Improve Schools With Empowerment Based Models


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Improve Schools With Empowerment Based Models

  1. 1. Improve Schools With Empowerment Based Models by John E. Westfall, James W. Peltier and Joseph Sheehan S ince passage of the federal No Child Left NCLB mandates rigorous improvement planning Behind Act (NCLB) Act, the majority of for schools that do not meet threshold scores in principals in public schools have embraced reading and math. Significantly, schools are required some type of quality improvement planning for to use research based approaches in their school increasing student achievement.1 improvement planning, pointing the attention of Their motivation is due partially to the fact that principals and school district administrators toward relevant research literature. Despite the undeniable need to use school quality improvement planning mandated by NCLB, most In 50 Words principals have been slow to adopt current and Or Less sophisticated quality practices, particularly when compared to administrators in the public and pri- vate sectors of social services and healthcare. • School administrators have been slow to adopt quality One indication of this lagging adoption is the practices. late entry of the education sector into the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Only three school • Best practice research led to use of an enhanced logic districts have received the award since the segment’s entry, compared to 10 service businesses over the model for quality planning in a large Wisconsin school same period. Clearly, we need more conceptual and district. empirical research on which principals can build their quality planning initiatives. • The model resulted in a three-phase initiative to The school improvement literature clusters in three areas, yet all are substantially prescriptive improve curriculum and change classroom practices. approaches.2, 3 In most cases, principals adopt—or I AUGUST 2005 I 55 QUALITY PROGRESS
  2. 2. EDUCATION in some cases purchase—an approach, handing highly prescriptive initiative for quality improvement. down the “what” and “how” of quality improve- A districtwide discussion of quality improve- ment to the teaching staff. ment started in December 2003 and concentrated on Unfortunately, the literature is replete with exam- best practices from the effect-size research of school ples of how top-down approaches for quality im- improvement, a common index for measuring stu- provement have failed to produce desired learning dent achievement in quasi-experimental designs. outcomes. It brings to mind the expression, “To a This effect-size literature documents about 8,000 child with a hammer, everything is a nail,” in that quasi-experimental designs from the past 40 years. many principals see only prescriptive rather than Each study reports the measurable impact or vision sharing approaches to quality improvement. effect-size a specific change in school practice had There are, however, a small but growing number on student achievement. R.J. Marzano’s meta- of thoughtful educators advocating more empow- analysis reviews these major studies.4 erment based models. These models promote col- Effect-size is the difference between the experimen- laboration, mutual understandings and researched tal and control group means divided by an estimate based consensus about what quality education is. of the population standard deviation. Therefore, it One vision sharing approach with broad applica- expresses the differences between group means in a tions across public education is called the enhanced standardized or Z score structure. (See the outer ring logic model for quality planning (see Table 1). of Figure 1 for examples of effect-sizes.) A larger effect-size of 1.0 or 1σ is equal to about District Planning Example 30 percentile points toward the middle of the distri- This case study examines the Sheboygan Area bution on standardized tests. In other words, imple- School District (SASD) in Wisconsin, a district of menting a larger effect-size practice in a school about 10,000 students and 840 teachers. In many would likely raise the average score of students ways, SASD is a microcosm of school districts across scoring at the 50th percentile to approximately the the United States and thus a good case for testing 80th percentile. Nevertheless, most studies yielded quality improvement strategies and methods. smaller (~0.2) or even negative effect-sizes. SASD has relatively large minority and economi- Enhanced Logic Model cally disadvantaged populations. Student achieve- ment scores districtwide, while near the state The process for developing and deploying best average, have remained flat. Teachers’ philosophies practices into the classroom was set into an enhanced toward teaching vary extensively, yet these differing logic model. A logic model is a visual representation approaches are accepted within the fiercely indepen- of a quality improvement process that explicitly links dent structure of schools and classrooms. Because of outcomes (desired changes in student cognition, atti- this diverse environment, it was unlikely staff (or tudes or behavior) with resources, activities and students and parents) would voluntarily adopt a products.5 Enhanced Logic Model for Quality Planning TABLE 1 Inputs Methods and activities Outputs Outcomes Indicators Interventions Stakeholders and The research-pyramid Quality improvement cycle Explicitly identifying what Making certain each student Arranging in advance what to do research literature approach, collaborative for student achievement. a student should know, knows, feels or does the when a student doesn’t know, feel (see Figure 1). techniques used for building feel or do by subject area explicit outcome by using or do the explicit outcome by using Districtwide and school understandings and and grade level for valid common assessments school hour interventions, in based action plans. consensus from increasing student across subject areas and contrast to after school or summer the ground up . achievement. grade levels. ones. I AUGUST 2005 I 56
