Newsletter 32 Research & School Turn-around Strategy

As an introduction to this newsletter let me share with the reader some aspects about what research suggests;

  1. The teacher is the single most important person in the academic success of learners
  2. School principal – school leadership is the second most important in the academic success of learners
  3. The more learners are tested-assessed the better they perform
  4. Science and statistics do not lie – people lie!
  5. In poorer communities the school (my emphasis – NOT THE HOME) play the single most important role in the overall success of the learner – less so in more affluent communities
  6. The District Office is the single most systemic failure in the education system
  7. Transformation is best achieved through coercion (in its broadest sense – this does not imply violence) than cooperation
  8. ACCESS and QUALITY is like the balance-arm of the scale – the more you choose to add to one the lesser you achieve with the other – IT’S A CHOICE!
  9. For change an intervention may be direct(take the bull by its horn approach) – but sometime it’s better to be indirect – you may achieve more
  10. Turning schools around may be incremental as stated by Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan Hassel – “Incrementalists hold that meaningful improvement can only happen slowly, with soul-wrenching culture change leading to instructional change and eventual student success. The Clean Slate Club believes the only way to fix failing schools is to shut them down and start fresh, with entirely new rules, staff, and leadership.”

Strategies for Turning Around Low-Performing Schools and Districts - by Dr. Mariana Haynes

The Broad Parameters

  • Create a framework for school and district intervention based on research and best practice and develop transparent policy and agency procedures that can be used to drive improvement across all schools (e.g., through audits, accreditation processes, and procedures);
  • Use longitudinal data systems to monitor student achievement in content areas and by subgroups, identify the degree of intervention and support needed, and design a system that incorporates multiple tiers or levels that differ in their nature and intensity;
  • Create a set of strategies that leverage resources and consequences in order to impel districts to act independently to make improvements before the state has to intervene to restructure;
  • Provide human and fiscal resources to support turnaround work by developing cadres of specialists, partners, and teams
  • Implement radically improved management structures and processes and use community partnerships and services to transform the most chronically underperforming districts and schools serving the most challenged students.

Key Characteristics of High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools

Readiness to Learn

1. Safety, Discipline, and Engagement: Students feel secure and inspired to learn

2. Action Against Adversity: Schools directly address their students’ poverty-driven deficits

3. Close Student-Adult Relationships: Students have positive and enduring mentor/teacher relationships

Readiness to Teach

4. Shared Responsibility for Achievement: Staff feels deep accountability and a missionary zeal for student achievement

5. Personalization of Instruction: Individualized teaching based on diagnostic assessment and adjustable time on task

6. Professional Teaching Culture: Continuous improvement through collaboration and job embedded learning

Readiness to Act

7. Resource Authority: School leaders can make mission-driven decisions regarding people, time, money, and program

8. Resource Ingenuity: Leaders are adept at securing additional resources and leveraging partner relationships

9. Agility in the Face of Turbulence: Leaders, teachers, and systems are flexible and inventive in responding to constant unrest

Source: The Turnaround Challenge: Why America’s Best Opportunity to Dramatically Improve Student Achievement Lies in Our Worst-performing Schools, Mass Insight Education and Research Institute, available online at Key Characteristics of High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools

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