Friday, December 11, 2009

Contrasting Paths to Small-school Reform: Results of a 5-year Evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s National High Schools Initiative.

Shear, L., Means, B., Mitchell, K., House, A., Gorges, T., Joshi, A., Smerdon, B., & Shkolnik, J. (2008). Contrasting paths to small-school reform: Results of a 5-year evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s national high schools initiative. Teachers College Record, 110(9).

Summary: This article reports the results of a five-year study on the Bill & Melinda Gates' Foundation's efforts to bring about small school reform in U.S. high schools. Specifically, the researchers examined two strategies that the foundation used: starting new small high schools and converting larger schools into smaller communities. Data indicate that the new small schools produced positive attendance rates and some (limited) student achievement increases, whereas the converted schools showed no evidence of these positive results, at least not within the timeframe allotted for the study. These results might be explained by the finding that the new schools were able to build strong and supportive school climates more quickly than the converted schools.

Evaluation: To collect their data, the researchers used a variety of strategies. They gathered surveys of teachers, students, and school leaders. They also conducted case study visits that allowed the researchers to collect qualitative data. The researchers also examined teacher-created assignments and accompanying student work samples. Finally, they studied district attendance records and standardized test data. This article would be of use to anyone interested in the promise and limitations of the small schools movement. For follow-up studies, the researchers should focus on achievement results beyond standardized test scores and examine more closely the curriculum and instruction taking place in these schools.

Reflection: I found this article fascinating because I am interested in building my own small school. This article suggests that changes or innovations in school structure are likely to lead to changes in school climate but don't necessarily translate into dramatic gains in student achievement. School leaders need to focus not just on how their schools are structured but also on what is happening inside the classroom at the curriculum and instruction level. Structural changes alone do not bring about school reform.

No comments:

Post a Comment