National FORUM of Applied Educational Research Journal 27(1&2) 2014, Angela A. Brown & Reginald Leon Green - NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS ((Founded 1982), Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief - www.nationalforum.com

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National FORUM of Applied Educational Research Journal 27(1&2) 2014, Angela A. Brown & Reginald Leon Green - NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS ((Founded 1982), Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief - …

National FORUM of Applied Educational Research Journal 27(1&2) 2014, Angela A. Brown & Reginald Leon Green - NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS ((Founded 1982), Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief - www.nationalforum.com


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  • 1. NATIONAL FORUM OF APPLIED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL VOLUME 27, NUMBERS 1 & 2, 2014 Practices Used by Nationally Blue Ribbon Award Winning Principals to Improve Student Achievement in High-Poverty Schools Angela A. Brown, EdD Principal Shelby County Schools Reginald Leon Green, EdD Professor University of Memphis Abstract The purpose of this study was to identify reform strategies used by leaders of Blue Ribbon schools to successfully turnaround high-poverty, low-performing schools and to determine if the use of the strategies altered the instructional and institutional behaviors of teachers. In addition, the researchers sought to determine if the use of the strategies impacted students’ perceptions about themselves and others. Data collected and analyzed revealed seven leadership strategies in the literature on school transformation: (1) Leadership, (2) Collaboration, (3) Professional Development, (4) School Organization, (5) Data Analysis, (6) Curriculum Alignment, and (7) Student Intervention. The analysis further revealed that the school leaders perceived a noticeable difference in teachers’ behavior and students tended to feel competent and cable of learning the curriculum taught when these practices were executed. Keywords: leadership strategies; instructional and institutional behavior of teachers; student perception about self and others The phenomenon of high-poverty, failing schools is a national problem that exists in urban, rural, and suburban areas. Since 1964, studies of national policies and school reform initiatives have raised questions relative to enhancing the achievement of students attending these schools. Nevertheless, after five (5) decades of reform efforts including the Civil Rights Act of 1964; The Effective Schools Movement of the 1970s and 80s; A Nation At Risk Report, 1983; Standards and Accountability Movement of the 1990s, and The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), 2001, high-poverty, underachieving schools remains and educational leaders continue tosearchfor processes and procedures that can be used to enhance the academic achievement of the students they serve. Failing schools are most often located in urban and rural areas and are not evenly distributed across states. Adding to the unequal distribution of these schools is the fact thatthey 2
  • 2. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN serve a disproportionate number of minority students, with an African-American populationranging from 65% to 95%, (Malen & Rice, 2004; U.S. Department of Education, 2001b). Also, noteworthy, in failing elementary schools the number of immigrant groups and other minorities is reaching 96%, (Hassel &Steiner, 2003).Moreover, children who attend these schools are of greater risk of literacy failure because they come from poor families. Students from poor families are more likely to face stress factors such as unemployment and marital discord which can result in the lowing of children’s self-worth and an increase in other negative effects that may lessen their level of low academic achievement (Snow, Barnes,Chandler, Goodman, & Hemphill, 1991). Children functioning under these circumstances face challenges that require schools to provide an instructional program that will address the negative effects that influence the teaching and learning process, (Ascher & Maguire, 2011).Considering that American education has progressed through several reform movements, and over 40% of the nation’s youth continue to attend underperforming schools, there is an urgent need to identify practices and processes that are effective in high-poverty, low-performing schools. Review of the Literature In order to transform low-performing schools, we must first understand what characterizes a school as failing or low-performing. The term “failing school”appears to be relatively new, surfacing in the 1990s as a result of the accountability movement, (Duke, 2006). There is little existing literature that describe specific characteristics of low-performing schools or that examines how school decline (Corallo & McDonald, 2002). The existing literature does not explain why some schools have tried multiple strategies to improve student achievement, without rapid or clear success (Herman, 2008). Understanding how a school's academic achievement begins to slip can thus provide important insights into the adjustments needed to reverse the process (Duke, 2006). What is most problematic is the fact that state educational leaders currently lack the knowledge and resources to turn around failing schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2001b). They are unsure about which parties are responsible for implementing the school’s turnaround effort (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). For example, we know it’s misleading to simply attribute school decline to "changing demographics," which usually serves as a politically correct way of saying that a school has experienced an influx of poor, minority, and often non-Englishspeaking students, (Duke, 2006). Common conditions do, however, appear to be present in these schools. These conditions include a correlation between community poverty and stress on the organization of the school (Corallo & McDonald, 2002). This stress is evidenced by low expectations for student achievement, high teacher absenteeism, and high rates of teacher turnover (Corallo & McDonald, 2002).Consequently, factors attributing to school failure are both internal and external to the schoolhouse. External/Internal Factors School failure stems from external and internal conditions (Green, 2010). In some instances, the literature focuses on the negative impact that external conditions have on schools. 3
