Based on a study of the literature and applications both in Oklahoma and beyond, the practices foregrounded below have the potential to transform public education in the area of Governance, Accountability, and Leadership. Each of the transformational practices is described and examples are provided.
Improving Training for Board Members
Academic rigor, college readiness, and on-time graduation are important to every student. School boards provide governance and oversight for these issues. Waters & Cameron (2007) admit that “with increasing expectations in society and in the workplace for knowledgeable, skilled, responsible citizens, the pressure on schools intensifies” (p. 60). Examples of how these issues are being addressed in schools across the nation provide a transformational practice.
When this district school board realized their high school dropout rate exceeded community expectations, the school board assisted in addressing the problem by establishing specific goals, supporting administrators in their interventions and initiatives, and promoting community-wide awareness (Stover, 2013). In the past three years, the graduation rate has increased to 90 percent. Learn more here and here.
Maximizing Academic Learning Time
Extending the quantity of time in school can help to increase achievement; however, quality of extended time experiences impact achievement, and more research is needed to determine the factors contributing to achievement the most (Redd, Boccanfuso, Walker, Princiotta, Knewstub, & Moore, 2012). Several examples exist that show the impact of allowing flexible time for learning or adding more time for learning and are included below:
Brooklyn’s P.S. 186
Leaders from schools and a nonprofit organization collaborated to extend the school day by three hours for high-quality learning experiences and enrichment. For example, in one ExpandED portion of the day, however, the student-teacher ratio is decreased when an educator from the nonprofit joins the teacher to provide extra help for students. Learn more.
Balsz Elementary School District, Phoenix, Arizona
Taking advantage of an Arizona law that added 5 percent of state financing to districts and twenty days to the school year, Balsz Elementary increased from 180 to 200 days. Since the transition, the proportion of students passing state reading tests has grown to 65 percent from 51 percent, and math scores are also improving. Learn more.
Balancing Quality and Efficiency
Cox and Cox (2010) found that after consolidation enrollment and average daily attendance declined, ethnic composition changed, student academic performance did not increase significantly, and expenditures actually increased over those of the pre-consolidation districts.
School Size Data
When it comes to school size or consolidation of schools, the answer is “what is the best situation to support high-quality student learning.” For information on school size, click here.
Pennsylvania School Consolidation Checklist
Pennsylvania’s School Boards Association provided a review checklist for districts to use to evaluate their changing demographics and economics. Using this list as they consider potential discussions among school districts, these span from sharing services to physical consolidation. Learn more.
New York Rural Districts
The following New York Rural districts of Argyle, Cambridge, Fort Ann, Granville, Hartford, Hudson Falls, and Salem are in a single, largely agricultural county of 837 square miles that had been informally sharing services and pooling resources. They commissioned a study to find additional ways they could benefit from their collaboration. Learn more.
Addressing Educator Shortages
A key way to improve teacher retention is to address the conditions that cause dissatisfaction, which include attending to and supporting new teachers, offering more generous salaries, addressing student discipline problems, providing resources and classroom supplies, and involving faculty in decision-making (Ingersoll & Perda, 2008; Ingersoll & May, 2011).
New Haven Connecticut Public Schools
This school district has partnered with the local teacher organization to maintain effective classroom teachers and eliminate ineffective teachers in order to contribute to the common goal of helping all students succeed (Schacter, 2010).
Rural School Strategies
To address the challenges of teacher retention, along with a smaller applicant pool, some rural schools have crafted incentives to encourage candidates to consider applying and to retain teachers for longer terms. Examples of incentives include (a) low-cost or subsidized housing, annual salary bonuses for staying beyond the first few years and larger bonuses for subsequent years of tenure; (b) grants to teachers for professional development; and (c) scholarships for district graduates who pursue education degrees in the hope they will return to teach in their schools one day (Schacter, 2010). Learn more.
Managing Accountability and Transparency
Improving accountability. Many are considering ways to improve accountability measures and their use for schools.
Western Heights Schools
An assistant professor of education at Oklahoma State University has been working with the school district to develop and implement a system that maps individual student growth through a pre-test, mid-year test, and end-of-year test. The growth model testing not only provides timely feedback to teachers, parents, and students but also data to assist teachers in diagnosing student learning needs and planning appropriate instruction. Learn more.
