COLORADOÂ’S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM OF ACCREDITATION: CHARACTERISTICS OF SECONDARY SCHOOLS ON WATCH AND REFORMS THAT ARE TURNING SCHOOLS AROUND by KELLY GARCIA B.A., Northern Illinois University, 1985 J.D., Northern Illinois University, 1988 M.A., Northern Illinois University, 2001 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation 2013
ii This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy by Kelly Garcia has been approved for the Educational Leadership and Innovation Program by Dorothy Garrison-Wade, Chair Connie Fulmer, Advisor Sheila Shannon Steve Sandoval November 13, 2013
iii Garcia, Kelly (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and In novation) ColoradoÂ’s Educational System of Accreditation: Ch aracteristics of Secondary Schools on Watch and Reforms that are Turning Schools Aroun d Thesis directed by Professor Dorothy Garrison-Wade. ABSTRACT There are 27 middle and high schools in Colorado th at face severe sanctions, including closure, if the schools do not move out o f the two lowest state ratings within the next two years (Colorado Department of Educatio n, 2012). Most of these schools, and a few districts, on Turnaround or Priority Impr ovement status serve a majority of Latino/a students and a high poverty population. T he purpose of this study is to (a) investigate ColoradoÂ’s newly implemented school acc reditation process to determine the characteristics of schools that CDE assigns the two lowest ratings (Turnaround and Priority Improvement), (2) determine the strategies and reforms that schools and school leaders are implementing that are moving the school s out of these two lowest ratings. This research confirms that a majority of schools that are heading towards sanctions, including closure, are schools that serv e a high percentage of minority/high poverty schools. The findings indicate that the ac countability system is inequitable and should lead to further studies, including the cultu ral discriminatory nature of the tests (Chartock, 2010). In addition, a conceptual framew ork describing strategies that high minority schools are implementing to move out of th e two lowest categories. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Dorothy Garrison-Wade
iv DEDICATION My sincerest appreciation and love is extended to my husband, Vincent Garcia, and to his family where I have truly experienced the na ture of La Familia. I also dearly thank my son, Daniel, who has grown into a strong man and has understood that his mother is not the conventional mother. I will always appreci ate his understanding, humor and patience.
v ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Daniel, I hope somehow that I serve as a role model to you. Your studies are not at an end, and whatever path you chose, you will be great. Your intellect is well beyond mine, so use it well. I love you deeply. Dorothy, as I have said, you are a dissertation ang el. You clarified paths that were blurred. Your work ethic is insurmountab le. Even though you were traveling throughout the world on sabbatical, you m anaged to focused on my study, and I was able to see some wonderful global experiences through our emails. The only reason that I finished this proje ct was because of your affirmations. I hope you know how much you have ch anged my life. Thank you. Connie, thank you for enduring the early stages of my work. I enjoyed the visits to your home, and your welcoming Vince into your home. You will always hold a special place in my heart because I spent so much time at Northern Illinois University, where you served as a professor. It is a wondrous place with some remarkable people, and I will always consider you a s a hometown connection. Sheila, thank you for giving words to my beliefs. Yes, I was one of those wide-eyed students when I began understanding CRT i n your class. The interesting point is that felt so strongly about ra cism, but you allowed me an avenue to speak openly and honestly about race. I am still feeling my way, but I believe that my combination of legal studies and ed ucational studies will result in a powerful voice. Thank you so much for opening th e door. Steve, thank you so much for your unending support and confidence. I am afraid I brought you into an unknown sphere. I hop e that you gained from the
vi experience. For me, I know that I have met one mor e decent human being. Thank you so much.
vii TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION .............................. ................................................... ..................... 1 Background ................................... ................................................... .......................... 3 Statement of the Problem ..................... ................................................... ................... 3 Purpose of the Study ......................... ................................................... ...................... 5 Conceptual Framework ......................... ................................................... .................. 6 Study Limitations ............................ ................................................... ........................ 8 Significance of Study ........................ ................................................... ...................... 9 ResearcherÂ’s Perspective ..................... ................................................... .................. 10 Chapter Summary .............................. ................................................... .................... 12 II. LITERATURE REVIEW ................................. ................................................... .... 14 History of Colorado Education Accountability Reform ......................................... 14 The Colorado Accountability System .......... ................................................... ........ 15 Race and Education .......................... ................................................... .................... 17 Critical Race Theory ........................ ................................................... .................... 20 What is Working in Educational Reform? ...... ................................................... ..... 25 Effective Leadership in High Minority Schoo ls ................................................ 29 Culturally Responsive Teaching ............ ................................................... ......... 32 Pitfalls of Reform .......................... ................................................... ....................... 33 Chapter Summary ............................. ................................................... .................... 36 III. METHODOLOGY ................................. ................................................... ............. 37
viii Research Questions ...................... ................................................... ........................ 37 Research Design ............................. ................................................... ...................... 38 Qualitative Research Methods ................ ................................................... ............. 39 The Case Study............................... ................................................... ...................... 41 Setting...................................... ................................................... ............................. 44 Data Collection ............................. ................................................... ........................ 45 School Performance Frameworks ............ ................................................... ...... 48 Unified School Improvement Plans ......... ................................................... ...... 49 Other Documents .......................... ................................................... ................. 50 Interviews ............................... ................................................... ....................... 50 Field Notes .............................. ................................................... ....................... 53 Data Analysis .............................. ................................................... ........................ 53 School Performance Frameworks and Unified Improvement Plans ................ 54 Other Documents .......................... ................................................... ................. 55 Interviews ............................... ................................................... ....................... 55 Validity and Reliability ................... ................................................... .................... 56 Chapter Summary ............................ ................................................... .................... 56 IV. FINDINGS ................................. ................................................... ......................... 58 Characteristics of Secondary Schools Facing S tate Sanctions ................................ 59 School Regional Location .................. ................................................... ............ 60 School Enrollment ......................... ................................................... ................. 62 Student Ethnicity ......................... ................................................... ................... 64 Socioeconomic Status of Students .......... ................................................... ........ 67
ix Summary of Findings ......................... ................................................... .................. 69 Strategies of Schools That Have Moved Out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement ................................. ................................................... ....................... 70 School Regional Location ................. ................................................... ............ 70 School Enrollment ........................ ................................................... ................. 72 Student Ethnicity ........................ ................................................... ................... 74 Socioeconomic Status of Students ......... ................................................... ........ 76 School Performance Frameworks and Unified Imp rovement Plans ....................... 77 Summary of Findings ......................... ................................................... .................. 94 Overview of Principals Interviews ........... ................................................... ............ 96 Mr. White, the Silver Bullet ............. ................................................... ............. 97 Mr. Mendez, the Young Warrior ............ ................................................... ..... 102 Mr. Harris, the Zen Master ............... ................................................... ........... 104 Mr. Briggs, the Rookie ................... ................................................... ............. 106 Mr. Smith, a New Sherriff in Town ........ ................................................... ..... 109 Mr. Scott, the Collaborator .............. ................................................... ............ 110 Four Major Themes ............................ ................................................... ................. 112 V. DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS .............. ........................................ 131 The Conceptual Framework and Findings ......... ................................................... .. 131 Intensive Interventions .................. ................................................... .............. 134 Relationships ............................ ................................................... ................... 135 Explicitly Acknowledge Issues of Race .... ................................................... .. 137 Culturally Responsive Curriculum ......... ................................................... ..... 134
x Parent and Community Engagement .......... ................................................... 141 Curriculum alignment, teacher collaboratio n, formative assessments ........... 143 Additions to the Conceptual Framework ........ ................................................... .... 145 School Safety ............................ ................................................... ................... 145 Districts are Flexible and Supportive of S chools ........................................... 146 What is Working in High Minority/High Poverty Schools .................................... 147 Revelations .................................. ................................................... ........................ 148 The Unified Improvement Planning Process .. ................................................. 1 48 Staff Stability ........................... ................................................... ..................... 150 Rural Schools ............................. ................................................... ................... 151 Recommendations .............................. ................................................... ................. 152 Recommendations for Future Research .......... ................................................... .... 155 Summary ...................................... ................................................... ....................... 156 REFERENCES ............................... ................................................... .................... 158 APPENDIX A ........................................ ................................................... .................................. 165 B ........................................ ................................................... .................................. 166 C.Â…Â… ...................Â….....Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â… Â….Â…....167 D.........................Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â….....Â…Â…Â…Â… Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…....170
xi LIST OF TABLES TABLES 1. Conceptual Framework of Instructional Strategi es that Successful High Minority/High Poverty Schools have Implemented .................. ................................................... ........7 2. Data Collection Matrix ........................ ................................................... ......................47 3. School Performance Framework Point Designation ................................................... ..49 4. Conceptual Framework Compared to Findings ..... ................................................... ....52 5. Revised Conceptual Framework: What is Working i n High Minority/High Poverty Schools............................................ ................................................... .........................53 6. School Region Location ........................ ................................................... .....................61 7. Student Enrollment ............................ ................................................... ........................63 8. Student Ethnicity ............................. ................................................... ...........................65 9. Socioeconomic Status of Students .............. ................................................... ...............68 10. Improved School Regional Location ............ ................................................... ...........71 11. Improved School Student Enrollment ........... ................................................... ...........73 12. Improved School Student Ethnicity ............ ................................................... .............75 13. Improved School Socioeconomic Status of Studen ts ................................................ .77 14. Successful SchoolsÂ’ Improvement Strategies 15. Conceptual Framework Compared to Findings .... ................................................... .132 16. Revised Conceptual Framework: What is Working in High Minority/High Poverty Schools............................................ ................................................... .......................148 17. Low Performing Rural Schools ................. ................................................... ............152
1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) introduc ed its new school accreditation system in the 2009 school year based upon the Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP) and the Colorado Education Accountab ility Act of 2009. Based upon this Act, each year the CDE would assign every scho ol district and school an accountability rating based upon state test results and a School Performance Framework (SPF). The SPF assigns points in four categories: academic achievement; academic growth; academic growth gaps; and post-secondary an d workforce readiness (Colorado Department of Education 2012, p. 6). Schools are assigned one of four accr editation categories based upon the SPF point totals: Accredi ted with Distinction; Accredited; Accredited with Priority Improvement Plan; and Accr edited with a Turnaround Plan (Colorado Department of Education, 2012, p.7). It is important to note that the CDE accredits school districts and school districts acc redit schools based upon CDEÂ’s recommendations (Colorado Department of Education, 2012, p.4). All schools must submit a Unified Improvement Plan (UIP) based upon the accountability plan type assigned by CDE. If a school is designated as a Tur naround school, the plan must contain at least one of the following strategies: a) employ a researched-based turnaround partner; b) reorganize the district management to provide mo re support for the school; c) create innovation school zones; d) move the school into ch arter school status; e) if the school is a charter school, renegotiate the contract; f) othe r actions that would create a greater effect (Colorado Department of Education 2012, p. 23). A school that is on Turnaround or Priority Improvement status for five years faces sanctions up to and including closure
2 (Colorado Department of Education, 2012, p.14). Pr ior to 2011, Colorado Title I schools (schools that received federal funds based upon pov erty levels) also faced federal accountability standards and sanctions; however, th e federal government provided significant funds to aid the schools in helping to support school turnaround. In 2011, Colorado received a waiver from the No Child Left B ehind Act, and now provides that if a school district stays in Turnaround or Priority I mprovement status for five years, the action taken by the review panel of the CDE would b e one of the following: Reorganize, which may result in consolidation with another school district; Allow a private or public entity, with the agreemen t of the school district, to take over the management of the entire district or one or more district public schools; Convert one or more district public schools into a charter school; Grant one or more district public schools innovatio n school status Close one or more schools (Legislative Council Staf f, 2011, p. 12). The accreditation of Colorado schools is serious, and heading into year four of ratings. Dramatic changes are beginning to occur; s chools and districts are becoming nervous. At first glance, the majority of the scho ols in this dire situation serve high minority/high poverty students (Colorado Department of Education, 2011). This study examines what the characteristics and demographics of these schools are, and what dramatic steps the schools and districts are taking to move out of the two lowest labels that will lead the schools to severe sanctions.