  • 3. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN Communities associated with school failure may experience “Social deprivation” (Willmott, 1999, p. 10) and “associated problems” (U.S. Department of Education, 2001b, p. 4.). These conditions lead to high levels of violence and disruption. This includes gang conflicts, drug dealing, prostitution (Kozol, 1991), and other hostile factors (Ediger, 2004). Such "an environment... destabilizes home life, undermines support, and creates despair" (Lashway, 2004, p. 25) deterring the transformation process. Notwithstanding the reform efforts inside the schoolhouse, these external factors impede transformation efforts. Secondly, internal conditions can also cause school failure. Theinternal factors that impact achievement can be placed into three categories: quality teaching, school climate, and student conditions. Quality teaching. Failing schools employ the least qualified teachers (Ediger, 2004) even though such schools are in need of the most skilled ones (Mintrop & Trujillo, 2005). Teachers assigned to failing schools are likely to lack expertise in literacy, math, or more specialized subject areas (Mazzeo & Berman, 2003). In addition, teachers who teach in failing schools are usually not trained to meet the needs of low-income children. Only a few colleges and universities prepare teachers for this challenge(Kozol, 1991). This isespecially troubling considering that new teachers are more likely to be assigned to low-performing schools(Ravitch, 2010). School climate. Other stresses of teaching in a failing school may include "unsafe climates, poor attendance, low achievement, rundown facilities, and scarcity of materials. These factors make it difficult for such schools to attract and retain effective teachers qualified to teach at high levels in core subject areas (Mazzeo & Berman, 2003). This type of school climate is often highlighted by the media and such notoriety discourages teachers who are attempting to maintain order and increase academic achievement (King & Lopez, 2008). School success or failure in high-poverty, underperforming schools is often determined by the leadership of a school (Duke, 2006). As such, ineffective leadership is reported as an essential, internal cause of failure and is one of the most consistent features referenced when speaking about the climate of underperforming schools (Meyers, 2007). Climate and leadership may be the dynamics that are responsible for the drop in achievement when the school is not conducive for learning,(Kozol, 1991). Student conditions. Student outcomes are the third category that influences transformational efforts. High-poverty, low-performing schools usually have poor student and teacher attendance, low student achievement results, and the perpetuation of low graduation rates, (Duke, 2006). In many instances, the majority of the students are failing and up to 75% of them are eligible for free or reduced price lunches (Ediger, 2004).These factors and others make it difficult for failing schools to attract and retain teachers qualified to teach at high-academic performance levels in core subject areas, (Mazzeo & Berman, 2003). As a result of the factors described in the above three categories, reform efforts designed to address low-performing schools continue to occur.However, indifference to the number of failing or underperforming schools that remains,some are being transformed into highperforming schools. When analyzing proven practices appearing in the literature, the following 4
  • 4. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN factors appear most frequently: (1) Leadership, (2) Professional Development, (3) Student Intervention, (4) Collaboration, (5) Curriculum Alignment, (6) Data Analysis, and (7) Collaboration. Give that some high-poverty, underperforming schools are being transformed using these seven practices, it is of great interest and benefit to determine the extent to which they are being used by successful school leaders. Purpose of Present Research For over thirty years, there has been a call to end academically deficient schools. The U.S. Department of Education has identified approximately 5,000 schools in the chronically underperforming category, which amounts to approximately 5% of the schools in the nation(Elementary and Secondary Education, 2010). Over half of such troubled schools are in big cities, (U.S. Department of Education, 2010), and with the constant changes requested by the various education reform movements, the number continues to grow.The need for educators to intervene in these schools andidentify strategies that can be used to transform failure to success is an idea whose time has come. This idea rests on the assumption that the fundamentals of educational practices can be changed. Given that seven (7) practices continue to surface in the literature as proven practices in the transformation process, the rationale for this study was to explorethe practices used by leaders of Nationally Blue Ribbon Award Winning Schools of Excellence to determine the extent, if any, to which they use (1) Leadership, (2) Professional Development, (3) Student Intervention, (4) School Organization, (5) Curriculum