Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS, 17603 Bending Post Drive, Houston, TX 77095


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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS, 17603 Bending Post Drive, Houston, TX 77095

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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS, 17603 Bending Post Drive, Houston, TX 77095

  1. 1. Guest Editor’s Introduction Reginald Leon GreenIn Search of Proven Practices that Enhance Student Achievement in Underachieving Schools Over the past five decades, educators have been in search of academic programs,processes, and procedures for use in enhancing the academic achievement of students at alleducational levels. However, during this period, the achievement gap between children of colorand those of mainstream America has not decreased; rather, it has widened. Consequently, themost recent standards-based accountability movement is calling for school leaders to becomeinstructional leaders in charge of the instructional program for all students (Lashway, 2002;Green, 2010). The overarching question that has come to the forefront is: What proven practicesdo school leaders functioning as instructional leaders in underachieving schools use to enhancethe academic achievement of all students? In preparation for this special edition of National FORUM Of Applied EducationalResearch Journal, a call for proven research-based practices was issued in search of an answer tothe above-stated question. Responses were solicited in three areas: 1) Leadership Practices for21st Century Schools; 2) Instructional Models that Work in Underachieving Schools, and 3)Proven Practices for Educational Reform of Underachieving Schools. The submittal ofmanuscripts in these areas is the focus of this special issue of National FORUM Of AppliedEducational Research Journal. The contributors are respected individuals in the field ofeducational leadership and write from a research perspective, as well as practical experience. Thework of these individuals offers critical insights into programs, processes, and procedures thatleaders of 21st century schools might use to enhance the academic achievement of all students. The opening article, penned by authors Weddle-West and Bingham, addresses thesystemic nature of the problems that contribute to the achievement gap between students of colorand white students from preschool to graduate school. Having highlighted the challenges, theseauthors provide evidence of an urgent need for a reversal in these trends and discuss best 1
  2. 2. practices and model programs that they have developed and implemented to enhance studentsuccess and diversity. Additionally, they cite recommendations others leaders in institutions ofhigher education might consider as they seek a reversal in the alarming rate of attrition and thelow number of students of color who matriculate and graduate at every educational level. The Four Dimensions of LeadershipThe research work of the guest editor for this special issue centers around four dimensions ofleadership: Understanding Self and Others; Understanding the Complexity of OrganizationalLife; Building Bridges through Relationships, and Engaging in Leadership Best Practices.Collectively, these dimensions establish a framework for leading change in 21st century schools(Green, 2010). They provide school leaders with an integrated approach to workingcollaboratively with others to solve complex school problems and to bring about sustainedchange in instructional programs. Consequently, the work of contributing authors to this specialissue is used to identify and synthesize relevant research that solidifies the importance of each ofthe dimensions. This adds depth to how school leaders might use them to effectively enhanceacademic achievement of all students, especially students attending underperforming PK-12schools and students of color attending institutions of higher education.Understanding Self and Others For ages, expectations and perceptions have played a major role in how educators havedesigned instructional programs to address the needs of students. Critical to the process are theattitudes, values, and behaviors of school leaders and other individuals who make decisionsregarding programs and activities that serve students. What one believes contributes greatly tothe behavior of that individual (Green, 2010). Therefore, understanding self and other individualsis critical in the leadership process. The importance of this dimension is addressed by three contributing authors, Cleveland,Watkins, and Moak. Collectively, they embellish this dimension, speaking to the advantages anddisadvantages of self-understanding and engaging in a discourse regarding how schoolleadership and classroom instruction can be enhanced with self-understanding. With self-understanding individuals have the willingness and ability to recognize and deal with theiremotions. By developing an understanding of self, individuals reach higher levels of self-understanding and enhanced performance. Greater self-awareness leads them to anunderstanding of why they behave in a particular manner (Green, 2010). Knowing and being ableto predict what influences their behavior enables them to redirect impulsive behavior intopositive responses. Cleveland addresses the importance of understanding self and others from a uniqueapproach. He reports research that provides evidence of the damage that can occur when beliefsare formed around stereotypes that influence behavior that is not objective. Using findings fromhis research, he challenges teacher education candidates to assess their beliefs and behavior andto think about: 1) their own biases/stereotypes; 2) where stereotypes originate, and 3) howcategorizing/stereotyping can affect children in the classroom. Specifically, he warns againstallowing the power of bias and prejudice as a result of stereotyping to disempower children. 2