3 Background For the past seven years I served as principal in a re-segregated school in north Denver. I supervised forty adults and 580 students at Scott Carpenter Middle School, a school where 90% of students are Latino/a and 90% o f the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Subsequently, I become intimately aware of CDEÂ’s new frameworks that identify the type of performance rating CDE as signs a school. Two years ago, my staff and I led the school out of Turnaround to Pri ority Improvement status. This yearÂ’s results were flat, while the StateÂ’s sanction clock is quickly ticking. Not surprisingly, I am curious as to the demographics of other schools that are facing eventual school closure and as to the strategies that leaders are u sing to move schools out of the two lowest ratings. I have decided to study the charac teristics of Turnaround and Priority Improvement secondary schools, and measures that pr incipals are taking to move schools out Turnaround or Priority Improvement status. Statement of the Problem There are approximately 20 middle and high schools in Colorado that face severe sanctions, including closure, within the next two y ears (Colorado Department of Education, 2011). Most of these schools, and a few districts on Turnaround or Priority Improvement, serve a majority of Latino/a students, a large population of English Language Learners, and a high poverty population. As a principal of a school that serves 91% Latino/a students, I know that an achievement g ap exists for Latino/a students in America, and has existed since the achievement gap became a research topic in the early 70Â’s (Lee, 2002). According to LeeÂ’s study (2002), the gap between Latino students has actually widened since 1982. According to NAEP sta tistics, nationally in 2009, 16% of
4 Hispanic students were at or above proficiency leve ls in Reading while 38% of White students were at or above proficiency levels in rea ding (U.S Department of Education, 2011). One percent of Latino/a students were advan ced in reading compared to 4% white students (U.S Department of Education, 2011). In math, 15% of Hispanic 8th graders were at or above proficiency levels compared to 33% White students (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Eleven percent of White students were at advanced compared to 2% Hispanic students (U.S. Department of Education, 20 11). A similar achievement gap exists in education for African American students. In 2007, the gap between White students and African American students in 8th grade reading was 26 points for students scoring proficient or advanced and 31 points in 8th grade math for students scoring proficient or advanced (U.S Department of Education 2009) In addition to the gap that exists for Latino/a chi ldren and African American children, an educational gap exists between the hav es and have-nots in America. The children who attend Scott Carpenter, the school whe re I worked, were met with double and sometimes triple barriers to education; the stu dents are mostly Latino/a, 95% of the childrenÂ’s families live below the poverty level, a nd one half of the students are immigrants whose first language is Spanish. Eviden ce of the achievement gap between the high income and poor students can also be found in 2009 NAEP results (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Sixteen percent of the poor (as defined by the School District Poverty Data from the U.S. Census Bureau D istrict Estimates) eighth grade children can read at proficient or advanced grade l evels, while 42% of non-poor students read at proficient or advance levels (2005). Sixt een percent of students living in poverty are proficient or advanced in math compared to 48% of the nationÂ’s non-poor students.
5 This educational gap becomes even broader when view ed in the light of higher education; 60% of high-income students become college graduate s by the age of 26, while 7% of low-income students become high school graduates (P erie, Grigg, & Donahue, 2005). The achievement gap for Latino/a students exists bo th in terms of ethnicity, and because a large percentage of minority students live in pov erty; the gap exists in terms of socialeconomic status. Purpose of the Study The of this study is to a) investigate ColoradoÂ’s n ewly implemented school accreditation process to determine the characterist ics of schools that CDE assigns the two lowest ratings (Turnaround and Priority Improvement ), b) to determine the strategies and reforms that schools and school leaders are impleme nting that are moving the schools out of these lowest ratings. In this study, the resear cher first looked at the demographics and characteristics of schools that have been on Turnar ound or Priority Improvement status for the last three years, since the implementation of the rating process. Next, the researcher analyzed the demographics and characteri stics of schools that are moving up in CDE accountability ratings. I also reviewed the improving schoolsÂ’ School Performance Frameworks (SPFs) to determine areas wh ere the schools have improved, and the schoolsÂ’ Unified Improvement Plans (UIPs) t o determine the major improvement strategies that schools are implementing. Finally, the researcher interviewed leaders of six schools that are making marked progress towards moving out of corrective action territory to determine the strategies and reforms t he leaders and schools have implemented to move the school towards high academi c achievement.
6 Research Questions The research questions that this study addresses ar e as follows: 1. What are the characteristics of schools that are ra ted as Turnaround or Priority Improvement status rendering the schools on a drama tic time clock for severe sanctions? 2. What strategies do principals utilize to move the s chools out of Turnaround status or Priority Improvement status? Conceptual Framework While investigating what schools and leaders are d oing to move out of Turnaround and Priority Improvement Status, this st udy will be analyzing what leaders do to improve student achievement, particularly in high minority/high poverty schools. The current existing research is primarily presente d in the case study design. This study utilizes four major studies to form a conceptual fr amework as presented in Table 1. Many aspects of what high minority, high poverty sc hools implement to improve student achieve are similar.
7 Table 1 Conceptual Framework of Instructional Strategies th at Successful High Minority/High Poverty Schools have Implemented Researchers Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Str ategy Strategy Strategy Rigor Intensive Interventions Relation-ships Explicitly acknowledge issue of race Culturally responsive curriculum Strong parent and community engagement Clear curriculum, teacher collaboration focused on formative assessments Lee, Smith, Perry and SmylieÂ’s (1999) X X Reeves (2000) X X X X Chenoweth (2009) X X X X Howard (2010) X X X X X X Many of the predominant studies of successful stra tegies for high minority/high poverty schools have evolved over the past ten year s. Lee, Smith, Perry and Smylie (1999) stressed academic push, with support; teache rs should hold high expectations for minority students, yet provide the necessary suppor t to aid in the studentsÂ’ success. Dr. Reeves study (2000) included the need for a focus o n instruction, the need for teachers to understand the learning objectives for their studen ts, and to collaborate on formative assessment results to determine the next steps in i nstruction. ChenowethÂ’s work (2009) reached cross-continent and encompassed the breath of reforms proposed by most researchers. Chenoweth found that in all schools, teachers authentically collaborated, they focused on curriculum, they relied heavily on formative assessments, they used the data to drive instruction, and they built relations hips with students, usually through culturally relevant teaching. HowardÂ’s (2010) stud y of four high minority secondary schools across the country indicated that some scho ols were confronting the issues of race openly and were making strides in becoming cul turally responsive schools. This
8 study will determine whether Colorado schools imple ment the same improvement strategies that exist in the leading studies across the nation. Study Limitations This study is limited to Colorado secondary school s due to the volume of schools assigned to Turnaround and Priority Improvement sta tus. There were 154 schools that were assigned Priority Improvement or Turnaround st atus in 2012 (Colorado Department of Education, 2012). One hundred and five of thos e schools were elementary and 49 were middle and high schools (Colorado Department o f Education, 2012). There were 34 middle and high schools that were assigned Prio rity Improvement status and 15 middle and high schools assigned Turnaround status in 2012 (Colorado Department of Education, 2012). There were 25 middle and high s chools that have been in Turnaround and/or Priority Improvement status for three years (Colorado Department of Education, 2012). In order to thoroughly investigate the ch aracteristics of secondary schools assigned the lowest ratings, it is necessary to lim it the study only to the 49 secondary schools (Colorado Department of Education, 2012). In addition, this study encompasses strategies that secondary schools are implementing to move out of status that will lead to sanctions. This study does not include charter schools, or sc hools deemed innovative schools, which can exclude students due to policies or hold waivers that allow the school to go beyond the traditional operational functions of school board policy. In addition to the statistical findings, this study will provide s ummaries of interviews from six administrators who have succeeded in moving out of the Turnaround and Priority Improvement status. While this study is well desig ned, it does have some weaknesses.