Alignment, (6) Data Analysis, and (7) Collaborationto enhance academic achievement in low performing schools. In addition, the researchers were interested in determining if use of these strategies altered teachers’ instructional and institutional behaviors and if use of the strategies impacted students’ perception about self and others. Theoretical Framework The theoretical foundation for this study was grounded in three theories of leadership as defined by Green (2010), Spillane (2001), and Bass (1985). These theorists have diligently analyzed the relationship between the school leader’s behavior, beliefs, values, and social interactions and the academic achievement of the students they serve. The leadership practices of these theorists are grounded in the belief that a leader’s beliefs, values, and behavior work together to guide and direct practices and procedures that aid in the progression of school improvement. Using appropriate, leader behavior, school leaders can transform low-performing schools into high-performing schools. In crafting a framework to guide this work, the primary theory used was that of Green (2010), The Four Dimensions of Principal Leadership.This is a comprehensive theory that informs principles supported by Distributive and Transformational leadership theories. Also, it provides a description of the core principles embedded in theories throughout the literature as well as those characterized by the seven reform strategies under study. 5
  • 5. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN The Four Dimensions of Principal Leadership According to theFourDimensions of Principal Leadership Theory developed by Green(2010),in order to transform low-performing schools there must be a balance between the style and behavior of the leader. Dimension I, addresses the belief that in order to be effective, school leaders must have a keen understanding of self and others. The leader must understand what he/she believes and values,as well as know where his/her strengths lie. This fundamental understanding will determine their behaviors and decisions in the organization. Dimension II speaks to understanding the complexity of organizational life, which encompasses the structure of the daily operations, culture and climate of the school, and the interaction of people in day-to-day relationships. He suggests that an understanding of the intricacies of organizational functions will facilitate structures and systems as well as remove barriers to progress. Dimension III references the practice of building relationships inside and outside of the school. For example, Green theorized that if relationships between principal/teacher, teacher/teacher, teacher/student, and school/community are developed and nurtured, high student achievement can be promoted. Such relationships encourage camaraderie, commitment, and collaboration; essentials for school transformation. Dimension IV emphasizes engaging in leadership best practices. This dimension strategically illustrates a research-based, change initiative model that includes the use of data, decision making strategies, and practices of conflict resolution. These are proven practices that have been used to transform high-poverty, low-performing schools into high-performing schools. Green (2010) suggests that each dimension builds on the other, and posits that leadership effectiveness, which is necessary for school transformation, emerges when all four work together simultaneously. Research Questions The following research questions guided the study: 1. To what extent, if any, do principals, conferred as National Blue Ribbon Award recipients, use reform strategies found in the literature to turn around high- poverty, lowperforming schools? 2. How does the use of the reform strategies alter teachers’ instructional and institutional behaviors? 3. How does the use of the strategies impact students’ perception about self and others? Methodology The study was conducted in various states containing schools that had been awarded the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award between the years of 2007-2010.Leaders of Nationally Awarded Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence were selected because they had facilitated the 6
  • 6. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN improvement efforts necessary to achieve this honor. The program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools whose students achieve at very high levels or have made significant progress and helped close gaps in achievement, especially among disadvantage and minority students. Therefore, a comparison of the practices used by leaders of these schools with those frequently appearing in the literature would enhance the identification of proven practices that can be used by school leaders to transform underperforming schools. Population and Sample The study focused on the strategies used by building principals who facilitated the improvement efforts necessary to achieve the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award. A population of 304 Blue Ribbon principals was invited to participate in the study. Each principal was contacted via the U.S. postal mailing system and those that volunteered to participate in the study were sent a survey. The final selection of participants, 172was based on the returned responses. Instruments The instrument used to gather the data was a 35 item survey of questions about leadership strategies. The survey items were developed from three sources: a survey (Turnaround Schools and the Leadership They Require)created and validated by Leithwood and Strauss(2009);questions regarding teachers’ and students’ perceptions from a questionnaire validated asThe Nurturing School Inventory (Green, 2004); and demographic information. The survey instrument was divided into four major questioning categories: Part 1 - School Turnaround