  3. 3. Leadership effectiveness is the result of interaction between the style of the leader and thecharacteristics of the environment in which the leader works (Gray & Stark, 1988). Given themulticultural make up of schools, it is clear that if individuals in charge of the instructionalprogram function from a position influenced by stereotypes, knowledge of the beliefs and valuesthat influence that behavior can be beneficial in the teaching and learning process.Consequently, educators serving in any position should examine their belief system and make adetermination if they are stereotyping others. Cleveland provides a substantial body of evidenceto support this line of reasoning. There are many issues in schools over which school leaders have no control. However,one issue over which they have control is self-efficacy. Authors Watkins and Moak, citing thework of Imants & DeBrabander, 1996; Hallinger & Heck, 1998; and Lucas, 2003, offer that theself-efficacy displayed by school leaders has some impact on teacher motivation and studentachievement. They report that self-efficacy is a judgment of the leader’s ability to organize acourse of action that will result in a desired outcome for the school (Bandura, 1997). Therefore,individuals charged with the responsibility of instructional leadership must eliminatestereotypical behavior and believe in their ability to lead and turn around an underachievingschool.Understanding the Complexity of Organizational Life The importance of understanding the complexity of organizational life in schools isillustrated through the work of W. Sean Kearney and David E. Herrington. These authorsexplored 90/90/90 schools. The 90/90/90 school concept captures what goes on in schoolscomprised of at least 90% ethnic minorities, 90% of students qualifying for free and reducedlunch, and 90% of the students achieving passing percentages of 90% or higher on standardizedtests (Reeves, 2004). Kearney and Herrington report that leaders of these schools agree that eightmajor themes should be considered by school leaders interested in enhancing the academicachievement of all students. The themes are: 1) a supportive structure; 2) building relationships;3) principal longevity; 4) stability; 5) trust; 6) staff development based on identified needs; 7)refining the shared vision, and 8) sustaining a culture of learning and achievement. In one way oranother, these themes continue to surface in the literature that addresses research best practicesand procedures that meet the needs of students attending underachieving schools. Whereas theycontribute greatly to the dimension of understanding the complexity of organizational life inschools, they also comprise a common strand that runs through the other three dimensions,supporting the importance of the combined effect of the four dimensions. Returning to the work of Cleveland, educators can benefit greatly from analyzing whatthey believe and value and how their beliefs and values influence their behavior. One factor thatinfluences leaders’ behavior is their belief about what constitutes high performing or highachieving schools. Preconceived notions and stereotypical beliefs can distort reality. With theenactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, standardized testing has become a majorfocus in determining high performing or high achieving schools. The act assumes thatstandardized achievement scores are the most effective way to measure the academicachievement of students, as well as the effectiveness of schools (NCLB, 2002). However, theliterature on school effectiveness is expanding with evidence that offers that standardize testscores alone are not sufficient to measure school effectiveness (Heyneman, 2005; Lee & Wong,2004). 3
  4. 4. In determining what constitutes “High Performing or High Achieving Schools” and theachievement of students who attend those schools, consideration should be given to the influenceof the demographic characteristics of the school, its leadership, as well as the background ofstudents, their home, and the community in which they live. All of these lead to an understandingof the complexity of school organizational life. These sentiments are supported by authors,Gregory J. Marchant, Oscar Ordonez-Morales, and Sharon E. Paulson, who reported that whenstudent demographic factors are controlled, a different picture of quality emerges. Additionally,they suggest that if student demographics are ignored when comparing schools, truly successfulschools are more likely to be miss-identified than schools that are struggling. In determiningschools that are effective in addressing the needs of all students, measures other that standardizedachievement test scores must be taken into consideration. Consequently, given thatdemographics and background variables exert a significant role in predicating academicachievement, research attempts to determine school effectiveness must take into account theinherent characteristics of students.Building Bridges through Relationships A number of the contributing authors