High Performing School Study

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					    Strategies Utilized in High
 Performing Elementary Schools:
Achievement Equity for All Students

             Sharon Gieselmann
         University of Evansville, USA

   2nd International Conference on Education,
              Economy and Society
                  Paris, France
                  22 July, 2010
       Significance of the Study
• The research is significant because:
• Effective teachers are the single most
  powerful influence in student achievement
  that is within control of the educational
  system (Marzano, 2010).
• Effective teachers appear to be effective
  with students of all achievement levels,
  regardless of the levels of heterogeneity in
  their classes (Marzano, 2010, Wright, Horn,
  and Sanders, 1997, Nye, Konstantopoulos,
  and Hedges, 2004).
         Significance of the Study
• Thomas Good in his meta-analysis of the research
  (1968-2008) indicates that teachers do impact
  student achievement.
   – Anderson, Evertson, & Brophy, 1979, Good & Grouws,
     1979; Good, Grouws, & Ebmeier, 1983; Stallings, Cory,
     Fairweather, & Needels, 1978, Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor,
     2007; Darling-Hammond, Dieckmann, Haertel, Lotan,
     Newton, Philipose, et al., in press, Strong, Ward, Tucker, &
     Ghindman, 2007).
• Strong emphasis on teacher and school
  accountability via No Child Left Behind in the United
           Study Objective and
           Research Question
• The objective of this research was to discover
  strategies utilized by teachers in high performing
  elementary schools.
• Operational definition of high performing was
  those elementary schools performing in the top
  20 on this state’s standardized assessment.
• Research Question: What strategies are utilized
  in your school to help students reach high levels
  of academic achievement?
• The subjects selected for this study were
  elementary school teachers who taught at a
  school that was categorized as high performing.
• Teachers agreed to voluntarily participate in
  either a phone or face-to-face interview.
• Interviews were transcribed using procedures
  outlined by Miles and Huberman (1984)
  according to common themes.
             Study Population
• 21 Elementary School Teachers
• Average Free/Reduced Lunch percentage at their
  respective schools was 54%
• Average Elementary School Size was 492
• Teachers were from rural, suburban, and urban
  – Rural Schools: 16 teachers
  – Suburban School: 1 teacher
  – Urban School: 4 teacher
   Strategy: Teacher Expectations
• “The teacher must be willing to work at high levels before
  he/she can expect his/her students to work at these
  levels. The mentality of excellence is contagious; as is
  the mentality of mediocrity. Students can see through
  the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy.”
• “Higher expectations of teachers leads to students
  having high expectations for themselves. This is the
  best way to encourage intrinsic motivation.”
• Effective teachers have a positive or growth mindset
  about student potential and accept responsibility for
  teaching their students (Dweck, 2006, Good & Brophy,
  2008, Marzano, 2010).
  Strategy: Teacher Expectations
• “Teachers believe that all students can
  achieve and should strive to help them
  reach their full academic potential.”
• “We have a no excuses, no exceptions
  policy in our district. We want all kids to
  experience success.”
• Weinstein (2002) demonstrates that the
  beliefs and expectations teachers have
  about students influence their behavior
  towards students, which ultimately
  influences student achievement.
              Strategy: Teachers Teach
• Teachers provided direct instruction in:
   – Comprehension and Vocabulary strategies (Summarizing, Use
     of Graphic Organizers, Concept Maps)
   – Note Taking and Organizational Skills (Listening carefully,
     Outlining, Identifying Key Points, Color-Coding Similar Themes)
   – Study Skills (Using Time Wisely, How to Study at Home)
   – Team Work Skills (Cooperative Groups, Supportive Classroom
• Teachers described their day as ‘bell to bell’ teaching hence,
  students realized that learning was the focus.
• The highly effective teachers consistently engaged students and
  provided opportunities to learn and explore (Darling-Hammond et al, in
 Strategy: Goal-Oriented Learning
• Teachers helped students set academic goals that relate
  to school and district goals.
• Strategies for reaching these goals are created so that
  students experience success (e.g. to improve reading
  comprehension skills, student will re-read paragraph and
  read slowly to gain meaning).
• Teachers believe that students are prepared for high
  levels of achievement because they have a goal and
  strategies that will help them achieve success. Students
  realize they are at school to learn and are responsible for
  their own learning.
• Teachers believe this helps build confidence in students
  and they see the “big picture” of learning.
• Corresponds with Marzano, Mayer, & McTighe (2010)
  that students know why they are learning concepts if
  learning goals are established.
Strategy: Practice & Application of Concepts