9 The major weakness of the study is that out of 19 s chools that have successfully moved out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement status, I was only able to gain access to interviews of six principals. One principal had ag reed to participate in the study, and then later declined because he found out that his T CAP scores went down and would most likely move the school back into the Priority Improvement status. Two other principals also wanted to participate in the study, but their district policies relating to participation in studies from researchers outside o f the district rendered their participation impractical. The district project reviews require d lengthy processes and the timeline for completing this study is by November. The principa l interviews were somewhat representative in that three principals led high mi nority schools and three principals led rural schools. The methods used in this study will be discussed in chapter III. Significance of Study Several points of significance result from this st udy. Primarily, no researcher, outside of CDE, has analyzed the trends and charact eristics of schools that are heading towards drastic sanctions. In a study of the impac t of Colorado state testing on English language learner (ELL) students, Escamilla, Mahon Riley-Bernal, and Rutledge (2003) found that an effect exists between schools that se rve a high population of ELL students, which generally are schools that also serve a high population of Latino/a students and a high population of low SES students, and a low or u nsatisfactory school rating (p.47). The researchers found that Â“further research is nee ded into why this relationship exists and to explore potential solutions to this dilemma through policy changes, improved instructional programs, or bothÂ” (Escamilla et al., 2003, p. 47). This research confirms that a relationship does exist, and provides insigh t into how some schools are successfully
10 moving out of the lowest categories. A majority of schools that are heading towards sanctions, including closure, are schools that serv e a high percentage of minority schools, which should lead to a great deal of further studie s, including the cultural discriminatory nature of the tests (Chartock, 2010). In addition, the state must ensure that proper supports are being provided for schools, especially if in two years the majority of schools facing closure are high minority/high poverty schoo ls. Finally, if schools are truly making progress and moving out of the sanctioned ca tegories, it is imperative that those strategies and reforms are shared with other educat ors to end the bleeding of our struggling schools. ResearcherÂ’s Perspective It is important that this researcher address the od d situation of how a woman born and raised in Iowa became so interested in the acad emic achievement of Latino/a students. While I will explain the evolution of my involvement with social justice for Latino/a children, I must point out that the fact t hat a white, mono-lingual female has been heading the re-segregated middle school for th e past seven years should be alarming, and also provide insight into the severit y of the implications of the achievement gap for Latino/a students as well as the alarming r esults of the failure of the United States to end the achievement gap. Quite frankly, I was t he principal of the Latino/a school because there were literally no Latino/a bi-lingual candidates who applied to fill the position. Very few Latino/a students successfully make it through the pipeline to college (Solrzano, Villalpando, & Oseguera, 2005). I hav e remained in the position against much adversity ranging from combating neighborhood gang crime to facing governmental sanctions for an underperforming schoo l. The reasons that I accepted the
11 position at Scott Carpenter Middle School and have remained there stem from my own childhood experiences of facing poverty and from my background of social justice. I left the law profession to address social injustice in e ducation where I saw the root causes of criminal behavior begin. If educators do not find a way to close the poverty gap and achievement gap for minorities, we are only perpetuating a social class system that is becoming more and more clearly defined in our country. By failing to educate minority students, our nation continues to lose potentially active citizens who c an engage in the important issues in our society by developing critical thinking skills and by becoming informed voters. America has a school system that creates a cycle of poverty Scholars who support the social reproduction theory argue that education perpetuate s economic, social, and cultural class through tracking students vocationally, through the hidden social rules of a class, or through cultural resistance to the dominate culture (Giroux, 1991). The cycle must be stopped; the issue is how to do it. This researche r is not convinced that closing neighborhood schools is the way to do it. Social justice is my passion because of my father who died at the age of 48, the year that I was struggling to complete my bachelorÂ’ s degree in English at the age of 25. My father taught at a Â“technical school,Â” which was a school in downtown Des Moines that housed mostly black students. My father was t he first person in his family to attend college. His father was a postal worker and my fat her followed in his fatherÂ’s footsteps as a postal worker until he took advantage of his m ilitary service money and attended Drake University and became a teacher. I remember my mother and grandfather arguing with my father, trying to convince him that he was entering into a field where he would
12 make much less money than his path as a postal work er. My father was determined, and he was very proud when he accepted the position as social studies teacher at Tech High school in Des Moines. I learned much from my fathe r watching him work for 18 years struggling with the social injustice that stems fro m segregated schools. I remember when I attended an all-white elementary school and the desegregation of schools was legislated through bus sing; my mother and father urged me to enlist my empathy and befriend the 20 black stud ents who were suddenly bussed to the well-to-do Greenwood Elementary school that I atten ded. I attended this ivory covered building because my father was able to secure a run down home in the boundaries of a neighborhood notable for its wealth and for its exc ellent education. I was the only white person to invite black children to my home, and I w as raised with great empathy for those who struggled through the injustices of society sol ely because of the color of their skin. In addition to my family experiences, I witnessed m ore social injustice when I practiced law in DeKalb County, Illinois, for ten y ears. As a prosecutor, I noticed that African Americans and Mexican Hispanic migrant work ers greatly outnumbered white defendants. As a public defender, all of my client s were black or Mexican-American. After ten years of legal work, I clearly remember o ne case in which I represented a black male in his appeal of an eight-year sentence for st ealing a 99 cent package of dried beef. I became cynical and no longer believed in Â“justice .Â” I decided to turn to education where I could impact potential criminal offenders b y engaging students in school, and I could mold students into becoming empathetic social ly conscience individuals.
13 Chapter Summary It is imperative that minority students succeed aca demically and become equally represented in college academia, and it is clear th at schools are failing minority children. Colorado has instituted a system that sanctions sch ools for failing their students with closure, but it is this researcherÂ’s fear that it i s the segregated schools that will be closed. Hopefully, there are the innovative leaders who are finding ways to move high minority schools towards high academic achievement, and that educators can learn from their successes how to stop the closure of high-minority/ high poverty schools. Educators must recognize that minority students suffer from a social, political, and economic debt created by racism, adverse policy, segregated schoo ls, and unequal funding. It is not the students that society needs to fix; America must re pay the debt this country created through its history of racism (Ladson-Billings, 200 6b).
14 CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW The new Colorado accountability system enacted in 2009 is moving the state dangerously close to implementing severe consequenc es for several schools and school districts, including school closures (S.B. 09-163). The systemÂ’s performance ratings are based upon a studentÂ’s state test results and other factors including college workforce and college readiness for high school students. This c hapter investigates the impact that the accountability system has on minority students and how race impacts a studentÂ’s educational experience. Writings of Critical Race theorists are also reviewed as a lens to understand the current status of education and mino rity students. The review also examines culturally responsive education as a succe ssful philosophy for teaching minority students and outlines a framework for cult urally responsive education that has raised the achievement in high minority schools. History of Colorado Education Accountability Reform Colorado state school accountability began in 1996, with the passage of C.R.S. 22-7-406 which required schools to adopt Colorado m odel content standards in reading, writing, math, science, history and geography. The statute was amended in 2009, to broaden the standards. C.R.S. 22-7-409 required a state assessment beginning in the spring of 1997, in the areas of reading, writing, a nd math; the test known as the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). The state relea sed a school report card to the public indicating how schools performed on the stat e test. The federal government added the notion of sanctions for Title I schools with th e passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001. Title I Schools who did not ma ke Adequate Yearly Progress
15 (AYP) as defined by the federal government in conse cutive years would face losing federal funding. In 2009, in accordance with the Educational Account ability Act of 2009 (S.B. 09163) Colorado Department of Education (CDE) introdu ced the Â“growth modelÂ” and School Performance Frameworks (SPF) that rated scho ols based upon the CSAP scores. In order to receive a waiver from the federal NCLB system of sanctions, the state also adopted its own system of sanctions. If a school i s rated as a Â“TurnaroundÂ” or Â“Priority ImprovementÂ” school according to the SPF for five c onsecutive years, the school faces severe sanctions. In 2012, the State Board of Educ ation adopted the Colorado Academic Standards to align with the new national standards (C.R.S. 22-7-1005) and introduced a transitional test known as the Transitional Colorad o Assessment Program (TCAP) until the new standards are fully implemented in 2014. The Colorado Accountability System The Colorado accountably system now relies on publ ished SPFÂ’s that the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) uses to assi gn a school accreditation rating and schools submit a plan to CDE based upon the rating. The accreditation rating is based upon four performance indicators. The indicators a re academic achievement, academic growth, academic growth gaps, and postsecondary and workforce readiness for high schools (Legislative Council Staff, 2011, p. 10). Academic achievement is the level of proficiency that students meet on the state test. Academic growth is the level of growth that students make compared to the average state gr owth on the state test. Academic growth gaps measures the growth of sub-groups of st udents who qualify for free or reduced lunches, students with disabilities, studen ts who are English language learners,
16 minority students, and students who are currently b elow proficient on the state test. Postsecondary and workforce readiness is measured b y ACT composite scores, high school dropout rates, and high school graduation ra tes (Legislative Council Staff, 2011, p.10). Based upon the performance indicators, the school i s assigned a score and an accreditation label. Accredited with Distinction i ndicates that the school meets or exceeds state expectations and is required to imple ment a Performance Plan. Accredited means that the school meets state expectations and the school is required to implement a Performance Plan. A school assigned as Accredited with Improvement indicates that the school has not met state expectations and must impl ement an Improvement Plan. If a school is assigned Priority Improvement status, the school has not met state expectations and must implement a Priority Improvement plan. Fi nally, a school assigned accredited with Turnaround Status has not met state expectatio ns and is required to implement a CommissionerÂ’s approved Turnaround Plan (Legislativ e Council Staff, 2011, p.11) If a school remains on Priority Improvement or Turn around status for five consecutive years, the school must: Reorganize, which may result in consolidation with another school district; Allow a private or public entity, with the agreemen t of the school district, to take over the management of the entire distric t or one or more district public schools; Convert one or more district public schools into a charter school; Grant one or more district public schools innovatio n school status
17 Close one or more schools (Legislative Council Staf f, 2011, p. 12). In addition, the Colorado Department of Education c an recommend removal of accreditation if a school does not make adequate pr ogress, or fails to meet other State Board laws regarding budget issues (Legislative Cou ncil Staff, 2011, p. 12). The schoolsÂ’ ratings are published on the Colorado Depa rtment of EducationsÂ’ Website (http://www.cde.state.co.us/assessment/CoAssess-Fra meworksAndFactSheets.asp). Race and Education One of the performance indicators of the Colorado a ccountability system is academic growth gaps which identifies subgroups of students, including minority students. This indicator is consistent with federa l Annual Yearly Progress measures that were implemented with the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). One issue NCLB is meant to address is the achieveme nt gap. The term achievement gap refers to the measurable difference in standardized tests between White students and minority students. It also considers graduation ra tes and expulsion data (Howard, 2010, p. 29). Â“Historically, explanations of the achieve ment gap began with the Eugenics movement; a racist belief of the 1920Â’s and 1930Â’s that white individuals where academically superior to minority populationsÂ” (Howard, 2010, p. 29). Some argue that the belief survives today in education with teacher s holding lower expectations for minority students (Howard, 2010, p. 29). The Eugen ics theory moved into a deficit theory for an explanation of the existence of the g ap. Minority students were deficient in terms of motivation, background, and parental invol vement to keep up with their white peers (p. 31). Ladson-Billings (2006a) described t he movement of the 60Â’s as a cultural