In 2011, the Council of Chief State School Officers developed principles for an accountability system that would include more authentic measures of academic growth and broader performance indicators. States approved for NCLB waivers selected one of three types of metrics: percentage of students, proficiency scale score, or growth score (Domaleski & Perie, 2012). States that use per-student annual growth metrics address unequal rates of progress for the focal and reference groups ignoring starting points, or addressing minimizing the gap in rate of growth to proficiency, similar to the percentage proficient metric. Colorado is one example that uses growth of students and compares the median growth percentile (MGP), a normative measure, to the adequate growth percentile (AGP), a criterion measure, for each subgroup. They use School View to report data through interactive data tables, graphs, and plots. Learn more.
SSE/I in England and the Netherlands
The self-study evaluation and inspection process allows for the multidimensional nature of school improvement. A self-study model of accountability is operational in twenty-nine countries, mostly in Europe and the Pacific Rim. Learn more.
Montgomery County, Maryland
Instead of focusing on test scores and sanctions, the district directs additional resources, such as smaller classes and intensive professional development in literacy, to support teachers in targeted schools. They provide a holistic, creative curriculum focusing on critical thinking, including the arts and addressing income-based opportunity gaps through a high-quality prekindergarten, health clinics, and afterschool enrichment. These measures resulted in higher test scores among minority and low-income students of any district, decreased achievement gaps, and increased high school graduation and college attendance rates. Learn more. http://tcf.org/work/education/detail/housing-policy-is-school-policy/
Broader, bolder approach
A group of educational leaders has proposed further changes to accountability; that is, states improve their assessments so they can be more useful in the school-improvement process. They recommend an accountability system that brings community support for high-quality education that is valid, transparent, comprehensive, goal-driven, and disaggregated. Learn more.
Increasing trust and communication for accountability. Several mechanisms exist to engage and communicate with parents and community members, and one example is included below.
Robert M. Finley Middle School, Glen Cove, NY
This district ranked in the bottom quartile of Long Island districts on standardized achievement exams and school safety until they engaged the community by visiting and holding programs in churches and community centers and began building relationships. After a strong investment in human capital development, the school has closed the achievement gap, and students feel safe. Learn more.
Opening communications through school websites. School websites can be effective communication tools. A middle school in California uses Joyce Epstein’s model for parental involvement, using the school’s website as an integral component of their outreach and support for parents (Piper, 2012). When Hurricane Sandy closed school for nine days, community members stayed connected through the school website (Labbe, 2013). The remotely hosted website was promoted as a community resource before the disaster and provided pertinent community information during the disaster.
An iPhone app allows districts to communicate information to parents and community members about school events and emergencies, while it also allows parents to easily locate information about their schools. Learn more.
Improving teacher effectiveness. Braun (2005) proposes states and districts implementing value-added measures should simultaneously be working to build teacher capacity through effectively assigning of positions, preparation, and licensure improvements, professional development, mentoring, equitable resources, and higher salaries. DiCarlo (2012) proposes that each state not only monitor the results of the value-added measures annually, but also conduct an intensive and independent research evaluation.
Denver Public Schools have used a performance-pay compensation that is similar in some ways to a value-added system, and a study by Goldhaber and Walch (2012) showed an increase in student achievement not only for those participating in the program voluntarily, but also the teachers who elected not to participate. There was some evidence that those teachers participating in ProComp were more effective. Learn more.
New Mexico’s Three-Tier System
The state-level tiered career continuum system has locally aligned on-the-job portfolio-based evaluations modeled after the National Board Certification process. Learn more.
Peer-Assistance and Review [PAR]
Harvard’s Project on the Next Generation of Teachers works with seven districts, including Cincinnati and Montgomery County. PAR combines a rigorous evaluation and identifies practices upon which they can improve. The Cincinnati standards-based evaluation was found predictive of student learning gains and provided teacher learning (Darling-Hammond, Amrein-Beardsley, Haertel, & Rothstein, 2012). Learn more.
Deciding Among Choice and Competing Values
A meta-analysis of ninety studies on the effects of religious private, charter, and public schools indicate that attendance at religious private schools is associated with the highest level of academic achievement and no significant difference between students who attend public and charter schools (Jeynes, 2012). Public schools have begun to provide more choice options through intra-district or magnet schools as well as inter-district or virtual schools.
The school district provided intra-district transfers and worked to improve school recruiting efforts and to increase enrollment in schools chosen less often by parents. Learn more.
In Florida, all districts can access full-time virtual instruction programs for their public school students in grades K-12. Learn more.
The Philadelphia district recently established a virtual school to challenge the loss of students to charter virtual schools, similar to what other urban districts have done. By mid-August, the district reported an enrollment of 118 students. Learn more here and here.
Options for districts have increased with improved technologies that provide access across boundaries. Choice can be created within large districts or across counties through magnet schools and virtual schools.