  • Teachers believe in continuous review and
    assessment. Concepts are reviewed so that students
    understand them when presented in different
    contexts. Review enhances students’ ability to apply
    key concepts.
  • Teachers believe that learners do not have an in-
    depth understanding of an abstract idea on the first
    try. They need the continuous review so that
    students understand the content.
  • Relates to the research concerning the importance
    of having students apply concepts learned; focus is
    on teaching for understanding (Marzano, 2010,
    Good & Brophy, 2008, McTighe, 2010).
   Strategy: Student Engagement
• Teachers caused greater interest in the subject matter
   – Providing real world assignments that help students
     make connections to real life and therefore are
   – Taking learning outside of the classroom (use of field
     trips, community speakers related to content).
   – Utilizing student-centered instruction rather than
     teacher-centered: Activities focus on student
     involvement, inquiry, and hands-on activities
     (competition, challenge, choice, cooperation).
   – Engagement correlates with higher levels of
     academic achievement. Students in highly engaged
     classrooms outperform their peers by an average of
     almost 30 percentile points (Silver & Perini, 2010).
    Strategy: Student Engagement
• Teachers insist all students come to class prepared
  everyday. They believe this is an important life skills.
• Students are taught that they have the power to control
  their behavior, their citizenship, their attitude, the quality
  of their work, their attendance, and the ability to put
  forth a good-faith effort.
• A variety of methods are used to help students meet
  these expectations and include before and after school
  tutoring programs with teachers and principals and
  “invitation tables” at lunch to eat and complete work.
• Relates to Marzano’s (2010) research regarding
  increasing student engagement to provide for increased
  student achievement.
  Strategy: Higher Order Thinking
• Teachers describe their curriculum as
  challenging and rigorous. The curriculum
  includes integration of critical thinking skills as
  they believe these are life skills.
• Approximately 50% of instruction completed at
  higher thinking levels (using Bloom’s
• Challenge problems are offered in place of
  completing a homework assignment.
• Doug Reeves (2000) provides evidence that
  districts who teach thinking skills have higher
  test scores.
   Strategy: Thoughtful Discourse
• Teachers give students the “right to be wrong.”
• Teachers allow students to voice various opinions on
  an issue and explore alternatives.
• Teachers use a variety of methods to solicit student
  answers, using index cards for example, so that ALL
  students participate in discussions.
• Education is about developing the mind and gaining
  knowledge. What good is information if one cannot
  think with it, transfer it, understand it at a deeper level,
  or use it to solve problems? (Erickson, 2010)
     Strategy: Differentiated Instruction
• “Differentiated instruction strengthens teaching and
  learning in my classroom and provides time for
  targeting students’ needs.”
• Teachers collaborate with various staff members to
  create small instructional groups especially in the area
  of reading (instructional assistants, special education
  teachers, G/T teachers, speech pathologists).
   – This includes cluster grouping for gifted and talented students.
   – Group sizes range from 8-10 students for those who need less
     assistance to 5 students or less for those that need more
• Extensive interventions are developed to help students
  who are struggling academically or behaviorally. They
  include child study teams along with classroom,
  administrative, and community interventions.
• Teachers also utilize various software programs to
  provide students with individual practice to meet their
  specific skill needs.
Strategy: Goal-Oriented Assessments
• A variety of benchmarks are set for students to reach
  regarding grades. For example, in some schools
  students cannot receive a grade of D or F or receive a
  grade below an 86% (out of 100%).
• Many assessments are given on a regular basis to track
  progress and to ensure that students are reaching
  specific learning goals.
• Teachers believe that students should have the
  opportunity to improve all student work. By asking the
  students to correct assignments and reach benchmarks,
  they help students master and understand new
  concepts. Teachers want students to revise and retry
  based upon feedback.
• Improving and analyzing errors in assessments allows
  students to revisit concepts and examine their own logic
  regarding true understanding of the content (Marzano,
Strategy: Cause Greater Student Interest and
Confidence in School via Extracurricular Activities
• “We use a variety of approaches to help students build
  their confidence and interest in coming to school.”
• Activities include:
   – In School and After School Clubs with topics such as art,
     baseball, gardening, pep, Spanish and French, creative writing,
     and technology.
   – Ensuring that students are in at least one public performance per
     year at the school.
   – Letting students conduct their own plays and make their own props to
     use. They learn the parts of a story by “doing” (plot, characters, setting,
     problem, etc.)
   – “There is something of interest for every student. They help students
     make a positive connection to school and their learning.”
• Relates to Wiggins (2010) comment that one of the goals
  of schooling is to identify talent in everyone and have the
  students feel confident.
      Strategy: Personal Connections with
• Teachers make a personal connection every day with
  every child. “Each student must feel important regardless
  of any barriers they may face. You can’t motivate a
  student you don’t know.”
• Activities include:
   – Greeting students at door with a smile.
   – Sending postcards to students at least once per semester to
      share successes individually.
   – Communications with the home such as making home visits
      before the school year begins, riding school bus with students
      once during the school year, newsletters and web sites to share
      student successes, and individual and grade level parent meetings.
• Reports from students strongly suggest that
  interpersonal validation is central to students’
  achievement and affiliation motivation and can be linked
  to student achievement (Dolan & McCaslin, 2008, Florez &
   McCaslin, 2008, McCaslin & Buurross, 2008, Powell, 1996).
         Strategy: Success is Celebrated
• Teachers celebrate student success often. “Every
  child is recognized in some manner.”
• Activities include:
   – Students eat in “hard work café” or with teacher in room
   – Student recognition on daily live news program, as
      student of the week or month, reader and writer of the
   – Principal’s Club (teachers set specific criteria for their
      students to achieve each grading period)
   – Exceptional student work is displayed throughout the
      school – “Wall of Fame”
    – Words of praise or encouragement are written boldly on student
    – Schools hold celebration assemblies regularly to recognize
      student success and progress every grading period.
      Motivational speeches are given by community members and
      the principal about the importance of learning.
• Relates to Marzano’s (2010) lesson segment
  strategy that includes celebrating student success.
     Strategy: Professional Development
• Teachers participate in 4 days of professional
  development per year that relates to individual teacher
  and school goals.
• Teachers participate in regular team planning in each
  building to help them improve their practices with
   – Horizontal and vertical alignment of both content and
     academic vocabulary allows them to teach students
     consistently across grade levels.
• The goal is to continually improve their practice.
• In a 10-year study of leadership in three countries,
  Leithwood, Day, Sammons, Harris, and Hopkins (2007)
  found that the best predictor of student achievement is
  improving the instructional practices of teachers.
•This study confirms the teacher effectiveness
research regarding strategies used in the
classroom that contribute to higher levels of
student achievement.

•It provides additional evidence that students can
achieve at high levels despite poverty (average
free/reduced lunch percentage was 54%) if
effective teaching strategies are utilized.

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