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Within the central office, there were significant changes in how staff interactively collaborated on projects and with other school-based staff as well. Collaborations between project staff and budget staff proved to be vital to their efforts. Although funding coming into the district dropped initially as programs were eliminated or refocused, funding reached its previous levels and higher once a clear focus was developed. In the early years, maintenance and other upkeep costs were often lost in the budgeting and funding process. This did change later in the effort. Staff also had to take on new roles that they were not accustomed to doing.
School-level leaders indicated that the efforts were well appreciated but were significantly uncomfortable for staff. The administrators, while excited about the changes were also worried about new responsibilities and duties. The commitment of principals did tend to increase with each year, and they appreciated the need for refocusing instructional processes.
Elementary teachers were more comfortable with the changes than secondary staff. However, there was overwhelming support for the principals’ efforts expressed by the teaching staff. Teachers were also spending substantial larger amounts of time in professional development activities. The doors to the classroom were opening as more and more teachers engaged in collaborative efforts. However, ongoing deterioration of the teacher union’s relationship with the district administration was a major rift in the process.
Findings about Student Achievement:
Since the effort began, the district has seen substantial increases in student performance on the SAT-9 (state assessment). The overall student scoring above the 50th percentile has increased from 41% to 47% and in mathematics 45% to 53%. At the grades levels that received the most substantial effort, 2nd graders scoring above the 50th percentile in reading increased from 43% to 55%; in mathematics from 50% to 61%. Of note, San Diego has a larger percentage of students of color and a low economic status than the state average. Participation on the test grew more than 20% on both tests. By 2001, most schools in the district had 98% of their student taking the tests. For students scoring in the lowest 2 quartiles for the SAT-9, the proportion of students scoring at the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 88 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature bottom quartile dropped from 36% in 1998 to 29% in 2001, while students moving from the 3rd to the 4th grade increased from 20% to 24%.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 89 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Datnow, A., Lasky, Stringfield, S. C., & Teddlie, C. (2005). Systemic integration for educational reform in racially and linguistically diverse contexts: A summary of the evidence. Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk, 10(4), 445-453. [One of a series of reports for the Center for Research on Education] Study Description: Synthesis of research reports; studies published 1983 to 2003, majority of studies mid-1990s to the present; quantitative (quasi studies that used matched control designs) and qualitative studies (survey, longitudinal studies, rigorous ethnography), 50 studies
Findings about Processes and Focus of Systemic Work The studies they selected focused on systemic improvements related to student achievement within racially and linguistically diverse settings in which efforts bridge at least two levels of the system.
Three of their seven findings relate specifically to the approach districts take in implementing
systemic improvement efforts:
2. “The role of the district in educational improvement is vital, and districts are taking an increased role in directing improvement” (p. 148).
3. “Improving education for minority youth involves both change in education and community capacity building” (p. 448).
They also provide implications for educational improvements with racially and linguistically diverse
populations as follows:
1. “A carefully planned reform initiative process is essential to long-term success.
2. Support is required from leadership at multiple levels.
3. High quality professional development is needed at multiple levels.
4. Ample resources are required to support reform.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 90 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature
5. Trusting professional relationships can assist across the system.
6. Capacity building is essential.
7. New political arrangements are needed to support reform.
8. Educational reform plans and polices need to focus specifically, rather than peripherally, on the needs of racially and linguistically diverse students.
9. Reform efforts need to call on individuals to address their own belief systems about teaching racially and linguistically diverse students.
10. Educational reform needs to be likened to the social reconstruction of urban and rural communities” (p. 454).
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 91 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Herbert, K. S.; Murphy, K. M.; Ramos, M. A; Vaden-Kiernan, M. & Buttram, J. L.
(2006). SEDL’s Working Systemically Model Final Report. Austin, TX: SEDL. [One of series on SEDL’s working systemically approach, Austin, TX] Study Description: Mixed-method studies with intervention sites with comparisons made to the state performance data, as well as qualitative data collection; achievement data; interviews, survey, focus groups, and field notes; 16 districts, 30 schools, 5 states; over 4 years
Findings about Processes and Focus of Systemic Work The researchers found that using survey tools to provide another perspective of the working systemically approach was difficult at best because of the variety of contextual issues that continually effected survey results. These contextual issues included everything from staff turnover, community upheavals, knowledge and experience of the staff, and other factors. On the other hand, the correlation data does demonstrate encouraging and promising results for this type of work. Data revealed that staff in each of the sites did develop skills and practices that enabled them to integrate and direct the various facets of their school systems toward achieving student leaning goals.