Strategies, Part 2 - Changes in the Beliefs and Practices of the Teachers, Part 3 – Changes in Student’s Perceptions of Self and Others, and Part 4 – School and Personal Demographics. Data Collection and Analysis Data was collected using a Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software for interpretative results. A total of 172 participants responded to the questionnaire for a return rate of 57%. The data was analyzed by conducting a Chi Square Test of Independence analysis to determine the significance of the practices used by principals to reform schools and student achievement results. The independent variable was leadership strategies practiced by school leaders. The data was also analyzed to identify the extent to which the practices frequently appearing in the literature were used by school leaders of National Blue Ribbon schools to transform high-poverty, underperforming schools. Also, an evaluation analysis was conducted to provide a test of the theoretical approach to school transformation. Findings 7
  • 7. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN Of the 172 respondents, the highest response rate was from elementary school leaders. Geographical returns rated higher from the Southern region of the country. The small town category had the highest return rate at 41%, while the urban category had a 39% return rate. Schools with the highest return rate tended to be schools with 600 students or more. Over sixty percent (60%) of the respondents worked in schools where the percentage of free/reduced lunch or low social economic status (SES), was 50% or greater, and students demographics varied from fewer than 25% minority to over 75% minority. Additionally, the data revealed that 46% of the respondents worked in school where fewer than 25% of the students were minorities. One percent (1%) of the respondents did not indicate the region or the school size. Table 1 provides a frequency distribution of the respondents’ demographic information based on institutional characteristics such as: grade level configuration, U.S. region, locale, school size (student population), percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, and percentage of minority students. Table 1 Descriptive Statistics Pertinent to the Characteristics of Sampled Respondents’ Schools Institutional Characteristic f % Grade Levels Elementary School Middle School/Junior High School Grades 7 - 12/Senior High School Other Configurations (K -8, K -12, etc.) 59 44 35 35 34.1 25.4 20.2 20.2 U.S. Region Northeast (New England, Middle Atlantic States) Midwest (East/West North Central States) South (South Atlantic, East /West South-Central States) West (Mountain, Pacific States) Region not provided 24 47 77 23 2 13.9 27.2 44.5 13.3 1.2 Locale Urban Suburban Small Town/Rural 68 35 70 39.3 20.2 40.5 School Size 399 or fewer students 400 - 599 students 600 or more students Size not provided 55 51 66 1 31.8 29.5 38.2 0.6 8
  • 8. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN Percent Free/Reduced Lunch 29% or fewer 30% to 49% 50% to 79% 80% or greater 39 27 53 54 22.5 15.6 30.6 31.2 Percent Ethnic Minority 25% or fewer 26% to 50% 51% to 75% More than 75% 79 19 15 60 45.7 11.0 8.7 34.7 The Use of Reform Strategies Found in the Literature With regards to strategies frequently appearing in the literature(safety, collaboration, attendance, discipline, involvement, resources, monitoring, alignment, professional development for faculty, and professional development for administrators, the researches asked respondents to indicate the extent to which they used each strategy. Using a Lickert-type scale, they reported the ones that they used to the greatest extent, a great deal, quite a lot, moderate amount, a little, or very little to turn around high-poverty, low-performing schools. The range of means was 1.0, to 5.0. A mean of 3.0 or above was identified as a significant strategy. The analysis of the responses indicated that all ten strategies were used to a significant extent, in that all participants ranked all strategies above the mean score of 3.0. The most notable strategy observed was “monitoring students’ learning” because it ranked 5.0 yielding the highest mean score. The strategy with the lowest mean score was professional development for administrators. Means and Standard Deviations Observed for the Ten Items Concerning Restructuring Strategies (N=169) appear in Table 2. Table 2 Means and Standard Deviations Observed for the Ten Items Concerning Restructuring Strategies (N = 169) M SD 01. Making the school a safer place emotionally and physically. 4.46 1.20 02. Adjusting the school schedule to allow more time for teacher collaboration. 4.23 1.30 Item 9
  • 9. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN 03. Creating policies and practices to improve student attendance. 3.95 1.33 04. Changing policies and procedures so teachers spend less time on student discipline. 4.02 1.37 05. Increasing parental involvement in the school and in their children’s learning. 4.15 1.12 06. Increasing resources (e.g., staff, subject experts, instructional materials). 4.30 1.33 07. Monitoring students’ learning more closely and using results to plan individual instruction. 5.00 1.05 08. Aligning instruction in the school with state/district accountability tests. 4.52 1.24 09. Increasing the quality and focus of professional development for teachers. 4.67 1.04 10. Increasing the quality and focus of professional development for administrators. 