  3. 3. The enhanced logic model adds indicators and Inputs for Student Achievement FIGURE 1 interventions. Although logic models are increas- And Educational Quality ingly used within other service disciplines, princi- pals and other school management decision mak- nteed and Guara ers have not adopted them. le curriculum Initiating a districtwide improvement campaign viab in January 2004, an ad hoc steering committee n a employed the enhanced logic model for quality fee ctio Ri Ele k ss of ac m go ent for planning in Table 1 to detail a quality planning tru es tea e db rd tion rou sm ins an c a blic schedule, which included a set of larger effect-size ed oa nt d ary he aff s go uc u B Differentiated or quality improvement strategies as inputs to the and effective p rs st and als and process. Students learning and Inputs achievement Inputs or resources included staff, planning time Ed he ary l e a i ni uc r ad and the quality improvement literature for schools nd st r s ti o a de co c m f s nal (see Figure 1). This literature was used to prompt af Se Stu an tea d st d ra d group discussions and surveys. Journal articles about an d e er an to rs or nt s’ t rt the quality strategies were distributed to all stake- en o d us pp th m eo s u lop holder groups prior to the discussions. in f hi lt y kin e F ac u dev gher These discussions included four major groups gs t a ff k i ll s s and centered on the five larger effect-sizes listed in Figure 1, which became the prime inputs to the quality improvement plan. Thus, the plan was built through consensus of what would constitute quality education within and between groups. The consensus strategies included a guaranteed and viable curriculum, or one in which students staff’s level of understanding regarding best practices learn essential content and are given the time they and a wealth of other organization specific matters. As need to learn it. Rigorous goals and assessments such, no single set of methods and activities exists that for learning include a depth of essential content, matches or is appropriate for all scenarios. Instead, not simply coverage of topics, and common dis- the philosophy adhered to for any quality improve- trictwide assessments useful in guiding such ment project should be organization specific. depth of instruction. Within SASD, these considerations had to pro- Faculty support and staff development comprise vide multiple opportunities for staff engagement an empowerment based approach, providing need- and maximum facilitation for consensus building. ed resources to teachers. Students’ use of higher The process had to be completely open, inclusive order thinking skills, such as reasoning and analy- and transparent. The ad hoc steering committee sis, are classroom practices that build cognitive skills chose the research-pyramid approach as a frame- around the essential content. Differentiated instruc- work of methods for meeting these various goals.6 tion and effective feedback demonstrate teaching The research-pyramid approach (see sidebar on differing students in different ways to motivate p. 60 for more information) is a mixed methods them and increase individual achievement. design using qualitative and quantitative tech- niques and rooted in the belief that extensive Methods and Activities exploratory or qualitative research must first be The approach used for any specific quality conducted and foundations established before improvement initiative depends on such factors as more generalizable specific quantitative/descrip- the organization’s environment and culture, the tive research efforts can be undertaken.7, 8 I AUGUST 2005 I 57 QUALITY PROGRESS
  4. 4. EDUCATION Stages of Collaboration by Stakeholder TABLE 2 Stakeholders Discussions Survey Focus Survey Prioritize best Align priorities with Draft quality groups practices resources improvement cycle and action plans Dates January April May May May June June to March Board of ● education ● ● ● ● ● ● Superintendent ● ● Executive team ● ● ● ● ● ● Principals ● ● ● ● ● Coordinators ● ● ● ● ● Department chairs ● ● ● Teachers’ union Classified ● ● staff union ● All group members. ● Selected representatives. surveys were conducted with each group using the The qualitative stage is designed to: five larger effect-sizes as prompts. These examined • Obtain insight from key publics within and quality practices teachers should continue, enhance outside the organization. or add vs. practices teachers should reduce or cut. • Generate a deeper understanding of impor- As shown in Table 2, the series included: tant quality issues. • Initial informal discussions. • Identify question content areas to include in • Six districtwide focus groups with 80 educa- the survey stage. tional leaders. These publics, represented by key informants, • Focus groups with all teachers at each school. are believed to have insight critical to furthering • A qualitative survey of all staff. the data collection process and are queried for • A quantitative survey of educational leaders. understanding the above goals. Such conversations This collaborative data collection process took are additionally useful because they provide staff about 1,450 hours of staff time over the spring the opportunity to participate in the quality initia- semester and represented less than two hours per tive and build consensus within the organization. teacher. Moreover, the actual quality plan re- In this way, the process becomes a social as well as arranged underutilized time so teachers could research activity. Focus groups are also crucial for work on curriculum improvement teams. Each