Strategies Utilized in High
Performing Elementary Schools:
Achievement Equity for All Students
University of Evansville, USA
2nd International Conference on Education,
Economy and Society
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
– 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, &
• Strong emphasis on teacher and school
accountability via No Child Left Behind in the United
Study Objective and
• The objective of this research was to discover
strategies utilized by teachers in high performing
• 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.
• 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
• 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
• 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.
• NOT DOING is NOT ALLOWED.
• 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
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
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,
– 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,
– “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
•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.