Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tough Questions for Tough Times

Parrett, W. & Budge, K. (2009). Tough questions for tough times. Educational Leadership, 67 (2), 22-27.

Summary: The authors of this article studied six high-performing, high-poverty schools in Washington, Minnesota, Idaho, and New York. Despite high levels of poverty in their communities, these schools showed sustained improvements on multiple measures of student success, specifically, achievement test scores, graduation rates, attendance rates, and behavior measures. In investigating how school leaders' actions influence a turnaround in low-performing schools, the authors found that the leaders focused on questions in three main areas: (1) building the necessary leadership capacity; (2) focusing the staff's everyday core work on student, professional, and system learning; and (3) creating and fostering a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment for all. These questions guided the staff's decision making about how to use stimulus funds intended to improve the achievement of underserved students.

Evaluation: The authors of this article never stated explicitly the methodology they used to conduct this study. As a result, it is unclear whether they relied on focus groups, written surveys, or some other strategy to gather information from these school leaders. In addition, the authors did not always make clear how many of the study's participants posed the questions identified in the report. Therefore, it was sometimes difficult to gauge just how important each question was in relation to the others.

Reflection: I was most intrigued by the fact that all schools in the study had implemented data systems to guide their work. In fact, using data-based decision making was one of the two most common explanations offered for the schools' success, along with fostering caring relationships. In addition, I was struck by the finding that these schools credited much of their success to a high level of instructional program coherence. I wonder how the school leaders balance these systematic practices with individual teacher freedom and creativity. I found this article interesting as a starting point for thinking about professional development needs at a low-income school.

No comments:

Post a Comment