address the importance of relationships. Thisdimension underpins the other three dimensions. The primary focus of this dimension is thebenefit to be derived by school leaders who establish and nurture relationships between andamong individuals in the internal and external environments of the schoolhouse (Green, 2010). Itoffers evidence of the need for collaboration between individuals inside and outside of theschoolhouse. To enhance student achievement in underachieving schools, school leaders andmembers of their faculty must commit to daily, weekly, and monthly collaborative initiativesestablished around a common concise set of curriculum standards, as well as state and localassessments (King, 2008; Schmoker, 2006).Utilizing Best Practices The underlying purpose of dimension four is to identify proven practices, processes, andprocedures that educational leaders can use to make a positive difference in the academicachievement of all students who attend 21st century schools, especially students attendingunderachieving schools. In search of answers to this quest, author, RoSusan D. Bartee, raises thequestion: What must we know and what must we be able to do to lead 21st century schools?Then, she proceeds to answer the question offering transformational leadership as the leadershipstyle that is most effective. In Donavon’s Story, author Marie McCarther demonstrates instructional best practicestrategies that focus on what students love and dislike about school. Author McCarther providesevidence that students can and will participate in their own learning and when they do,meaningful contributions are made to the teaching and learning process. At the higher educationlevel, authors Weddle-West and Bingham share three effective processes: 1) to address socialintegration in the campus community; 2) to conduct climate surveys to determine how studentsfeel about campus life, and 3) to ensure that top-level administrators accept responsibility forchampioning initiatives of diversity and setting the agenda for change. 4
  5. 5. Conclusion Schools at all levels can change and incorporate programs, processes, and procedures thatwill enhance student achievement in underachieving schools. However, to make substantialchange, school leaders must give critical consideration to the four dimensions of leadership andthe elements that make up each of the dimensions. Collectively, all of the contributing authors ofthis special issue inform proven practices, processes, and procedures that can be used by schoolleaders who seek to enhance student achievement in underachieving schools. In Search of ProvenPractices that Enhance Student Achievement in Underachieving Schools, the pivotal ones appearto be: 1. The leader’s development of self-understanding. 2. Avoidance of stereotypical behavior. 3. The leader’s use of a transformational leadership style. 4. The avoidance of stereotypical behavior by individuals functioning in key roles. 5. A focused professional development plan for all individuals serving students. 6. Respect for diversity. 7. A strong sense of self-efficacy on the part of the leader. 8. Utilization of multiple forms of assessments to determine school effectiveness. 9. Involvement of students in their education. Quite clearly, these are the practices reported by the contributing authors to this specialedition, and we express our gratitude to them for the time, effort, and dedication that theyinvested in contributing to the literature that informs proven practices that enhance studentachievement in underachieving schools. ReferencesBandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.Green, R. L. (2010). The four dimension of principal leadership: A foundation for leading 21st century schools. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Heyneman, S. P. (2005, November). Student background and student achievement: What is the right question? American Journal of Education, 112, 1-9.Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. (1999). Can leadership enhance school effectiveness? In Bush et al. (Eds.) Educational Management: Redefining theory, policy and practice (pp. 178-190). London, England: Paul Chapman.Imants, J. G. M., & DeBrabander, C. J. (1996). Teachers’ and principals’ sense of efficacy in elementary schools. Teaching & Teacher Education, 12(2), 179-195.King, J. (2008). Turnaround schools: Creating cultures of universal achievement. Ramona: Turnaround School Publishing.Lashway, L. (2002, July). Developing instructional leaders. ERIC Digest, 160. Retrievedfrom http://eric.uoregon.edu/publications/digests/digest160.htmlLee, J., & Wong, K. K. (2004). The impact of accountability on racial and socioeconomic equity: Considering both school resources and achievement outcomes. American Educational Research Journal, 41, 797–832. 5
  6. 6. Lucas, S. E. (2003). The development and impact of principal leadership self-efficacy in middle level schools: Beginning an inquiry. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. § 6311 (2002).Reeves, D. (2004). Accountability in action: A Blueprint for learning organizations. Englewood, CA: Advanced Learning Press.Schmoker, M. (2006). Results now. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Guest EditorReginald Leon Green is Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education at theUniversity of Memphis. Dr. Green teaches courses in educational leadership with a focus oninstructional leadership, school reform, and models for turning around low performing schools. 6