18 deficit theory where educators believed that minori ty studentsÂ’ culture was a barrier to the studentsÂ’ learning (p. 4). Some scholars believe that the notion of an achieve ment gap based upon a standardized test itself is used as a reference tha t minority students are somehow deficient. In an interview with Rios (2012) Noguera (2012) arg ues that the notion of Â“achievement gapÂ” should be reframed into a discuss ion of educational inequality on several levels (p. 8). Minority students often fac e financial disparity as well as per pupil spending disparity, and several other inequities (N oguera, 2012, p. 8). Noguera also addresses the issue of the vast underrepresentation of African American and Latino males in colleges caused not only by cultural issues, but by societal issues (p. 9). LadsonBillings (2006a) challenges the idea of achievement gap, arguing that America has built an enormous education debt for minority students, a nd until these debts are addressed, a gap will exist (p. 5). Ladson-Billings argues that the United States has created an historical debt through slavery, segregation, and s low progress towards equality (p. 5). An economic debt has accrued through inadequate an unequal funding for education for minority students (Ladson-Billings, 2006a, p. 6). Minority families suffered and still suffer social political debt in legislative represe ntation and political power (LadsonBillings, 2006a, p. 6). Finally, a moral debt exis ts in that the United States people have never apologized towards the groups of humans that have suffered these injustices (Ladson-Billings, 2006a, p.7). Milner (2012) builds upon Ladson-BillingsÂ’ (2006a) work when he proposes a conceptual framework for an Â“achievement opportunit yÂ” rather than an achievement gap. Milner reiterates that there is a need for school a ccountability, but structuring
19 accountability on a standardized test is one dimens ional (p. 693). He urges scholars to move away from a gap analysis towards a study of op portunities in how to improve education for minority students (p. 694). Milner i dentifies four issues that occur with the notion of the achievement gap: (a) culturally diver se students are pitted against white students without understanding the differences betw een the groups; (b) an underlying current of white superiority exists; (c) the defici t perspective tends to surface; (d) the inequities that minority students face are not addr essed (p. 696). Minority studentsÂ’ strengths, expertise, assets and values are not exp lored when researchers attempt to address the achievement gap (Milner, 2012, p. 698). Instead of addressing an achievement gap, Milner (2 012) asks that scholars investigate educational practices of Â“colorblindnes s, cultural conflicts, the myth of meritocracy, low expectations and deficit mindsets, and context neutral mindsets and practicesÂ” (p. 699). When teachers adopt the notio n of colorblindness, the teacher treats all students including minority students equally; i t Â“stiflesÂ” the learning for minority students (p. 699). Not only does the teacher miss out on the opportunity to educate the whole student, but the practice diminishes the stud entÂ’s racial identification and limits the teacherÂ’s understanding of the studentÂ’s racial ide ntification and culture (p. 699). When an educator and a student engage in cultural confli cts, the teacher not understanding the studentÂ’s culture, the result is student resistance in the classroom. The teacher and student Â“work against each otherÂ” (Milner, 2012, p. 701). The teacher may hold preconceived notions such as the student is a gang member and not academically inclined, resulting in the student failing. When a teacher believes the myth of meritocracy, the myth of the American dream, that a nyone can succeed if they try hard
20 enough, they do not recognize systemic barriers tha t minority students faces (p. 703). Teachers often have low expectations of minority st udents and deficit mindsets, blaming parents for low achievement, Â“perpetuating the soci al inequitiesÂ” (p. 706). Finally, when Milner writes of Â“context neutral mindsets and prac tices,Â” he is referring to urban schools that often employ the youngest, most inexperienced teachers, record the highest teacher absenteeism rates, and see an unequal distribution of resources even though urban schools are in higher need of more resources (p. 70 6). Research indicates that while a Â“gapÂ” exists, improvement of education for minority students must encompass an understanding of vast complexities that involve his tory, equality, and social injustice. Critical Race Theory Much of the research investigating race and educati on is viewed through the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT began to evolve in the 1970Â’s through civil rights law professors and students who were becoming frust rated with the slow pace of civil rights reforms (Ladson-Billings, 1997, p. 7). Â“CRT seeks to uncover the ways that the ideology of White supremacy and its subordination o f people of color have been created and maintained in the United StatesÂ” (Delgado & Ste fancic, 2000, p. 157). Derrick Bell (African American) and Alan Freeman (White) were la w students who were frustrated by the lack of progress in racial reforms. Bell (1990) is famous for his story The Chronicle of Space Traders where the United States agrees to send all of its African American and Â“dark skinned HispanicÂ” citizens to outer space in exchange for gold, chemicals to clean the air, and the ability to create safe nuclear pow er. Bell argues that such a trade is not impossible based upon AmericaÂ’s willingness to acce pt the racial injustices that exist in our country. Joined by others, Bell and Freeman cr eated a body of law review articles
21 (over 300) and books which began the conversation a bout race in America (Delgado & Stefancic, 2000). Critical Race theorists argue Â“r acism is normal, not aberrant in American society. Because racism is an ingrained f eature of our landscape, it looks ordinary and natural to persons in the cultureÂ” (De lgado & Stefancic, 2000, p. xvi). Ladson-Billings (1997) provides a succinct analysi s of the four tenets of CRT. The first is that racism is prevalent and normal in our society (p.10). She shares an incident when she was waiting to speak at a confere nce, and a man in a southern voice asked her when she was going to serve his party as an example of the prevalence of racism. Ladson-Billings wrote that Â“racism is as h ealthy today as it was during the EnlightenmentÂ” (p. 8). Derrick Bell (1992) would e ven argue that racism is a permanent structure in American society. Storytelling is the second understanding; storytelling is the tool of CRT to allow the underworld of racism t o be exposed. Ladson-Billings argues that storytelling achieves the following: (a) story telling allows minority individuals to name their own reality because truth is situational ; (b) storytelling allows for Â“psychic preservationÂ” for the oppressed; (c) storytelling d rives the oppressor to become selfreflective (p. 13-14). Storytelling by people of c olor counter-acts the myths of the dominant white culture. The third understanding of CRT is a critique of liberalism, arguing that civil rights changes need to be fundam ental, not incremental (LadsonBillings, 1997 p. 12). Liberalist see the social j ustice battle as a slow uphill climb that has been successful where Critical Race theorists b elieve that in order for change to occur, it must be transformative. The fourth unders tanding is that civil rights legislation has not helped people of color but has benefited Wh ites (Ladson-Billings, 1997). An
22 example according to Critical Race theorists is tha t affirmative action legislation has benefited White women more than it has benefited Af rican American individuals. Derrick Bell and other Critical Race theorists also critique the decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) as ultimately benefitting Whites rather tha n African Americans (Bell, 1980). Bell first questio ns why the Supreme Court suddenly made an about face turn from the notion of the poli cy of Â“separate but equal.Â” He argues that segregation of the South looked bad for the na tion at a time when communism was spreading to third world countries. It was also du ring the time that African American soldiers were fighting in World War II for the idea of freedom, only to come home to a segregated society. Finally, economically, the U.S was attempting to transform the South from a farming industry to an industrialized Sunbel t. Ladson-Billings (1997) connects CRT directly to edu cation in terms of curriculum, instruction, assessment, funding, and d esegregation. She argues that curriculum is one of white supremacy and Â“master sc riptingÂ” where voices of Â“African Americans are muted and erased when they challenge dominant culturesÂ’ authority and powerÂ” (p.14). Instruction is based upon the defic ient theory that the right strategy must be found to correct the at-risk (minority) students who are placed in remediation. Assessment is a form of scientific theory to subord inate minorities and indicate what the student does not know that is on the test, not what the student knows. Ladson-Billings gives the example of a student who fails in math, b ut is responsible for a household because of a drug addicted parent and takes care of the monthly budget (p, 20). School funding is normally based upon property taxes which results in systemic inequities.
23 Finally, desegregation has only worked when it bene fitted whites with additional programs or funding (Ladson-Billings, 1997). CRT continues to uncover the inequity in our school s with respect to race. Racism still exists and is pervasive in our schools A study by Lopez (2001) determined that Mexican immigrant parents have high expectatio ns for their children to succeed in school, but the parents do not participate in schoo ls in the traditional sense such as attending PTO meetings. Teachers and administrator s interpret Mexican immigrant parentsÂ’ lack of participation in traditional schoo l activities as evidence that Latino parents do not care about their childrenÂ’s educatio n, where, in reality, the Latino parents care greatly about their childrenÂ’s success in scho ol (Parker & Villalpando, 2007). Parker and Villalpando argue that the CRT framework must be applied to the analysis of administrative policy and issues. Smith, Yosso, an d Solrzano found in 2007, that the Â“color-blindÂ” socialization process that occurs in the U.S. begins from an early age; children learn race-specific stereotypes from adult s, friends, games, folklore, music, television, popular media, and the hidden curriculu m, resulting in Black misandry. Â“Black misandry refers to an exaggerated pathologic al aversion toward black men created and reinforced in societal, institutional, and indi vidual ideologies, practices, and behaviorsÂ” (Smith, Yosso, & Solrzano, 2007, p. 559 ). Smith et al. (2007) found that Black misandry exists on college campuses as well. Critical Race theorists find that there is an uphil l climb in the arena of teacher education when it comes to confronting the inequiti es of race. In their article, Solrzano and Smith-Maddox (2002) argue that it is difficult and uncomfortable in teacher education to confront young to-be teachers who are uncomfortable with issues of race
24 and with the reality that colorblindness masks what King calls a Â“dysconcious racism, An uncritical habit of mind that justifies inequity an d exploitation by accepting the order of things givenÂ” (King, 1991; Solrzano & Smith-Maddox 2002). Yosso argues that CRT should exist as a framework for curriculum in our schools. She defines curriculum not only as the textbooks an d discussions in classes, but also Â“to include less visible structures, processes and disc oursesÂ” such as the placement of children (Yosso, 2002). YossoÂ’s framework for a Cr itical Race Curriculum (CRC) is (a) the recognition of the intersectionality of race an d racism where the canon of people of color are no longer marginalized in schools, (b) th e dominant ideology is challenged, (c) the commitment to social justice, (d) the reflectio n on experiential knowledge that is often marginalized for students of color, and (e) t he use of a interdisciplinary discipline (Yosso, 2002). The traditional curriculum or hidde n curriculum perpetuates white dominance, and Yosso challenges this trend through her avocation of offering a CRC. CRC is a way to engage our minority students in sch ool. The student of color is empowered to study the works of his or her own cult ure, challenge the dominant ideology, understand social justice, and validate h is or her own experiences. Trevino, Harris, and Wallace (2008) suggest three areas of improvement in CRT for the future. These authors first critique the f act that Critical Race theorists work within the legal system and do not attack the rule of law. Critical Race theorists see the law as necessary to social justice. However, these author s argue that Â“if CRT is to forge successfully a full-scale critique of law Â– in its formulation, administration, and enforcement Â– as both a product and a promoter of r acism, it must also question the core beliefs that justify the rule of lawÂ” (Trevino, 200 8, p. 8). Trevino et al. (2008) also argue
25 that CRT is not a theory because it lacks a systema tic structure and fundamentalism. The authors argue that CRT is a movement rather than a theory. Finally, the authors contend as follows: if CRT is to maintain and sharpen its approach to i dentifying and deconstructing prejudice in AmericaÂ’s social order, it must adopt a more sensitive and appropriate analytical lens that accounts not only for race and racism, but also for their constituent parts of color and colorism (e.g. the shades of Â‘blacknessÂ’ in the African American and the Afro-Latino communities, a nd Â‘Chicano IndianismÂ’ in the Mexican American Community). (Trevino, 2008, p 10) Critics of CRT argue that racism is not just a blac k, brown, and white issue, but that racism exists within minority communities. However the major issue of racism today is still the imbalance of power that white individuals hold over people of color. What is Working in Educational Reform? Even though minority students face numerous challen ges in our educational system, high minority schools do exist that are sho wing high achievement results. If race matters, what are these schools doing that address the complex issues of race? Several researchers have studied high minority schools that have achieved academic success (Chenoweth (2009), (2010), Lee, Smith, Perry and Sm ylie (1999), Reeves (2000). Reeves (2000) researched 228 high poverty schools, where at least 90% of the students were eligible for free and reduced lunch, at least 90% of the students were minority students, and at least 90% of the students performe d at grade level. The team studied instructional practices to determine whether the pr actices could be associated with the high achievement results that the schools were rece iving. Reeves (2000) found that