The researchers also drew conclusions from the other data sources. In comparing the developmental sites (began the first year of the project) to the test sites (began in the 2nd or 3rd year and used a tested and more streamlined set of activities), the researchers found that the newer sites reached the same level of implementation as the earlier sites. This seems to demonstrate that the more refined approach accomplishes the same goals in less time. The researchers also found that each site progressed at a different rate from others, again emphasizing the contextual nature of the work.
This approach incorporated a three-prong approach to systemic improvement:
1. Work at all levels of the system simultaneously—district, school, and classroom
2. Provide direct intervention to address the components of the system—standards, curriculum, instruction, assessment, resources, policy and governance, family and community, and professional staff
3. Build the capacity of all those involved to address the components by increasing their skills and knowledge of needed competencies—creating coherence; collecting, interpreting, and using data; ensuring continuous professional development; building relationships; and responding to changing conditions.
Findings about Student Achievement Across the developmental and test sites, 13 grade levels (different states test at different grade levels, so there is no way to compare by specific grades across states) increased the proportion of students meeting the state standards in either reading or math, 8 declined, and 1 showed no change.
In comparing these results to similar schools in each state, researchers were able to make valid National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 92 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature comparisons in three of the states, but data did not exist in the other two to allow such a comparison. In the first three states, there were significant increases in the proportion of students meeting the standards in the working systemically sites in comparison to the similar schools in their states. However, the researchers also noted that in some states, schools are already achieving near the ceiling for rating performance. Any gains at this level are often in small increments.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 93 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Hui, S. B.; Buttram, J. L.; Deviney, F. P.; Murphy, K. M.; & Ramos, M., A. (2004).
Alignment in SEDL’s working systemically model: Research report. Austin, TX: SEDL.
[One of series on SEDL’s working systemically approach, Austin, TX] Study Description: Mixed-method studies with intervention sites with comparisons made to the state performance data as well as qualitative data collection; achievement data; interviews, survey, focus groups, field notes; 16 districts, 30 schools, 5 states, over 4 years
Findings about Student Achievement:
Although the researchers were limited in the information on student achievement they were allowed to use, they still found gains across the vast majority of the districts. In 19 of the 22 schools, students in one or more grade levels showed increases in the percentages of students meeting expectations for the standardized tests. In 21 of 28 sets of test results, there was a decrease of greater than 5% in the percentage of students categorized at the lowest performance designation for the schools.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 94 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Kim, J. J., & Crasco, L. M. (2006). Best policies and practices in urban educational reform: A summary of empirical analysis focusing on student achievement and equity. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 11(1), 19-37. [Ones of series for reports for the Urban Systemic Initiative] Study Description: Mixed-method evaluation reports with comparison achievement data; 3-year study, longitudinal data up to 6 years, using a district-level data collection instrument (Key Indicator Data System, KIDS), document reviews, sites visits, interviews, focus groups, teachers surveys; 21 Urban Systemic Initiative (USI) program; data analysis using 46 rubric elements;* high-poverty, highneed, English language learners (ELL), at-risk student populations; no comparable school sites exist.
Findings about Processes and Focus of Systemic Work The authors found six systemwide educational reform drivers using their rubric elements to help
determine independent variables, process drivers, dependent variables, and outcome drivers:
1. Standards-based curriculum, standards-based instruction, and assessment and accountability
2. Policy that supports teachers’ qualifications, professional development, enacted curriculum, and student support programs
3. Convergence of resources: materials, fiscal, and intellectual
4. Broad-based support: leadership, governance and management; partnerships with higher education, business, family members, and community Outcomes
5. Student achievement
6. Improvement for historically underserved They found that the four process variables worked to together dynamically to improve the two outcome drivers. Thus, they stated that while each driver was a single item of influence, it was the combined use of these drivers that produced the gains.
Findings about Student Achievement Performance on tests demonstrate USI students made gains in mathematics and science: 8th grade mathematics assessments improved in 17 of 18 sites; 12th grade students taking Advanced Placement examinations increased—35.9 % taking these exams in comparison to the national rate of 28.4; similar results for the SAT/ACT; enrollment of subpopulations groups also increased; 8th grade science assessment results improved in 14 of 15 sites; 7 sites made significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap. Researchers noted that the longer the participation as a USI, the higher the gains.
National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at SE DL | 800-476-6861 | www.sedl.org/connections/ Page 95 The School-Family Connection: Looking at the Larger Picture, A Review of Current Literature Marzano, R. J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research to action.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD [An updated school improvement series] Study Description: Synthesis of research reports; 35 years of research on best practices in schools
Findings about Processes and Focus of Systemic Work:
However, while each item on the list of factors holds a key to effective schools, it is the process by which school systems attempt to implement changes that determines the success of any effort.
He notes Fullan’s view that there is an abundance of well-defined descriptions of successful schools;