3.91 1.36 The Use of Reform Strategies and Teacher Instructional and Institutional Behavior To determine the use of reform strategies and teacher instructional and institutional behavior participants were asked to report if the use of the reform strategies altered teachers’ instructional and institutional behaviors by replying to eleven items: (1) beliefs, (2) instructional strategies, (3) collaboration, (4) analysis, (5) professional development, (6) environment, (7) ask for help, (8) share responsibility, (9) interpret data, (10) high expectations for students, and (11) high expectations for self. The participants indicated the observed changes in teachers’ beliefs and practices as they related to the turnaround efforts using the following rating scale: (6) very great extent, (5) great extent, (4) moderate amount, (3) slight extent, (2)very slight extent, or (1) no change seen. With a range of means of 1.0 to 5.0, a mean of 3.0 or above was identified as a significant strategy. An analysis of the data revealed no significant changes in the teachers’ belief that all students can learn or that their instructional strategies were improved. However, of the eleven items questioned, four items had higher than mean scores indicating that they were observed more frequently. The data also revealed that the respondents observed that the teachers were more involved in analyzing their students’ individual progress, setting higher expectations for students, spending more time interpreting individual student test results, and setting higher expectations for themselves. The responses of the participants to each of the questions and the statistical analysis of those responses appear in Table 3. 10
  • 10. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN Table 3 Means and Standard Deviations Observed for the Eleven Items Concerning the Effects of Restructuring on Teachers (N = 170) Item M SD 01. Teachers’ belief that all children can learn has increased. 4.39 0.96 02. Teachers’ repertoire of instructional strategies has expanded and improved. 4.77 0.90 03. Teachers are collaborating more often with their colleagues about instructional matters. 4.78 1.10 04. Teachers are more involved in analyzing their students’ individual progress. 4.98 0.99 05. Teachers are more often involved in meaningful professional development 4.65 1.03 06. Teachers are more conscious of their contributions to a safe and healthy school environment. 4.18 1.13 07. Teachers find it easier to ask for help with curriculum and instructional challenges. 4.45 1.03 08. Teachers are sharing responsibility for all students in the school. 4.56 0.98 09. Teachers are spending more time interpreting individual student test results. 4.82 0.93 10. Teachers are setting higher expectations for their students. 4.93 0.86 11. Teachers are setting higher expectations for themselves. 4.81 0.86 The Impact of Reform Strategies on Student’s Perception of Self and Others Regarding how the use of the reform strategies impacted students’ perception about self, and others, respondents were asked to reply to eleven items (safety, listening, acceptance, caring, choices, self-worth, own problems, feelings others, feelings self, competence, and own choice) 11
  • 11. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN indicating the observed changes in students’ perceptions of self and others as they related to the turnaround efforts. Respondents were asked to indicate whether the changes were used to a very great extent, great extent, moderate amount, slight extent, very slight extent, or no change seen. The range of means was from 1.0 to 5.0, a mean of 3.0 or above was identified as a significant observed impact to the student’s perception. The data analysis revealed that there were no significant differences in the students’ perceptions of self and others. Of the eleven items questioned, two items had higher mean scores indicating that they were observed more frequently. The data revealed that the respondents observed that students believe they are more competent and capable of learning and students are willing to take ownership of their choices more frequently than the other items. Conversely, the less observed item was students’ feelings about safety at the school. The responses of the participants to each of the questions and the statistical analysis of those responses appear in Table 4. Table 4 Means and Standard Deviations Observed for the Eleven Items Concerning the Effects of Restructuring on Students (N = 172) Item M SD 01. Students feeling a stronger sense of safety at the school. 4.05 1.32 02. Students believing more strongly that their teachers listen to their concerns. 4.13 1.08 03. Students believing more strongly they are accepted as a part of the school. 4.34 1.16 04. Students developing a more caring feeling for other students. 4.36 1.03 05. Students being encouraged to make choices about their education. 4.28 1.00 06. Students more often demonstrating a sense of self-worth. 4.30 1.02 07. Students being more willing to take ownership of their problems. 4.33 1.05 08. Students being more aware of their feelings. 4.08 1.11 12
  • 12. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN 09. Students being more aware of the feelings of others. 4.13 0.95 10. Students believing more strongly that they are competent and capable of learning the subjects taught to them. 4.56 1.04 11. Students being more willing to take ownership of the choices they make. 4.43 0.99 Discussion There is a consistent thread of evidence in the literature that identifies seven (7) strategies that can be used to turn around low-performing schools in high-poverty areas or maintain high academic standards in high-poverty schools, regardless of school demographics. The seven strategies are: (1) Leadership, (2) Collaboration, (3) Professional Development, (4) School Organization, (5) Data Analysis, (6) Student Interventions, and (7) Curriculum Alignment. Though not collectively, these strategies have surfaced during several major educational reform movements such as: Effective School Movement (1982), Accountability Movement (1991), and Goals 2000 (1997). In our research, we raised questions regarding the use of these strategies to determine the extent to which they were used by principals of Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, who