26 common elements in all of the schools included a fo cus on academic achievement, clear curriculum choices, frequent assessments of student progress, emphasis on nonfiction writing, and collaborative scoring of student work. Lee, Smith, Perry and SmylieÂ’s (1999) work argues f or academic press and social support in the high minority/high poverty schools. Lee et al., (1999) argue that throughout the evolution of the American educationa l system, schools of thought proposed that academic success depended on either a cademic rigor, or upon social support, and that studies of the Chicago schools in dicate that both academic press and social support are necessary for successful academi c results in high poverty schools. The researchers determined to investigate the relations hip between social support and academic press to student academic achievement (p.1 3). The study occurred in the Chicago Public School system that adopted two initi atives: to increase academic press and increase social support for students both in an d out of school (Lee et. al., 1999, p. 11). Social support included the need for schools to provide a Â“supportive learning environments and stronger relations between student s and teachers and between schools and familiesÂ” (p. 5). The study included both test scores and student and teacher surveys (p. 13). The findings were that the highest levels of academic gains were in schools that combined high levels of student social support and school academic press (p. 23). Howard (2010), studied four high minority secondary schools across the country, and determined that the schools had similar charact eristics. All of the schools had leadership that held the vision of high achievement and academic success for all students. The schools also implemented effective instructiona l practices, ensured time for teacher collaboration and offered intensive academic interv ention. The schools explicitly
27 acknowledged issues of race, and staff was comforta ble discussing race and racism. The schools and staff were considered culturally compet ent. The staff worked to understand and offer curriculum that addressed the various cul tures of the students in the school. Finally, the schools had strong parental and commun ity engagement (Howard, 2010, p. 144). Chenoweth (2009) describes organizational challenge s for high poverty/high minority schools. In high poverty/high minority sc hools, teachers operate in isolation; principals hire good teachers, but after that, much of the principalsÂ’ time is spent dealing with crisis, discipline, parents, public relations, and fundraising (p. 9). There are good teachers and bad teachers in all schools; involved parents know and make sure their students get the good teachers (p.10). Teachers in high poverty/high minority schools have little preparation with content knowledge, no viable curriculum, textbooks contain too much material, and those without textbooks are on their own to search for material to fill the school day (p. 12). Chenoweth studied sev eral schools, including three high performing secondary schools to determine the chara cteristics that were causing these schools to become high performing. In Massachusetts, Chenoweth (2009) found that the s tate increased financial equity, increased teacher quality, used standards a ssessment, and engaged in public reporting. One significant reform was that the sta te required tenth graders to pass the state exam in order to graduate (p. 29). One urba n high school in Massachusetts that became particularly successful included demographic s of more than one-half African American, one-third Latino/a and one-half students from low income families (Chenoweth, 2009). Almost all of the students pass ed the 10th grade exam. The principal
28 explained that the school did not teach to the test but built a culture where they instilled Â“the love of learningÂ” in students (p. 31). The te achers used projects that worked across the curriculum. The school embraced a respectful a tmosphere and held high expectations with support. One student said that at his school Â“they trust youÂ” and had Â“high expectationsÂ” while at his sisterÂ’s school they wer e Â“doing crossword puzzlesÂ” (p. 32). Chenoweth (2009) also studied a Core Knowledge midd le school in QueenÂ’s New York that saw academic success with a high poverty/ high minority population (p. 45). The teachers and principal believe the schoolÂ’s suc cess relied on the content rich Core knowledge curriculum and their infusion of material from their studentsÂ’ backgrounds (p. 48). Lockhart Junior High School in Lockhart Texas serve d 90% Latino/a students, 60% students in poverty, and scored 90% proficient on state tests (Chenoweth, 2009, p. 96). The school expects 100 percent success from e very student. Curriculum matches state standards. Teachers have relationships with students and high expectations (p.103). The school offer rescue classes if students are not passing. Teachers also rely heavily on data and benchmark testing (p. 102). ChenowethÂ’s conclusion is that successful high mino rity schools include the following: (a) teacher collaboration, (b) a laser like focus on what teachers want students to learn, (c) formative assessments to see if they have learned it, (d) data driven instruction, (e) personal relationship building and culturally responsive teaching (Chenoweth, 2009, p. 179).
29 Effective Leadership in High Minority Schools School reform is initiated and supported by school leaders. Colorado and federal school sanctions rest primarily on replacing school leadership as the first step in school reform, indicating that effective leadership greatl y impacts academic performance in high minority schools. Madhlangobe and Gordon (2012) co mpleted a qualitative study of an effective leader, an assistant principal named Fait h, in works in a high minority high school. Madhlangobe and Gordon determined themes t hat encompassed this leaderÂ’s beliefs. The researchers first acknowledged that t he majority of educators are still White and do not understand the cultures of their minorit y students resulting in a negative impact on diverse learners (Madhlangobe & Gordon, 2 012). The study investigates how a culturally responsive leaderÂ’s Â“knowledge of stud entsÂ’ cultures gives school leaders important clues to studentsÂ’ behaviors and needsÂ” ( Madhlangobe & Gordon, 2012, p. 182). Principal Diana Pratt utilized culturally responsiv e standards based teaching methods to lead a school that served one forth mino rity students from 38% proficient in reading to 84% proficient, and from 29% proficient in math to 59% proficient (Saifer & Barton, 2007, p. 27). Upon reflection, she identif ied a few programs that she implemented that she believed affected the positive academic outcomes (p. 27). She implemented school wide diversity lessons that made diversity a priority in the building. A diversity club formed that allowed students to br ing diversity concerns to staff as well as supported students in bringing school wide diver sity events into the school. The school also began to engage in focused outreach pro grams for the community including
30 providing translation and transportation for studen ts. In addition, parent-teacher conferences were held in the housing projects (p. 2 7). In another case study of seven Â“challengingÂ” school s that achieved Â“a measure of success,Â” the researchers determined that three pri ncipal characteristics contributed towards the success of the schools (Jacobson, Johns on, Ylimaki, & Giles, 2005, p. 607). Some of the principals were seen as accountability principals where they would use high stakes testing to hold teachers accountable for hig h expectations. While some teachers felt the methods were controlling, the accountabili ty environment moved into peer accountability where teachers began holding each ot her accountable (Jacobson et. al., 2005, p. 612). The caring principals not only nurt ured and formed relationships with teachers, they also ensured that the buildings were safe environments, and welcomed parents into the building (p. 613). The learning p rincipals not only were responsible for their own professional growth, but kept staff updat ed on the latest literature, creating collaborative groups of teachers to address the iss ues facing the 21st century educators (p. 615). Cummins (1986) argues that the reason that many min ority students are not succeeding in our schools and educational reforms a re not working is because relationships have not changed between teachers and students and between schools and communities (p. 19). Cummins further argues that a redefinition must occur that empowers students, incorporating studentsÂ’ language and culture into the schools programs (p. 24). The way of teaching must move fr om transmission, where the teacher gives knowledge to the students to the reciprocal m odel of teaching; students converse
31 with teachers and their peers through writing and s peaking. This reciprocal process empowers students (p.28). According to Solrzano (1995), the framework for ef fective schools, and therefore effective leadership, for Latino/a studen ts involves addressing the theory of resistance and argues that oppositional behavior by Latino/a students can be met through empowerment of the individual student, or groups of students (Solorzano & Solorzano, 1995). Solrzano states that the accelerated schoo l model provides an intervention for the resistive stance of many Latino/a students. The characteristics of an accelerated school model are high expectations and responsibili ty for student learning; strong instructional leadership (both principal and teache rs); emphasis on acquisition of basic skills; frequent monitoring of student progress; or derly and safe school environment; and parental involvement (Solorzano & Solorzano, 1995). Because of the popularity of Dufour and EakerÂ’s (19 98) work on professional learning communities, the topic of Â“distributed lea dership,Â” which offers a practical conceptual framework of how to create learning comm unities, has drawn the attention of scholars in recent years. Spillane (Spillane, Halv erson, & Diamond, 2001), who was conducting research in 13 Chicago elementary school s, provides a practical framework for distributed leadership to assist principals in developing professional learning communities through distributed leadership theory. Spillane, Halverson, and Diamond, (2001) explain that the distributed leadership theo ry is based upon concepts developed in cognition and activity theory. Distributed leader ship theory is developed around leadership tasks and functions, task enactment, soc ial distribution of task enactment, and situational distribution of task enactment. Spilla ne (Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond,
32 2001) argue that teacher leadership is an integral aspect to distributed leadership theory. A principal must create a collaborative professiona l culture in order to move student achievement in schools. In her conceptual article, Harris (2004) agrees wi th Spillane (Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2001) when she argues that teacher leade rship is an important and necessary aspect of the conceptual framework of distributed l eadership. Harris (2004) also summarizes two recent studies when she investigates the relationship between distributed leadership and school improvement. She concludes t hat evidence supports the finding that distributed leadership can assist capacity bui lding, which leads to school improvement. Culturally Responsive Teaching In addition to effective leadership, research indi cates that culturally responsive teaching does improve learning for minority student s (Gay, 2002, p. 106). In their work that studies culturally responsive standards based teaching in schools, Saifer and Barton (2007) first identify an important distinction betw een multicultural education, which incorporates the worldÂ’s cultural views and values into lessons, and culturally responsive teaching, which draws upon the cultures, values and beliefs of the students (p.25). According to Saifer and Barton, culturally responsi ve teaching is student centered where studentsÂ’ lives and cultures are the basis for what is taught in the classroom, and students help in the lesson planning (p. 25). Culturally re sponsive teaching is transformative in that it transforms the teacher into a facilitator, and it transforms the views of students and teacher as they learn about the lives of others (p. 25). Culturally responsive teaching builds upon the background knowledge of the student s as they gain new knowledge and it
33 uses formative assessments and self-reflection (p.2 5). Culturally responsive teaching also builds relationships between the teacher and studen ts and between students. (Saifer & Barton, 2007, p. 25). Culturally responsive teachers are teachers who int entionally take steps to know their students and their studentsÂ’ interests. The teachers connect lessons to their studentsÂ’ interests and lives, including bringing materials t o class that relate to studentsÂ’ home-life culture (Sleeter & Cornbleth, 2011, p. 19). The te achers engage students to think critically and to challenge social injustices. Cul turally responsive teaching can be seen as differentiated teaching based on studentsÂ’ lives (p 19). In order to become a culturally responsive teacher, the teacher must understand the cultural diversity of their students and the character and contributions of the studentÂ’ s ethnic group (Gay, 2002, p.107). The teacher must plan for a culturally relevant curricu la often using multicultural instructional strategies where the teacher understands the contri butions of diverse ethnic groups. (Gay, 2002) The teacher must be able to deal directly wi th social controversy. The teacher must also demonstrate caring and build culturally r esponsive learning communities where a partnership exists within the classroom built on respect and trust (p. 109). Pitfalls of Reform Brown, Anfara, and Roney (2004) conducted a qualit ative study that analyzes socioeconomic status and student achievement. The article reflects upon National Middle School Association and Turning Points 2000 and upon criticism that middle schools lack academic rigor. The qualitative study focuses on h igh performing and low performing school practices. The researchers concluded that o rganizational health is an important link to student achievement and that middle school reform must be viewed in that light.