identifying the most important quality issues to teacher received 16 hours per semester for working address in the subsequent quantitative research. on curriculum teams, which represented an eight- The qualitative stage provides the foundation for fold return on the time invested in planning. the descriptive survey. The survey results may be A qualitative survey of all staff resulted in about used for establishing baselines that can be general- 500 respondents and 270 pages of transcript con- ized to the overall population. Moreover, findings taining about 6,000 comments. A content analysis are valuable for developing effective and efficient reduced the transcript to a set of 242 classroom long-term quality improvement plans that have practices staff suggested be continued, enhanced, initial buy-in from stakeholders. added, reduced or cut. In practice, a series of group discussions and I AUGUST 2005 I 58
  5. 5. A quantitative survey of educational leaders rules or principles). examined about 70 classroom practices. The input • Unpacking is a set of techniques used to artic- variables (classroom practices) were regressed ulate and ensure the alignment or validity of against the output variable, “I believe these the standards, benchmarks and proficiency strategies/practices will greatly improve student criteria. achievement.” The results of this analysis confirmed • Common classroom assessments are valid strong predictive validity with an R2 of 0.833. measures of the essential benchmarks and Educational leaders then recommended an explicit skills. set of classroom practices for increasing student In fact, these concepts are similar to those used achievement. in other quality models, although the educational Next, a representative districtwide team of 25 terms may be quite different. took all results and reduced them to a set of 76 Example With Outcomes action priorities (enhance, add, reduce or cut). The Now a concrete example. One of about 36 Wis- priorities revolved around best practices, which consin eighth grade math standards says, “Students were incorporated into the quality improvement will use reasoning abilities.” Previously, the math cycle. staff unpacked the standard by drafting bench- Outputs marks, which included one saying students will The primary output or product from this collab- demonstrate estimating skills in recognizing the oration was the SASD quality improvement cycle reasonability of an answer and defend their work for student achievement, a three-phase initiative in a variety of ways—for example, written, oral or for continuously improving curriculum and chang- charts. ing classroom practices. The phases of the cycle are Staff is now articulating proficiency criteria and linear, but tasks within each phase are not neces- developing rubrics or scoring guides for measuring sarily sequential. Staff consensus viewed comple- student performance against the proficiency. Next, tion of the cycle as likely to result in large increases they will develop assessments to determine each in student achievement. student’s level of proficiency as measured against The SASD quality improvement cycle for stu- the rubric. Finally, staff repeats this cycle of curric- dent achievement includes steps to: ular development for each standard (there are 1. Align standards and benchmarks and inte- about 500), grade level and subject. grate them into classroom practices. These are not quick fixes. Increasing student test 2. Align essential benchmarks and skills, big ideas results through meaningful school improvement (also known as essential questions), proficiency initiatives takes at least several years. However, the levels and common classroom assessments most recent state testing results (currently embar- throughout the district and integrate them into goed) show SASD increases across most grades instructional practices. and subject areas. Significantly, in Report on the No 3. Create or revise course content and create or Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, Year 3, the Center on revise standards based report cards. Education Policy concluded SASD seemed to be Some definitions are important at this point: producing positive achievement results, particular- • Academic standards are issued by each state ly in narrowing the gap between differing student and include what students should know and groups.9 be able to do and what schools are expected to Additionally, in its first year of implementation teach. the district has shown encouraging results by • Benchmarks translate standards into develop- meeting all its initially targeted outcomes. Subject mentally appropriate grade-level learning out- area and grade level teams have conducted their comes. self-assessments and begun executing their indi- • Proficiency is an acceptable level of student vidual quality improvement action plans. performance based on criteria (guidelines, Staff and parents have responded positively, I AUGUST 2005 I 59 QUALITY PROGRESS
  6. 6. EDUCATION Research-Pyramid Approach The research-pyramid approach Research Tools to improve public relations with the has been used successfully within community and provide a positive These included: hundreds of organizations and image of the United Way as an • A community VIP steering across most industry segments. effective and responsive organiza- committee. The following is an example of its tion. • Key informant interviews and use within the nonprofit sector. The results were communicated focus groups with educators, to all key publics including the local clergy, funded agencies and Project Description media. Meetings were also held to non-funded agencies, health- The social services problems in convey the findings to key con- care professionals, minorities, Sheboygan County, WI, are com- stituency groups. (Additional infor- social services personnel, gov- plex. There are many client