had transformed high-poverty, underperforming schools into high-performing schools. We also sought to determine if the theoretical framework the Four Dimensions of Principal Leadership was an appropriate theory to inform the transformation of schools. In both the explored areas: the strategies used by principals of Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and the Four Dimensions of Principal Leadership framework, the response was positive. Principals’ Use of Strategies Found In the Literature According to the data results from the survey, leaders receiving the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence award, deemed the seven practices, found in the literature, as important factors to their schools’ success. They accede that leadership was the first contributing factor to their schools’ success. The deliberate leadership practices, processes and procedures were perceived by the leaders to influence the level of school transformation. These leaders monitored student learning and used the results to plan individualized instruction.They reported that that theleadership practice of monitoring students’ learning and using the results to plan individualized instruction was the highest determinate factor of all the practices that led to school transformation. This finding is consistent with studies in the literature that report a positive a positive correlation between leadership practices, monitoring student learning and using results to plan individual methods for improving student achievement (Leithwood & Strauss, 2009). Closely following monitoring of learning as a determining factor, were the leadership strategies related to providing differentiated professional development to the staff and aligning the curriculum to the instructional needs of the students. Although professional development had a major role in changing the behaviors and attitudes for the faculty, professional development 13
  • 13. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN possible reason for this finding is that the leaders developed an understanding of self and others and established priorities which suggested that they understood the importance of first addressing the needs of teachers who are the first contact with students and teaching and learning. Surprisingly, student attendance was reported as having the least effect on school improvement. Such an observation may be due to the efforts placed on the other strategies that directly influence students’ interests and desires to become a part of the school’s environment. Such interest and desires on the part of students could reduce the need for the leaders to focus on student attendance because students will want to come to school. Leithwood and Strauss (2008) reported that leadership practices that address monitoring students’ progress affect other areas such as attendance. Once an environment is created that motivates strong student performance, the need to put special emphasis on student attendance is lessened (Wallace Foundation, 2012). Teachers’ Instructional and Institutional Behaviors The school leaders reported believing that there was a noticeable difference in teachers’ behavior when they used the leadership strategies identified as influential in the school’s transformational process. One, considerable change in the practices of teachers was their involvement with analyzing individual students’ data and setting higher expectations for all of their students. Also, teachers were less likely to focus on school climate as a major factor for school improvement. This finding is supported by the work of King and Lopez (2008). These researchers reported that leadership practices can mandate a shift in the practices of teachers and once teachers change their practices, their beliefs about students change. As teachers see students breaking through academic barriers their beliefs change about the capabilities of students (King & Lopez, 2008). The Impact of Strategies on Students’ Perception about Self and Others The observed effects of school transformational practices of the leaders, relative to students’ perceptions, revealed minimum discrepancies in the findings. However, one major observationwas that students tended to feel more competent and capable of learning the curriculum when the school leaders demonstrated the practices outlined in the literature. Perhaps, students felt more competent in their abilities because their teachers used data to make instructional decisions that met their needs. When teachers are able to identify areas in which students are struggling and implement strategies for individual improvement, students’ beliefs about themselves change (Boudett & Steele, 2007). Overall, the practices of the school leader and the observed behaviors of the teachers positively impacted the students’ beliefs about themselves and others. The Use of the Theoretical Framework to Inform Change A close review of the data from this study confirms that Green’s (2010) theory, The Four Dimensions of Principal Leadership and the use of the seven concepts outlined in this study are aligned and can be used to inform a process of transforming high-poverty, underperforming schools into high-performing schools. With regards to Dimension I, school leadersin the study reported that their behaviors were a contributing factor that led to their in-depth knowledge about 14
