Research: Achieving Educational Equity

Karin Chenoweth. It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools. Harvard Educational Press, 2007.

“This straightforward and inspiring book takes readers into schools where educators believe – and prove – that all children, even those considered “hard-to-teach,” can learn to high standards. Their teachers and principals refuse to write them off and instead show how thoughtful instruction, high expectations, stubborn commitment, and careful consideration of each child’s needs can result in remarkable improvements in student achievement.”

Chenoweth’s findings include a long list of practices found in much of the literature:

  1. Embrace and use data to focus on individual students
  2. Embrace accountability
  3. Focus on student impacts, not adult impacts
  4. Focus on developing positive behaviors rather than punishment
  5. Create an atmosphere of trust and respect
  6. Provide teachers with time to plan and collaborate
  7. Provide teachers with time to observe each other
  8. Have principals who are constantly present and engaged with classrooms
  9. Have leaders at all levels

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The Turnaround Challenge (Mass Insight Research, 2007)

This comprehensive report on High Poverty, High Performing schools (HPHP) found that they do not operate like traditional schools, but are more flexible, more responsive to student needs, and have cultures of innovation and shared commitment.  Such schools exhibit:

  1. Safety, discipline, and engagement
  2. Action against adversity – directly address poverty-driven deficits
  3. Close adult-student relationships
  4. Shared responsibility for student achievement
  5. Personalization of instruction
  6. A professional teaching culture
  7. Authority over resources / autonomy
  8. Ingenuity in acquiring resources
  9. Agility in the face of turbulence

Low-performing schools tend to fail students because “the challenges they face are substantial, and they themselves are dysfunctional . . . Low-expectation culture, reform-fatigued faculty, high staff turnover, inadequate leadership, and insufficient authority for fundamental change all contribute to a general lack of success.” Schools that successfully serve high-poverty populations make fundamental changes to structure and culture to focus sharply on student learning.

Central Office Transformation Research at the Center for Educational Leadership

How do you transform a central office to better serve the schools in a district and foster excellence and equity in teaching and learning district-wide? Professor Meredith Honig at the University of Washington has done a lot of research on this topic, including studies of Oakland Unified School District reform in which we have been a partner. Dr. Honig’s rubrics of district transformation are useful as a shorthand on how central offices can support rather than merely monitor or, worse, burden school-site improvement in learning.

The Core of Transformation: Learning-focused Partnerships

Before:

  • Assistant/Area Superintendents
  • “Sit and get” PD for Principals
  • Occasional principal coaching
  • Outside vendors supporting low-achieving schools

After:

  • Elevating support for principals’ instructional leadership
  • Providing intensive, job-embedded PD
  • Engaging in practices of master teachers
  • Intentionally supported (not reactive to crises)

The Five Dimensions of Central Office Transformation

  1. Learning-focused partnerships with schools
  2. Assistance to the central office-school partnership
  3. Reorganizing and reculturing every central office unit to support the partnerships and improvement in teaching and learning
  4. Stewardship of the overall transformation process
  5. Evidence use throughout to support continual improvement

There are many complex implications to these changes. Here are two links, one to the presentation and one to an article that explores these shifts in some depth:
M. Honig, Central Office Transformation powerpoint presentation

M. Honig, Central Office Transformation article