34 The researchers explain that because large schools with high concentrations of lowincome children are often among the first to implem ent reforms, we need to be more vigilant and judicious in our recommendations (Brow n, Anfara, & Roney, 2004). More specific attention needs to be paid to improving sc hool climate and culture by focusing on the technical, managerial, and institutional levels of organizational health. (Felner et al., 1997, p. 555). Brown et al. (2004) work offers a s ignificant warning that leaders in high poverty schools who are constantly searching for an swers must be careful not to grasp at the latest trends in reform. Principals must use c aution when implementing reforms and not always adopt the newest Â“research basedÂ” progra m. Stovall (2012) reinforces the harm that can occur t o low-income, minority communities with his critical analysis of Chicago S chool reform. Â“Chicago has been the hot bed for reformsÂ” (Stovall, 2012, p. 34). Stoval lÂ’s analysis outlines the intersection between ChicagoÂ’s public housing reform, where much of the cityÂ’s public housing was transformed into middle income housing, and school reform. Stovall argues that the changes caused Â“the further marginalization of lowincome and working-class communities of colorÂ” (p. 34). The reforms are fai ling because they are based upon neoliberal policy reform and the belief of free-mar ket economics rather than on the belief of social justice (Stovall, 2012, p. 34). The refo rmers hold the false believe that the marketplace of school choice is accessible to every one and minorities and the poor are blamed for not taking advantage of the choice. In 2004, Chicago schools promoted competition among schools by offering school choice believing that competition would produce better schools (Stovall, 2012, p.35). The result was flight from lower performing schools by families with the access and understandi ng to move to higher performing
35 schools (Stovall, 2012). In 2010, 70 underperformi ng schools were targeted for transformation which would move the schools into ch arter, contract, or performance schools. The majority of the schools served Africa n American or Latino/a students. In four neighborhoods 20 neighborhoods would be closed or restructured (Stovall, 2012, p.70). Community organizations were able to stop t he massive closures, and eventually the closures dropped to ten. Chicago saw the minor ity population decline between 2004 through 2010 due to the changes in public housing ( Stovall, 2012, p. 37). The neighborhood schools became magnet schools with sel ective enrollment and dismissal policies if students obtain failing grades or disci pline records (Stovall, 2012, p. 41). Minority families are then left further marginalize d into poor performing schools (Stovall, 2012, p. 34). Rather than focusing on im proving education for the high minority schools, Chicago is closing the schools. Chartock (2010) holds a broader criticism of school reform today. While admitting that educational reforms such as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) have remedied some educational inequities, Chartock identifies several inequalities that currently exist today (p. 2). R acism still exists in schools, mirroring attitudes of society of a whole. The teaching forc e is still predominately middle class White and does not reflect the cultures of their st udents (Chartock, 2010, p. 2). Inequities in funding schools that serve a high population of minority students and English language learners continue (Chartock, 2010, p. 2). The rese gregation of schools widens the achievement gap and state testing results in discri mination against Â“certain groups of students, particularly English language learners an d students with learning disabilities, as well as against the schools they attendÂ” (p.2). C hartock also criticizes standardized
36 testing in that the tests do not reflect student le arning, but rather reflect the socioeconomic status of the students. Â“That is why there is frequently such a strong relationship between a schoolÂ’s standardized test s cores and the economic and social makeup of the schoolÂ’s student bodyÂ” (p. 22). Chapter Summary Schools that serve a majority of minority students are underperforming. The fact that underperforming schools exist in Colorado is u nacceptable. Due to ColoradoÂ’s new accountability system, schools that are slated for closure or restructuring are most likely high minority schools. This chapter looks critical ly at the issues of race and education, and investigates why chronically under-performing s chools serve minority students. The literature indicates that this paradigm is an issue of social justice. The Colorado accountability system is one that emer ged from the No Child Left Behind Act, rests predominately on the state test, and comes with severe sanctions for underperforming schools. A body of literature crit icizes the notion of the Â“achievement gapÂ” and argues that the notion that minority stude nts fall below their White peers as a result of standardized testing is flawed. The conc ept of a gap perpetuates the social injustices suffered by minorities, rather than buil ds upon the strengths of the diversities of minority cultures. Critical Race theorists attempt to bring to light the inequities that minority students meet, and the debts that America owes to minority populations. Scholars of Critical Race Theory argue that in orde r to engage minority students in education, schools, principals and teachers must be come culturally responsive. To date, it seems that educational reforms have been Â“done t o,Â” not Â“done forÂ” minority populations.
37 CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY All aspects of the research methodology used in thi s study are reported in this chapter. The information in this chapter is organi zed into the following sections: (a) research questions, (b) qualitative research method s, (c) the case study research design, (d) means of data collection (e) means of data anal ysis, and (f) validity and reliability. Research Questions This is a qualitative study using the case study me thod. The research questions that guide this study are as follows: 1. What are the characteristics of schools that are rated as Turnaround status or Priority Improvement status rendering the schools o n a dramatic time clock for severe sanctions? 2. What strategies do principals utilize to move the ir schools out of Turnaround status or Priority Improvement status? The goal of this study is to determine how the Col orado school accountability system is impacting certain schools, and how leader s are successfully turning their schools around towards higher academic achievement. The study explains the impact of the school accountability system on secondary schoo ls under the Colorado school accountability system and how secondary schools are becoming successful under the system. The study is qualitative, utilizing the ca se study approach. Because the study is descriptive in nature, the qualitative approach is the appropriate methodology (Denscombe, 2010). Furthermore, Yin (2009) indicat es that the case study approach is appropriate when the study is answering how or why questions. Because the focus of the
38 research questions are to determine how the school accountability system is impacting schools, and how leaders are becoming successful, t he case study is the appropriate approach for this study (Yin, 2009, p. 7). Research Design The goal of this study is to investigate the Colora do school accountability system and determine how the system is impacting secondary schools in Colorado. It reports practices that leaders are using to move their scho ols out of the two lowest school ratings. The implications of the study identify possible uni ntended consequences of the school accountability system and identify successful leade rship practices. The unintended consequences of the accountability system is that a majority of the 27 schools that are facing state sanctions serve a high population of m inority/high poverty students. The study is qualitative because it is descriptive in n ature (Merriam, 2002, p. 5). IRB approved the study on July 9th, determining that the study is exempt. The study first determined the characteristics of secondary schools that the school accountability system negatively impacts. The schools were identified th rough CDE public information resources. Once the schools ratings were determine d, schools in the Turnaround and Priority Improvement categories that are making imp rovement were identified. Principals of schools that moved out of the two low est ratings were contacted through email to request their participation in the study. The study does not include charter or innovative schools because these schools often impl ement waivers that take their status outside of the realm of the nature of public school status. One major difference is that charter and innovative schools often screen student membership to those who are proficient, and limit students who receive special education services or English language
39 learner services (Becker, Nakagawa, & Corwin, 1997; Browning, 2000; Cobb & Glass, 1999; Wells, 1998). Innovative schools have to acc ept only a certain percentage of English language learns and disabled students, and Charter schools have full reign as to which student the schools enroll. This is due to t he schools limited staffing. The unit of analysis, or Â“caseÂ” (Yin, 2009, p. 22) is comprised of schools on Turnaround or Priority Improvement under the Colorado school accountabilit y system and schools that have moved out of the two lowest ratings. Qualitative Research Methods While volumes of books and articles exist on the be st use of qualitative research and the difference between qualitative and quantita tive research methods, Denscombe (2010) explains the basic difference in that quanti tative research deals with numbers and qualitative research is comprised of words and imag es (p. 237). Qualitative research is mostly conducted through words (Miles, 1994, p. 7). This study is comprised of describing the characteristics of schools facing sa nctions and describing strategies that are working to move schools out of the two lowest c ategories. It is looking at the case of schools in trouble and using words to describe the event. In addition, Denscombe states that in quantitative research, the researcher is de tached, while the researcher is involved with the research in qualitative research (p. 237). Because this study involves researcher involvement through interpretation of existing data and interviews, the study is by definition qualitative. In addition, qualitative research is a natural tool to investigate issues of human interaction; it is difficult to quantify racism, re sistance, and resilience (Fernandez, 2002). This study involves issues of human interaction; th e sanctioning of schools, and strategies
40 to avoid sanctioning. It is actually the study of students and educators. Observation of the school rating data indicates that schools with the lowest ratings are high minority/high poverty schools. Critical Race Theory (CRT) resear chers argue that qualitative research is the only way that the researcher can investigate the researcherÂ’s interaction with the subject (Fernandez, 2002). Silverman (2006) sugg ests that when a researcher chooses a qualitative or quantitative method, the decisions r ests upon what the researcher is trying to find out (p. 34). This study is not just report ing numbers of schools in the two lowest ratings, but is investigating what kinds of schools are facing sanctions, what are the similarities in these schools, and what is being do ne to move these schools out of the drastic sanction of closure. In deciding to conduct qualitative research, Creswe ll (2007) indicates that the researcher should hold the following philosophical assumptions: (a) ontologically, the researcher questions the nature of reality and real izes that reality is subjective to the researcher and to the subject(s); (b) epistemologic ally, the researcher investigates the relationship between the researcher and the subject and tries to close the void between the scholar and the subject; (c) axiomatic issues occur when the researcher understands that relative values exist that create biases that the r esearcher and subject(s); disclose to each other; (d) rhetorically the researcher investigates the appropriate language of the research which usually is represented in the first person; ( e) methodologically the researcher must determine the methodological aspect of the study wh ere the researcher utilizes inductive logic (p. 17). In this study, the researcher under stands that reality is subjective from the researchers' perspective and between the researcher and the data collected, especially in the interview context. In addition, in recognizing that the research is subjective, the
41 researcher in this study attempted to recognize and Â“bracketÂ” any bias brought to the study. The interview narratives include the resear cher using the first person in instances, revealing the subjectivity of the researcher. The Case Study The qualitative case study is unique in that the re searcher is the instrument of data collection, the study is inductive, and the product is descriptive (Merriam, 2009). In this study, the research (1) collects and interprets dat a regarding secondary Colorado schools that the state has assigned the lowest ratings, and (2) collects information about the schools that are successfully moving out of the poo r ratings. Merriam refers to Yin (2009), Stake (2005), and Wolcott (2008) in her att empt to define Â“case studyÂ”, because the methodology involves both the process and the p roduct (Merriam, 2009, p. 40). All of the researchers agree that the research Â“delimit sÂ” the objects being studied, or Â“the caseÂ” (Merriam, 2009, p. 40). Yin (2009) refers to the boundaries as units of analysis (p. 22). The researcher sets boundaries around the cas e and the case can be Â“a single person who is a case example of some phenomenon, a program a group, an institution, a community, or a specific policyÂ” (p. 40.) The boun daries or Â“caseÂ” of this research is Colorado secondary schools that are in the two lowe st state ratings and secondary schools that have successfully moved out of those ratings. As Stake (2006) indicates, Â“schools may be our cases, real things that are easy to visu alizeÂ” (p. 1). The researcher selects the case because he or she is interested in the Â“change of processÂ” or Â“organizational change.Â” This researchers, as well as Colorado edu cators, are concerned about the impact of the Colorado accountability system that replaced the NCLB act and implements severe sanctions that could be in place within the next tw o years.