  • 14. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN teachers’ behavior and students’ perceptions. The leaders understood their roles and responsibility and were able to establish the relationships necessary to facilitate change in the school’s organizational structure. The leaders also reported feeling strongly about their ability to communicate the magnitude of their practices relative to the school’s transformation. Dimension II of the theory advocates that the school leaders must understand the complexity of organizational life, which encompasses the structure, daily operations, culture and climate of the school, and the interaction of people in their day-to-day relationships. To that end, the school leaders structured the school day to encourage collaboration between teachers, student attendance, parental involvement, and ensured a safe school. These relationships were nurtured through collaboration, data analysis, and professional development. Thus, the principles of Dimension III were validated, as Green (2010) theorized, if relationships between principal/teacher, teacher/teacher, teacher/student, and school/community are nurtured through collaboration, data analysis, and professional development, then school transformation is possible. Dimension IV emphasized the importance of engaging in leadership best practices to transform a low-performing school. This dimension strategically illustrates a change initiative model, decision making strategies, and conflict/resolution practices that are grounded in research proven practices such as data analysis, aligning the curriculum, providing student interventions, increasing resources and shared leadership, all of which, are leadership practices that can be used to transform an underperforming school. This study also confirms that these four dimensions are not specific to geographical location, grade configuration, or any other demographic feature, but focus on the process of school improvement rather than only the accountability product. Implications for School Transformation While the analysis of the proven practices in this study may not vary much from other studies, the results suggests that when transforming low-performing schools, change agents should give consideration to the educational reform initiatives and the practices outlined. Primarily, the practices of school leaders are a major contributing factor to transforming a school. The leader must think innovatively, implement reform strategies, plan individualized instruction, and monitor learning. Also, instead of implementing holistic professional development activities, professional development activities must be individualized specifically addressing the needs of the school and the individual or collective needs of teachers. A forth consideration includes the use of purposeful data analysis from various sources when making decisions related to student interventions, collaboration, and organizational structures within the school. Finally, careful consideration related to leadership selections, Leadership Role Theory, innovative techniques to incorporate the seven proven practices, and incremental recognition to schools for small successes should be included in the new reform initiatives. Once the school’s leader executes the listed practices, teachers and students perceptions will change and the combined changes can turn around a high-poverty, lowperforming school. First Hand Experience One of the researchers of this study is a recipient of the National Blue Ribbon School of 15
  • 15. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN Excellence Award and can personally attest that the exposed practices are effective in transforming low-performing schools. In 2004, the researcher was appointed principal of an elementary school that had been identified as a high-priority school, in a high-poverty area for three consecutive years. With the faculty intact, a close analysis of the available and relevant data was used to equip all stakeholders in the re-structuring the school’s organizational systems to meet the needs of students. The deliberate work focused on the curriculum students needed to learn, the professional development teachers needed in order to deliver effective instruction, and the establishment of relationships that facilitated collaboration around academic achievement. Within five years, the school was transformed from a high-priority school into a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for achieving improved academic gains for five consecutive years. The practices found in this study were key contributors in the transformation of the school. Clearly the leadership practices identified can be used to transform an underperforming school into a high-performing school. An effect of using the leadership practices is a change in the beliefs and behaviors of teachers. There is a need to ensure that teachers are involved in analyzing students’ progress. They also must attend professional development activities based on their individual needs, and understand how to plan lessons that are aligned to a rigorous curriculum. Much like the changes in teachers’ behaviors, these researchers found that when the seven (7) leadership practices are applied, there is an increase in students’ perceptions of their competence and ability to learn. As a result, they take ownership for their choices and their caring about the feelings of others. Limitations of the Study The leadership strategies, teachers’ beliefs and practices, and student’s perception of self and others are based on surveys (self-reports) of principals and could be prone to bias. Other measures could be used to validate the responses of the participants. Another limitation relates to the correlations of the strategies. For example, further studies can investigate the correlations within each of the seven (7) strategies to determine its impact on the academic achievement of students. Also, worthy of note, the intent of the study was not to present conclusive evidence to prove or disprove theories, but rather, to identify strategies that were used by practicing principals in National Blue Ribbon Schools. Conclusion The best way to re-form the educational structure in the United States is to learn from its past. There have been tremendous strides throughout the decades that have proven effective in some of the most impoverished areas.This research has identified practices that continue to surface in the literature as practices that are effective in transforming high-poverty, underperforming schools into high-performing schools. Thesepractices were also reported by Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon Principals as contributors in their turnaround efforts. Therefore, we summarize the discussion of what process or practices that can be used to transform high-poverty, low-performing schools in the words of Ron Edmonds (as cited in 16
