Educators Want to Know
This feature of the BPC newsletter was created to respond to specific educator requests for information about best practice strategies. Aldine ISD’s Collaborative Monitoring and Intervention Model best practice summary provides a wealth of information aligned with a recent request to the BPC for information on cross program and intra-departmental collaboration at the district level. Key district strategies include the following:
- Staff at all levels engage in a continuous process of monitoring student data.
- The district’s organizational structure is designed to support strong cross-program and district-campus collaboration in planning and providing interventions.
- Rigorous evaluation processes and strategic resource allocation help the district and campuses to identify and promote strategies that work.
- District specialists work directly with struggling campuses identified as “accelerated schools” to develop and implement intensive intervention plans.
- Additional supports include district-funded skills specialists in areas of need at all campuses, trained early intervention teams, and a comprehensive district professional development program that is constantly tweaked to address emerging district and campus needs.
In addition, read on below for a summary of an article exploring the research on a district’s role in systemic educational reform.
To suggest a topic for a future Educators Want to Know feature, please contact BPC Manager, Ertha Patrick, at Ertha.Patrick@tea.state.tx.us
Districts as Institutional Actors in Educational Reform
Andrea K. Rorrer, Linda Skrla and James Joseph Scheurich
Educational Administration Quarterly (2008) 44: 307-357
Over the last several decades, the education research community has broadly de-emphasized the role of districts in educational reform in favor of looking at schools as the drivers and designers of change from the bottom up. In this 2008 Educational Administration Quarterly article, Rorrer, Skrla, and Scheurich explore the powerful, complex, and inter-related roles that districts play as “institutional actors” in systemic educational reform.
The researchers identify four essential roles of districts in systemic change. These are:
- providing instructional leadership― “generating will” and building capacity to support instructional coherence (aligned curriculum, instruction, and assessment districtwide) by providing communication, planning, and opportunities for collaboration, monitoring instruction and progress toward goals, and strategically allocating resources to support instructional improvement.
- reorienting the organization—changing district organizational structures and cultural norms to increase “instructional dialogue,” decentralize decision-making authority, promote communication, build ownership, and develop capacity at all levels.
- establishing policy coherence—interpreting and aligning local, state, and federal policy and resources with established reform goals resulting in coherent distribution of resources for supplemental programs, staffing, professional development, and materials and resources around a defined and consistent agenda.
- maintaining an equity focus—acknowledging gaps in student performance outcomes (and the institutional practices that could contribute to those gaps) and increasing transparency and accountability with a focus on coordinated procedural structures that increase access to and use of data.
Broadly, districts can promote a culture and expectations focused on instructional improvement and equity, through coherent policies, clear communication, and organizational structures within which schools and teachers work as a professional community toward common improvement goals. The researchers emphasize that districts have the collective ability, through inter-related roles and responsibilities, to go beyond success at a single school to become a “tipping point for change” at all schools in the district. As institutional actors, districts can provide support often characterized by tighter accountability but also increased flexibility with embedded feedback loops to support ongoing and responsive change.
New Best Practices
- Broad Prize Winner Aldine ISD’s collaborative monitoring and intervention model
- Supporting high school completion for English language learners at Socorro ISD’s Montwood High School
- Integration of fine arts instruction at Spring Lake Park Elementary in Texarkana ISD
- St. Mary’s Academy Charter School improves student achievement with after-school programming
BPC Effect Size Analysis
The BPC now conducts an effect size analysis included in the Supporting Evidence section of best practices summaries. An effect size is a measure that describes the magnitude of the difference between two groups. Effect sizes are particularly valuable in best practices research because they represent a standard measure by which all outcomes can be assessed.
The effect size analysis allows the BPC to describe the relative effectiveness of different interventions, as well as how much of a difference each intervention made. Effect size calculations are conducted for those practices supported by three or more years of quantitative evidence. The BPC's threshold for a "meaningful" effect size is .25, which corresponds to the What Works Clearinghouse's definition of a "substantively important" effect. Ultimately, effect sizes provide one important piece of information that should be considered in the decision to adopt or enhance programs. Other potential considerations include cost, political feasibility, and whether the evidence applies to the population or conditions in your district. For more information on how to interpret effect sizes, see "How to Interpret Effect Sizes".
Best Practices to Watch For
Best practice summaries in the works:
- Dropout prevention and recovery (Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD)
- Elementary early intervention model (Lantrip Elementary, Houston ISD)
- Comprehensive high school improvement (MacArthur Senior High School, Aldine ISD)
- Ninth grade schools (Aldine ISD)