42 As stated earlier, Yin (2009) argues that the case study answers why or how questions. This study investigates how the school accountability system is impacting Colorado schools. In addition, Â“the case study is preferred in examining contemporary events, but when the relevant behaviors cannot be m anipulatedÂ” (p. 7). The school ratings and potential consequences are contemporary and both the state ratings and leadership initiatives cannot be manipulated, again making the case study an appropriate methodology for this work. Yin indicates that a ca se study approach has advantages when a researcher is studying a contemporary event, the researcher has no control over the event, and is seeking to answer how or why ques tions (p. 9). Denscombe (2010) explains Â“the real value of a case study is that it offers the opportunity to explain why certain outcomes might happen Â– more than just find out what those outcomes areÂ” (p.53). This case study approach allows not only for a report of schools that are in danger of sanction, but allows for a deeper look at the characteristics of the schools to determine why the results are occurring and how som e schools are successfully overcoming the low ratings. In addition, Yin and Denscombe agree that the case that is being studied should be in natural existence, and n ot a condition that is being created for the study. Merriam (2002) further defines the case study as Â“p articularistic,Â” meaning that the study focuses on a specific Â“situation, event, program, or phenomenonÂ” (p. 43). This study is focused on the consequences of the Colorad o accountably system, which is a new state program that has significant impact on so me Colorado schools. In addition, the end product of the study is descriptive which means that the findings of this dissertation will be narrative and will contain descriptive deta ils. Finally, Merriam states that the
43 study is heuristic, or will bring new meaning (p. 4 4). This study brings insights to leaders of the types of schools that are low performing, an d will highlight what can be done to move a failing school into a successful school. Yi n (2009) also states that unlike other types of qualitative research such as grounded theo ry or ethnography, the researcher utilizing the case study approach constructs a theo ry related to the topic (p. 28). The conceptual framework for this study, as stated in C hapter I, is based upon four studies of high achieving, high minority/high poverty schools. This framework is used as a Â“templateÂ” to compare to the findings of this case study (Yin, 2009, p. 33). Denscombe (2009) concisely lists the disadvantages of the case study approach. Among the limitations, researchers often are suspic ious of the credibility when generalizations are created out of a case study. Y in (2009) warns the researcher utilizing the case study approach to use only Â“analytic gener alizationsÂ” and not Â“statistical generalizations.Â” The researcher should not consid er the units of analysis as samples or sample size, and should only make Â“level twoÂ” or po licy and theory implicationsÂ” (Yin, 2009, p. 32). Another major issue is that some res earchers consider the case study approach as creating Â“soft dataÂ” (Denscombe, 2010), often meaning lacking rigor or not appropriate for analysis or evaluation. This limit ation is overcome by the researcher ensuring close attention to detail in the study (De nscombe, 2010). Yin (2009) describes four types of case study desig ns: (a) single-case holistic design (type 1), (b) single-case embedded designs ( type 2), (c) multiple-case holistic design (type 3), (d) and multiple-case embedded des igns (type 4) (p. 39). This study is using the single-case embedded design. According t o Yin, the single case study is appropriate for a Â“revolutionaryÂ” case when the res earchers have had little opportunity to
44 study the event previously (p. 42). The Colorado s chool accountability system is entering into the fourth year of school ratings, and some sc hools have two years until the Colorado Department of Education will enact severe sanctions Such an event is new, and educators are concerned about the implications. Y in states that Â“the same case of study may involve more than one unit of analysisÂ” (p. 42) This study is embedded because it involves the investigation of the characteristics o f secondary schools in Colorado that are rated in the two lowest accountability categories a s a unit of analysis, and also the sub unit, or embedded unit, of schools that have succes sfully moved out of the two lowest categories. Setting This study encompasses the middle schools and high schools of the Colorado public school system. The first step of the study identifies the secondary schools that CDE has rated as Turnaround or Priority Improvement for two or more consecutive years from the 2011-2012 school year through the past thr ee school years. These are schools that have three years to drastically improvement ac ademic achievement scores, or the schools will face severe sanctions including closur e under the Colorado school accountability system. The researcher identified t hese schools through the CDE website that is accessible to the public. The CDE report i dentifies the School Performance Rating of Colorado schools from the 2009-2010 school year, when the school accountability system began, through 2011-2012 school year, the mo st recent SPF data. The researcher then narrowed the list down to secondary schools th at will be facing sanctions in the next two years, and secondary schools that were in the l owest ratings and moved out of the lowest ratings. The CDE website also contains demo graphic information on all Colorado
45 public schools. In addition, this study investigat ed the characteristics of the schools that have moved off of the low performing list, includin g demographics, to determine whether similarities exist between the endangered schools, such as socioeconomic status or minority enrollment percentages. The researcher th en contacted the leaders of the successful schools through email to request their p articipation in the study. The leaders of those schools were interviewed to determine the practices that were necessary to improve student achievement. The successful school s Unified Improvement Plans that describe the schools major improvement strategies w ill also be examined. The study will not include schools that have restructured into cha rter or innovative schools. Data Collection The case study allows, even encourages, the researc her to use many forms of data collection methods (Denscombe, 2010). Multi-sourc e data allows the researcher to develop Â“converging lines of inquiryÂ” resulting in triangulation of the data (Yin, 2009, p. 98). This study utilizes documents obtained throug h CDE, interviews of six principals who have moved their schools out of the lowest two ratings and have agreed to participate in this study, and field notes that doc ument the data collection process. The existing data of this study will consist of documen ts including School Performance Frameworks, Unified School Improvement Plans, schoo lsÂ’ demographics data, school websites, transcribed interviews and field notes. CDE issues each school the score and correlated school rating through the School Perform ance Frameworks. The School submits a Unified School Improvement Plan or Turnar ound Plan, depending upon the schoolÂ’s rating, that describes the major improveme nt strategies that the school will implement to increase student achievement. The res earcher will collect additional data
46 through interviews and field notes. See Table 2.
47 Table 2 Data Collection Matrix Data Collection What Who Number of Participants School Performance Frameworks State created analysis that results in a school rating. Researcher 19 schools that have moved out of the two lowest CDE ratings Unified Improvement Plans of secondary schools that are moving out of the two lowest ratings School created plans that describe improvement strategies. Created by schools. Reviewed by researcher 19 Schools that have moved out of the two lowest CDE rating Other Documents Excel spreadsheet of Schools SPF ratings from 2009-2010 school year through 2011-2012 school year. Demographic information from CDE website and schools Researcher obtains and reviews documents Unknown until spreadsheet is obtained Individual Interviews 60 minutes Semi-structured Principals of Colorado secondary schools that moved out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement and realized the highest point growth Six principals Field notes Informal dialogue, interview notes, data collection process notes Researcher/principals Six princiapls
48 School Performance Frameworks The percentage of points a school earns on the Sch ool Performance Framework (SPF) will determine the rating and improvement pla n assignment (S.B. 163). See Table 3. An example of a SPF is attached as Appendix C. The points are assigned based upon the schoolÂ’s performance on the state TCAP test in categories based upon student academic achievement, student academic growth, acad emic growth gaps among students such as minority students, students with disabiliti es, and students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. High schools also are assigned po ints for indicators related to postsecondary and work-force readiness. These indicato rs include the graduation rate and ACT scores (S.B. 163). Schools placed on Turnaroun d plans must choose from a list of state strategies to implement in their plan. The s trategies are as follow: Employing a lead turnaround partner to develop and execute the Turnaround Plan at the school. Reorganizing the oversight and management structure within the school. Seeking recognition as an Innovation school. Contracting with a third party (public or private) to manage the school. Converting to a charter school If the school is a charter school, significantly re structuring the charter. Other actions of comparable or greater significance including those identified by the Federal government: closure; restarting with a charter management organization or an educational management organizat ion; Turnaround, defined as replacing the principal and at least half of the st aff, revising instructional programs, expanding learning time, implementing ope ration flexibility.
49 Transformation, defined as Principal replaced Changes in learning time, instruction, etc. (S.B. 1 66). The School Performance Frameworks are available to the public and are published on the CDE website. The researcher is keeping electronic data files of the SPFÂ’s. Table 3 School Performance Framework Point Designation Percentage of total possible points received School rating and plan required Elementary and middle schools-59% or above High schools-60% or above Performance Elementary and middle schools-between 46 and 58% High schools-between 47 and 59% Improvement Elementary and middle schools-between 37 and 46% High schools-between33 and 46% Priority Improvement (5 years on this plan or a mixture of this plan and Turnaround may result in severe sanctions) Elementary and middle schools-less than 37% High Schools-less than 33% Turnaround Unified School Improvement Plans Schools submit their plan, called the Unified Sc hool Improvement Plans (UIP) to the district and then to the CDE by January for app roval. A review panel reviews all Turnaround plans and may review Priority Improvemen t Plans (District Accountability Handbook, 2011, p.24). The plan must include an an alysis of positive and negative notable trends in the schools data, prioritization of performance challenges where the
50 school is low performing, identify root causes for each performance challenge, identify major improvement strategies that address the root causes, identify necessary resources, and set interim measures and benchmarks (District A ccountability Handbook, 2011, p.23). The plans are public record and are publish ed on the CDE website. The researcher is keeping electronic copies and hard co pies of the UIPÂ’s. The UIPÂ’s that have been analyzed are those of secondary schools that h ave successfully moved out of the two lowest state ratings. Other Documents Documents and records are often used in addition t o other resources in the case study or can become the object of the study (Yin, 2 009, p. 99). In this study, the CDE list of schools and their accountability rating is a too l to determine schools that are in danger of facing sanctions and identifying schools that ha ve been successful in overcoming low ratings. Because the document being used is create d through the CDE, the pitfall of lack of accuracy that Yin warns about is not a concern i n this study. Interviews Colorado secondary school principals who moved thei r schools out of the two lowest ratings and who have agreed to participate i n the study are the subjects of the interviews. Interviewing principals who have achie ved growth in terms of percentage points on their School Performance Frameworks in mo ving their schools out of the two lowest state ratings gave the researcher insight as to how failing Colorado schools have realized student achievement under the new accounta bility system. Six principals participated in the study. One principal who agree d to participate in the study later declined because he found out that his TCAP scores went down which would most likely
51 move the school back into Priority Improvement stat us. Two other principals also wanted to participate in the study, but their distr ict policy relating to participation in studies outside of the district rendered their part icipation impractical. The researcher compared the interview data with the conceptual fra mework created from the studies on successful high minority schools (Table 4). A revi sed conceptual framework resulted from the comparison. I added two additional practi ces that emerged from the findings; the Colorado leaders placed a high emphasis on scho ol safety and the leaders indicated that district flexibility and support were necessar y for their successful school reforms (Table 5). During the interview process, the researcher took t he following steps: (a) identified schools that have made improvement, (b) contacted the principals in advance by email and explained the nature and rationale of the study (Denscombe, 2010, p. 182), (c) informed the principals that they will be invol ved in a discussion as to how their schools have moved out of the lower state ratings, (d) follow up the email with a telephone conversation to discuss the nature of the study, the studyÂ’s timeline, data collection procedures, and schedule a meeting for t he interview at the principalsÂ’ convenience, (e) communicate the potential positive or negative outcomes for the participants. In addition, the researcher reviewed the informed consent document with the participants to ensure ethical research (see Ap pendix B). The interviews were openended and conversational, and will remain along the line of inquiry (Yin, 2009, 90). The questions are attached in Appendix A. The intervie w questions are based upon a protocol used in a study of effective strategies in closing the achievement gap that utilized the semi-structured interview approach (Brown, Benkovit z, Muttillo, & Urban, 2011, p. 50).