  • 16. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN Lezotte & Bancroft, 1985,p. 301): “We already know more than we need in order to do this. Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so for.” References Ascher, C., & Maguire, C. (2011, January). Beating the odds: How thirteen NYC schools bring low-performing 9th graders to timely graduation and college enrollment. Education Digest, 76(5),34-39. Bass, B.,&. (2006). Transformational leadership. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Boudett, K. P., & Steele, J. L. (2007). Data wise in action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education. Corallo, C., & McDonald, D. H. (2002). What works with low performing schools: A review of research.Retrieved from Alliance for Excellence in Learning, West Virignia website: http://www.ael.org/lowperformingschools/pdf Duke, D. (2006, June). What we know and don't know about improving low-performing schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 87(10), 728-734. Ediger, M. (2004). What makes for failing schools? Journal of Instructional Psychology, 31(2),4-17. Green, R. L. (2010). The four dimensions of principal leadership. Boston, MA: Allyn&Bacon. Hassel, B., &Steiner, L. (2003). Strategies for scale: Learning from two educational innovations program on innovation in American government. Boston, MA: Ash. Herman, R. D. (2008). Turning around chronically low-performing schools: A practice guide. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. King, J., & Lopez, D. (2008). Turnaround schools: Creating cultures of universal achievement. Ramona, CA: TurnAround Schools Publishing. Kozol, J. (1991). The walls speak: The interplay of quality facilities, schools climate and student achievement. New York, NY: Crown Publishers. Lashway, L. (2002). Trends in school leadership.ERIC Digest,161(March), 14-37. Available from ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, College of Education,University of Oregon. Lashway, L. (2004). The role of school leadership on transformation of urban schools with low student achievement.ERIC Digest,169(July), 1-8. Available from ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, College of Education, University of Oregon. Leithwood, K., & Strauss, T. (2009, July 28). Turnaround schools and the leadership they require. Retrieved from Canadian Education Association website: http://www.cea-ace.ca Lezotte, L.W., & Bancroft, B.A. (1985, Summer). School improvement based on effective schools research: A promising approach for economically disadvantaged and minority students. The Journal of Negro Education, 54(3), 301-312. Malen, B., & Rice, J. K. (2004). A framework for assessing the impact of education, reforms on education on school capacity: Insights from studies of high-states accountability initiatives. Education Policy,18(5),631-660. Mazzeo, C., & Berman, I. (2003). Reaching new heights: Turning around low performing schools. Washington, DC: NGA Center for Best Practices. 17
  • 17. ANGELA A. BROWN and REGINALD LEON GREEN Meyers, C. &. (2007, September). Turning around failing school: An analysis. Journal of School Leadership, 17(5), 631-659. Mintrop, H., & Trujillo, T. (2005). Corrective action in low performing schools: Lessons for No Child Left Behind implementations from the state and district strategies in first generation accountability systems. Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Research on Evaluation Standards and Student Testing. Ravitch, D. (2010). The death and life of the great American school system. New York, NY: BasicBooks. Snow, C. E., Barnes, W. S., Chandler, J., Goodman, I. F., & Hemphill, L.(1991).Unfulfilled expectations: Home and school influences on literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Spillane, J., Halverson, R., &Diamond, J. (2001).Toward a theory of leadership practice: A distributed perspective.Evanston, IL: Northwestern University. U. S. Department of Education. (2001b). The condition of education.Washington DC: Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Department of Education. (2010). School-turnarounds. Washington, DC: Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/blueprint/faq/schoolturnarounds.pdf Wallace Foundation. (2012, January). Perspective: The school principal as leader. Retrieved from http://www.wallacefoundation.org Willmott, R. (1999). Education policy and realist social theory. In R. Willmott, Education Policy and Realist Social Theory (p. 10). London, England and NewYork, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Authors Angela A. Brown, EdD has worked as a school administrator for the last 10 years in various Memphis City Schools,Memphis, TN. Dr. Brown is frequently requested to speak at local, regional, state, and national conference on leadership for 21st century schools. She currently serves as principal of Middle School in the Shelby County Schools. Reginald Leon Green, EdD is Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education at the University of Memphis. Dr. Green teaches courses in educational leadership with a focus on instructional leadership, school reform, and models for turning around low performing schools. His research interests include school leadership, team building for effective teaching and learning, superintendent/board relations, school district restructuring, and the effects of nurturing characteristics on the academic achievement of students. 18