Archive for Research

New Publication — The Role of Equity in School Improvement

The second of a three part publication series for the Illinois Center for School Improvement (at AIR) features The Role of Equity in School Improvement. We write “Today educational equity stretches far beyond the idea of leveling the playing field (equality) to one that integrates the timely, needs-based support for all students to attain their maximum capacity (equity)” (Garland, et al, 2018. p. 2). The publication includes some introductory information that frames a discussion on equity, and then highlights what equity looks like in each of the four domains of school improvement: Leadership, Talent, Instruction, and Culture (The four domains are championed by the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd). Reflective questions are included throughout the document to prompt discussions of school and district staff.

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New publication– System Thinking Leadership for District and School Improvement

In the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a new three-part series of documents that was created for the Illinois Center for School Improvement (run by the American Institutes for Research). The first, System Thinking Leadership for District and School Improvement, was designed as a primer on how systems thinking informs school and district improvement. We focus on leadership as it is the heart of any improvement work. The document includes some Illinois-specific references, yet the majority of the content is applicable for any district or state across the country. One of the most important pieces that came out of the early thinking for this publication was a visual representation on how the the continuous improvement cycle is applicable for each of the foundational elements of improvement (leadership, talent, instruction, and culture); is supported by needs assessment(s); must include efficient and effective systems, structures, and processes; and, be supported by districts and state actions. LAYLAND_GRAPHIC_v4

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New Resources! Integrating Resources to Implement School and District Improvement Cycles

This set of resources, released by the Council of Chief State School Officers, is designed to help SEAs, LEAs, and schools through the school and district improvement cycle. The resources braid together some of the latest thinking on the improvement cycle, Strategic Performance Management, and needs assessments. The overview of the cycle includes a description of each step, coaching tips, and suggestions of tools that could be useful. The work was started by the state members at a School and District Improvement collaborative meeting, sponsored by CCSSO, in June 2017 (SDI SCASS). The resource was released by CCSSO, and staff/consultants from the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd, the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center, and several SEAs contributed to the final resources. The main document is a PDF, and 3 of the 4 tools are available as Word documents that can be downloaded and adapted by users.

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Emerging SIG research

We’re starting to see some comprehensive research coming out of the federal School Improvement Grant Program.

I should note that the publications I’ve authored for the Center on Innovation & Improvement examine implementation of SIG and are “research,” but focus more on promising practices and case studies of a selected group of states or on a specific topic, such as Lead Turnaround Partners.


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New Report: SIG Promising Practices of Lead Turnaround Partners

New SIG Promising Practices Report – 

Lead Turnaround Partners: How the Emerging Marketplace of Lead Turnaround Partners is Changing School Improvement

The revised federal guidance for the School Improvement Grant program encourages the use of external partners to support and supplement the limited capacity of low-achieving schools and districts. In some schools, a type of external providers, called Lead Turnaround Partners (LTPs), are currently assisting with the implementation of the restart, turnaround, and transformation improvement models.

As LTP providers enter the field, some have relevant knowledge and experiences, but others are just beginning to take on more comprehensive reform efforts. Even the most seasoned education support organizations acknowledge that implementing systemic and sustainable dramatic school improvement, within the revised federal models, is a new type of work and there’s a great deal to learn.

This new report, authored by Corbett Education Consulting, with support from Public Impact, for the Center on Innovation & Improvement, is the first analysis of the substantial reforms Lead Turnaround Partners are implementing in persistently low-achieving schools, under the federal School Improvement Grant program.

This report highlights the promising practices of Lead Turnaround Partners, and how states and districts can help or inhibit their improvement efforts in persistently low-achieving schools. Areas of analysis include: the existing marketplace (both supply and demand); the varying definitions of the LTP role; the organizational structures of LTPs; roles and responsibilities; lessons learned; and most importantly, recommendations for states, districts and LTPs to establish stronger LTP partnerships in the future.

While we await more detailed scientific research that examines the effectiveness of LTP practices and partnerships, the LTP field will continue to grow. Until that level of research is complete, it is crucial that we learn from the early promising practices of LTPs, states, and districts.

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The other NOLA students

As we approach the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, there’s been a great deal of press (CNN, Newsweek) reflecting on the changes that have occurred in New Orleans, i.e. the transformations and improvements that were implemented because of the total destruction of the city and much of its infrastructure.

Recent reports, Few Studies Track Post-Katrina School Changes (EdWeek), also question how we’ll be able to learn from the changes in the education system without much of the baseline data and control groups that are often needed for rigorous evaluation. This is a valid issue and hopefully research will continue and conclusions, on the most effective practices utilized, will be drawn without control groups, with overlapping strategies on the same population, and a lack of baseline data.

While we concentrate on the strategies implemented in and around New Orleans, I wonder what’s happened to all of the students who moved away from the city and never came back (or came back a year or two later). I was in NOLA last March and spoke with several students. I asked them about their experiences during Katrina and how much school they missed. One high school student (a 17-year-old sophomore) moved to two different states (Texas and Michigan) before returning to New Orleans and missed over six months of school. She was enrolled in schools in TX and MI, but rarely attended school and felt constantly behind.

If the New Orleans schools show any improvements (which many of them do), the efforts of the RSD, school staff, and non-profits (like New Schools for New Orleans & TNTP/TeachNOLA) should be applauded. New Orleans students were behind their peers before the storm, missed months of school, and were still able to recover. There’s still a lot of work to do, but that’s outstanding and we should acknowledge those accomplishments.

I was working in an elementary school in Delaware when Katrina hit. In December, our school was still enrolling students from the storm. Without school, health or vaccination records, without any official documentation (birth certificates, permanent addresses), and often without guardians (living with friends or relatives) students were held out of school even longer. This leads me to ask, how have school systems across the country changed because of Katrina? Do districts keep better back up (electronic) files of students? Are student files transferable between school districts and states? Do “receiving” school districts have policies in place to cope with students (and get them in the classroom faster) who are displaced in such an emergency?

It’s important to remember that Katrina didn’t just impact New Orleans and school systems across the country will benefit from the promising practices coming out of the region. Nationally, we must also adjust school and district infrastructures to more efficiently enroll students who are displaced in such a disaster, and to better support both the academic and emotional needs of those students.

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