groups mation about the study, including ernment/law enforcement per- and service providers and a vast reports, are available online at sonnel, area business leaders array of community perceptions on and residents. needs and problems. • Questionnaires sent to a large- Outcomes A community needs assessment scale sample taken from key was conducted to gather as much The allocations committee of publics. information from a broad range of the United Way has since directed possible perspectives. This approach funding toward programs that Use of Findings ensured all perspectives were repre- address the highest priority The needs identified and priori- sented to the greatest extent possi- needs. The committee has begun tized in the study were used to set ble, and the collection of valid data a system with all funded agencies the framework for funding alloca- would provide better information for of outcome measurement with tions. decision making. semiannual reporting. All future Communication The Sheboygan Area United Way funding will be based on the wanted information with which to needs assessment and the out- It was essential the publics guide funding and other decisions, come measurement reporting. understood the United Way was but an important secondary effect Furthermore, in the most recent interested in their perspectives and of the community needs assess- campaign following the study, needs, would be listening to their ment process was to develop good donations increased about 20% concerns, would be involving them relationships with the major stake- from the previous year. This was in the process and, most important, holders. To begin, stakeholder especially noteworthy in a year in would act upon the data once it groups were identified and classi- which donations across the United was collected. fied into three general segments: States were flat to declining. Thus, the effect of the communi- donors, providers and clients. ty needs assessment process was I AUGUST 2005 I 60
  7. 7. with about 420 teachers (50%) having volunteered 2. G.D. Borman, G.M. Hewes, L.T. Overman and Shelly to work on districtwide quality improvement Brown, “Comprehensive School Reform and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis,” Review of Educational Research, Vol. 73, teams. This is clear demand based evidence of ini- No. 2, 2003, pp. 125-230. tial success, deployment and engagement across 3. R.J. Marzano, A New Era of School Reform: Going Where staff and parents. the Research Takes Us, McRel, 2000. Of special note, there were no additional costs or 4. Ibid. time for the planning or initial implementation. 5. Logic Model Development Guide: Logic Models To Bring Besides, the district has made a financial commit- Together Planning, Evaluation & Action, W.K. Kellogg Foun- ment to quality improvement. In future years, as dation, 2001. needs are more clearly identified, resources will be 6. Information on the research-pyramid approach can be allocated through the district’s budgeting process. found at It is at the intermediate and long-term stages 7. J.E. Westfall, Relationship Marketing in Educational that increases in student test scores are expected. Administration: An Empirical Study, doctoral dissertation, Cardinal Stritch University, UMI: AAT 3078590, 2003. As the district continues to work through the cycle, 8. J.W. Peltier, J.E. Westfall and T.L. Ainscough, “Using the it will build its student achievement and other Pyramid Approach To Teach Marketing Research,” Business databases, using these to longitudinally model aca- Education Forum, Vol. 55, No. 4, 2001, pp. 40-43. demic growth by subject area and grade level and 9. Report on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, Year 3, thus target resources as needed. The superintendent, principals and teachers con- tinue monitoring and adjusting the quality improve- JOHN E. WESTFALL is coordinator of assessment for the ment action plans each semester. Department and grade level teams continue analyzing the results Sheboygan Area School District in Wisconsin. He previ- from agreed on common assessments to adjust ously held product development and research positions with instruction and provide students with meaningful the Kohler Co. and BlueCross & BlueShield. Westfall feedback. earned a doctorate in education and marketing from Car- Finally, building-level teams continue articulat- dinal Stritch University, Milwaukee. He is a member of ing a targeted sequencing of interventions for stu- ASQ and serves on Quality Progress’ editorial review dents who are not achieving or need to enhance board. their learning. Comparatively, this process is simi- lar to those used in healthcare by physicians and JAMES W. PELTIER is a professor of marketing at the administrators when collaboratively drafting com- University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He earned a doctor- mon diagnostic and treatment protocols for quality ate in marketing from the University of Wisconsin- improvement. Madison. The following conclusions are currently support- JOSEPH SHEEHAN is superintendent of the Sheboygan able: Area School District, Sheboygan, WI. He earned a doctor- • The quality improvement model can be repli- cated by other school districts. ate in education from Marquette University in Milwaukee. • There is evidence broad collaboration between groups helps build a quality focused environ- ment. • Initial incremental costs are low. Please • The initiative deserves its place in the quality comment improvement literature. If you would like to comment on this article, REFERENCES AND NOTES please post your remarks on the Quality Progress 1. Katherine Ryan, “Shaping Educational Accountability Discussion Board at, or e-mail Systems,” American Journal of Evaluation, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2002, them to pp. 453-468. I AUGUST 2005 I 61 QUALITY PROGRESS