers Teachers should reach out to families for positive reasons, not only for negative reasons.
• Teachers should offer meetings, calls, or other events at times more convenient to families • and use contact strategies that are more attune to the families’ schedules and habits.
Teachers should be willing to expend the time and energy it takes to be successful in these • efforts.
This study targets a very specific context and participants with the intention of communicating best practice. While the findings and recommendations may not be applicable to all settings, they will add insight and food for thought for those implementing school-family involvement programs.
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Center for Mental Health in Schools. (2005a). School improvement planning: What’s missing? Los Angeles, CA: Center for Mental Health in Schools. [One of series of reports for Center for Mental Health in Schools, University of California-LA, Los Angeles, CA] Study Description: Mixed-method case studies; (New York, NY; Boston, MA)
Findings about Processes and Focus of Systemic Work The authors note that an underlying cause for the lack of systemic guidance in school improvement lies with focusing on the symptom rather than on the whole system, which results in fragmentation of actions rather than unified approaches. They provide the following recommendations for those who wish to foster systemic planning for improvement.
Every system should have guidelines that do the following:
1. Focus its school improvement planning guide on the development of comprehensive, multifaceted, cohesive learning as a supportive system which is fully integrated with plans for improving instruction at school,
2. Delineate the content of an enabling or learning supports component
3. Incorporate standards and accountability indicators for each area of learning supports content;
4. Specify ways to weave school and community resources into a cohesive and integrated continuum of interventions over time
5. Include an emphasis on redefining and reframing roles and functions and redesigning infrastructures to ensure that every staff member’s tasks are aligned to efforts to support learning as a primary and essential component of school improvement as well as to promote economies of scale ^ These abstracts do not provide an exhaustive review of the cited materials.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 84 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Corcoran, T. and Christman, J. B. (2002). The limits and contradictions of systemic reform: The Philadelphia story. Madison, WI: Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE). [One of a series of studies for Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI] Study description: Mixed-method evaluation reports with comparison achievement data; teacher survey data (pre and post); student demographic reports; qualitative data from 49 schools (26 elementary, 11 middle, 12 high school) in 14 clusters—interviews (teachers, principals, family members, and outside partners), observations (classrooms, students, small learning community meetings, professional development sessions, leadership team meetings), review of school improvement documentation, multi-year case study research in a subset of 25 schools (13 elementary, 5 middle, and 7 high schools)—interviews with central office staff and cluster staff, observations of meetings and other events; and interviews with 40 Philadelphia civic leaders (including political leaders, leaders in the funding community, public education advocates, journalists, and business leaders)
Findings about Processes and Focus of Systemic Work
The district used the following strategies to support their systemic reform efforts:
1. Fair funding—a political effort seeking statewide funding equity
2. High standards for achievement
3. Accountability for student performance
4. Decentralization of decision making by organizing clusters of schools around high school feeder patterns, developing small learning communities within schools, and creating local school councils
5. Leadership and support by preparing teachers and administrators to understand, support, and implement systemic reform initiative
6. Better coordination of resources to ensure student needs are met
7. Civic and family engagement by supporting family and community leadership and participation in schools
8. Doing it all at once—begin with all strategies from day one While the authors point to the district’s lack of sustained success in creating an effective systemic effort, they also noted successes. The reform effort raised public awareness and concern about the need to support the education of all children. There were achievement gains. The authors provide
the following lessons about systemic reform:
1. The plans for this effort included a process for accountability procedures to be developed at the district level, but implementation methods were not well aligned at the school level. In fact, there was a gap between the two levels rather than a collaborative approach. Systemic reform cannot function unless districts and schools negotiate a balance of control in developing and assessing curriculum and instruction.
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2. Although there were transparent efforts to decentralize decision making, school staff still saw recommendations and information coming from the district office as mandates. They did not seem themselves as collaborative partners.
3. By taking a do-it-all-today approach, the speed of implementation prohibited the necessary conversations that build relationships and buy-in.
Findings about Student Achievement
The authors of this synthesis of reports present both quantitative data and narrative to explain gains made in the Philadelphia School District under the leadership of David Hornbeck. However, before the project reached the end of goal time line, Mr. Hornbeck left the district for political and financial reasons. This report provides information on the results of his efforts to facilitate systemic changes in the district. Between 1995 and 2000, elementary schools gained almost 17% in students scoring above basic in math; middle school almost 8%; and high school almost 5%. For reading, during the same period, elementary schools gained almost 18%; middle school over 12%, and high school over 15%. For science, during the same period, elementary schools gained over 24%, middle school over 9%; and high school over 15%.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 86 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Darling-Hammond, L.; Hightower, A.H.; Husbands, J.L.; Lafors, J.R.; Young, V.M.; & Christopher, C. (2003). Building instructional quality: “Inside-out” and “outside-in” perspectives on San Diego’s school reform, a research report. Seattle, WA: Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, A National Research Consortium. [One of a series of studies for Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, A National Research Consortium, University of Washington, Seattle, WA] Study Description: Mixed-method studies with intervention sites with comparisons made to the state performance data as well as qualitative data collection; case study; principal (all) and teacher (stratified, random sample of 11 schools) surveys; document analysis; 200 observations of district and school events; 250 interviews and focus groups with teachers, principals, central office administrators, locally relevant community members, and state officials; achievement data from 3 high schools, 3 middle schools, 4 elementary schools; supplemental interviews of 35 principals (roughly 20% of districts principals); 5 years beginning in 1998.
Findings about Processes and Focus of Systemic Work:
The authors focus on the early years of the systemic reform effort done in San Diego City Schools.
The two driving forces for the change were the superintendent and his instructional leader for the district.
The two leaders adopted the following principles to drive the reform effort:
1. Theory of Instruction: a) setting clear goals and performance standards that targeted higher order thinking skills and performance; b) well defined process for assessing student learning by evaluating students’ thinking, strategies, skills, and products and then developing a scaffolded instructional approach to ensure that all students reach expectations; c) multiple instructional skills that engage students in meaningful, active learning, allowing students to tap into previous learning and their cultural experiences, and developing skills to process information metacognitively.
2. Theory for Change: The district office directed a change process and schedule that was “directive, prioritizing speed of implementation and fidelity to the instructional theory over mechanisms to solicit input and ensure backing from organizational members about changes underway” (p. 13). They felt the system had to be “jolted” out of their existing practices.
As these changes began to roll out, there were changes to the system:
1. The district shifted from a process of building programs around funding sources to determining the instructional direction needed and then finding resources to fund the work.
2. Positions at the central office were either reorganized or deleted based on their relationship to support student achievement.
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3. The district reevaluated its staff patterns and developed an online job application procedure to allocate staff to meet improvement needs as quickly as possible. In line with those two processes, the district created a stronger professional accountability system.
The central element in all of the reform efforts was the following new set of instructional priorities:
1. They developed professional practice through structured time to interact with peers and reflect on practice as well as use of context-specific learning networks for teachers and administrators.
2. They strengthened efforts to target literacy development, as they felt it was the key to student success throughout their education.
3. They created a structure for local accountability to foster student equity and teacher professionalism with the goal of insuring that each student received an equally good education and reached maximum possible performance.