52 The interview is semi-structured because although t he researcher has a specific list of topics, the interviews were flexible to allow the s ubject to elaborate on the topic (Denscombe, 2010, p. 175). All participantsÂ’ identities are kept confidential The interviews were tape recorded on separate tapes. All tape recordings ar e kept locked securely in a file cabinet in the researcherÂ’s home. All tapes were be transc ribed by the researcher in word processing documents. Once the transcriptions occu r, the tape recordings were destroyed. Table 4 Conceptual Framework Compared to Findings Researchers Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Rigor Intensive I nterventions Relation-ships Explicitly acknowledge issue of race Culturally responsive curriculum Parent and community engagement Curriculum alignment, teacher collaboration; formative assessments Lee, Smith, Perry and Smylie (1999) X X Reeves (2000) X X X Chenoweth (2009) X X X X Howard (2010) X X X X X X Mr. White X X X X Mr. Mendez X X X Mr. Briggs X X X X UIPs X X X X
53 Table 5 Revised Conceptual Framework: What is Working in Hi gh Minority/High Poverty Schools Strategy Rigorous Culture of Learning Intensive Interventions Respectful relationships between staff and students and between principal and staff Staff explicitly acknowledges issues of race Culturally responsive curriculum Parent and community engagement Aligned curriculum; teacher collaboration; formativ e assessments Safe learning environment Schools are supported by districts that are flexibl e Field Notes The researcher took notes after each interview and during document analysis (Silverman, 2006, p. 92). The notes were used to v erify transcribed interviews, as well as to document the data collection trail (Denscombe, 2 010; Yin, 2009). The researcher is aware of SilvermanÂ’s warning not to Â“report everyth ing,Â” resulting in an overload of useless data (p. 88). Data Analysis The researcher analyzed several forms of data inclu ding the School Performance Frameworks of secondary schools that CDE has assign ed the two lowest performance ratings, the Uniform Improvement Plans of schools t hat moved out of the two lowest ratings. The researcher transcribed the interviews into Microsoft word documents. All of the data is kept in a case study data base (Yin, 20 09, p. 101). The data base consists of the actual data collected as well as the field note s. The physical documents are stored in a secured area of the researcherÂ’s home, and electr onic documents are secured on the researcherÂ’s home computer.
54 The goal of data analysis is for the researcher to create meaning from the data collected and to answer the research questions (Mer riam, 2009, p. 175). Meaning is found once the data are reduced to understandable t hemes using the constant comparative method (Krathwohl, 1998, Merriam, 2009, Spradley, 1 979). In constant comparative method, the data is Â“coded in terms of the dimensio n or concepts of which there is an indicator (Krathwohl, 1998, p. 260). The researche r continues to develop the indicators of the concepts until they begin to repeat and are saturated. The concepts are synthesized to form a theory or explanation and the explanation is constantly compared to new data. (Krathwohl, 1998, p. 261). The first step is to co nstruct categories from the data by coding the data, first using open coding, writing d own words in columns that appear particularly important, relevant, or repetitive (Me rriam, 2009, p. 178). The open coding will then move into analytical coding where words t hat are derived from the coding are combined to more descriptive ideas and categories ( Merriam, p. 180). Eventually, the categories become themes where further details that emerge from the data can be sorted and compared to earlier categories (Merriam, 2009). The categories should relate to the research questions, Â“be exhaustive,Â” Â“be mutually e xclusive,Â” be sensitive to the data, and be conceptually congruent (Merriam, p. 186). The c ategories, and their interrelationships, will then become the findings o f the study (Merriam, p. 193). The researcher followed this methodology, coding the tr anscribed interviews, resulting into four themes. School Performance Frameworks and Unified Improveme nt Plans The SPFÂ’s for schools that are successful in moving out of the low categories were analyzed to determine where on the frameworks the schools had the most success
55 and where the schools still needed improvement. In reviewing the Unified Improvement Plans (UIPs), the researcher analyzed the identifie d performance challenges, the identified root causes, the major improvement strat egies, the identified resources, and the interim measures and benchmarks to determine what s trategies secondary schools have implemented to move out of the two lowest state rat ings. The researcher used open coding, pulling categories from the plans, synthesi zing the categories into themes, to determine an explanation of what schools are implem enting is to become academically successful. Other Documents The excel spreadsheet obtained through the CDE webs ite that lists schools and their ratings was be sorted by rating and school ty pe. The final draft of the spreadsheet contains only secondary schools that have been on t he two lowest plan types from 2009 through 2012 testing years. Charter schools, Innov ations schools, and on-line schools were sorted out as these schools are not part of th is study. School websites were reviewed for any additional evidence that could giv e insight to the schools that are identified as the lowest, and demographic evidence from the CDE website were collected to further describe the schools. Interviews When collecting data through interviews, the resear cher must remember to Â“bracketÂ” or reco gni ze his or her own assumptions during the interviews (Moustakas, 1994, p. 5). This is so the researcher can capture the participantsÂ’ true experience. Follow-up interviews may be necessary. Using the c onstant comparative method, the researcher read the transcript, coding the data, lo oking for words or phrases that stood
56 out. Categories formed four themes that answered t he research question: what are schools doing to move out of the lowest two state r atings? (Krathwohl, 1998, p.263). Validity and Reliability Rather than reliability, or the likelihood that th e study can be replicated, a qualitative study should be consistent with the dat a collected or dependable (Merriam, 2009, 221; Denscombe, 2010, p. 299). The researche r of this study is keeping an audit trail as part of the field notes that will outline the steps taken during data collection and analysis. The goal of qualitative research is not to create a replicable finding, because human behavior is never static (Merriam, 2009, p. 2 21). The researcher must ensure an authentic interpretation of the data in this study so that the findings are consistent. To ensure that the study is ethical, the researcher in formed the subjects of possible negative effects from participation in the study and of poss ible benefits from participation in the study (Merriam, 2009, p. 231). The transcripts wer e also cross-checked with field notes. Finally, the researcherÂ’s Â“identity, values, and b eliefsÂ” necessarily are involved in the qualitative process. Denscombe indicates that the researcher can either identify the bias and attempt to limit the impact of his or her beliefs on the study, or Â“come cleanÂ” about the researchers beliefs and the way the resea rch has been shaped by the researchers own experience (2010, p. 302). I am aware of my bi as as a former principal and attempted to limit any impact of my beliefs on this study. Chapter Summary This chapter summarizes why qualitative methodology and more specifically, the case study approach is utilized surrounding the res earch questions. In addition, this chapter addresses how data collection occurred thro ugh School Performance
57 Frameworks, Unified Improvement Plans, other docume nts, interviews, and field notes. The chapter describes how the data was analyzed usi ng the constant comparison method and how the data and findings are valid and reliabl e.
58 CHAPTER IV FINDINGS The first part of this chapter reports the findings of this study. It presents the demographics of secondary schools that the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has assigned either the Turnaround or Priority Impr ovement status for three consecutive school years (2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012), since the inception of the new state accountability system based upon t he School Performance Frameworks (SPF). The SPFÂ’s for the 2012-2013 scho ol year will not be publically available until December. The SPFÂ’s are largely de termined based upon TCAP scores, and postsecondary, and workforce readiness for high schools. Points are assigned in four separate categories on the SPF. The categorie s are as follows: (a) Academic Achievement, which are the actual TCAP scores ratin g a student advanced, proficient, partially proficient, or unsatisfactory; (b) Academ ic Growth scores where the school achieves a growth percentile score and the 50th gro wth percentile is the state average; (c) Academic Growth Gap scores that measure the gro wth percentiles of students who receive free and reduced lunch, minority students, students with a disability, English Language Learner (ELL) students, and students who h ave fallen behind in achievement and need to catch up; d) Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness, which is a combination of high school graduation rates, d rop-out rates and ACT scores and graduation rates. The schools that have received a Turnaround or Priority Improvement rating for the past three years are mov ing towards severe state sanctions, up to and including closure. This chapter also det ails the demographics of schools that have successfully moved out of the two lowest ratin gs. The schools' SPFs are also
59 analyzed to determine which categories on the SPF t he schools were able to earn the most points to move out of the two lowest categorie s. This chapter also reports on the major improvement strategies that staff of successf ul schools include in their Unified Improvement Plans (UIP) to determine strategies sch ools implemented to move their schools forward. Finally, the second section of th e chapter includes narratives and summaries of interviews of principals who lead scho ols that have moved out of the two lowest ratings. The research questions are add ressed at the end of this section. Characteristics of Secondary Schools Facing State S anctions This section will report on 31 secondary schools th at are facing Colorado Department of Education (CDE) sanctions because the schools have received a Turnaround or Priority Improvement rating for three consecutive years, beginning in the 2009-2010 school year (Colorado Department of E ducation, 2011). The schools can still rely on the recent 2012-2013 school year results, and the 2013-2014 school year to move out of the low ratings on the School P erformance Frameworks (SPF); however, if the schools remain in the two lowest ra tings the school will face state sanctions up to and including closure. The schools are listed in Table 6 and in Table 7 along with Ethnicity and Socioeconomic statistics ( Tables 8 and 9). School districts have already closed four low performing schools by choice. The schools that have closed are included in Table 6 but are removed from Table 7. If a school achieves a rating higher than Turnaround or Priority Improveme nt and then later moves back down into the two lowest ratings, the Â“sanction clo ckÂ” restarts. Because the 2013 School Performance Frameworks will not be publicly released until December, schools identified in this study may have moved int o higher ratings at this time.
60 School Regional Location While secondary schools that face sanctions are lo cated throughout Colorado, only urban high schools in the Denver metro area an d the urban suburbs are in danger of closing because these schools have been in the T urnaround or Priority Improvement category for the past three years (Table 6). One r ural combination Junior/Senior high school is on the list. Middle schools facing clos ure are located throughout the state. Eight high schools that are failing state standards are located in Denver, Commerce City, Westminster, and Aurora. Four of the high s chools are alternative schools. The position of middle schools is equally as bleak. CD E has rated five Denver metro and urban area middle schools in the two lowest categor ies of accountability, with an additional two middle schools closing. The Pueblo area serves four middle schools that are facing low ratings; the rural areas have f ive middle schools that are struggling with low scores. The Colorado Springs area has one middle school facing sanctions and Greeley serves two middle schools that have had consistently low scores. Urban schools are overwhelmingly impacted by the stateÂ’s accountability system; however, the consequences are affecting rural areas as well.
61 Table 6 School Region Location School Name District School Type Colorado High School Denver County 1 H-Alt Florence Crittenton High School Denver County 1 HAlt Life Skills Center of Denver (closed) Denver Count y 1 H-Alt Lester Arnold High School Adams County 14 H-Alt Adams City High School Adams County 14 H Aurora Central High School Adams-Arapahoe 28J H Montbello High School Denver County 1 H Westminster High School Westminster 50 H West High School Denver County 1 H Aguilar Junior-Senior High School Aguilar Reorganiz ed 6 MH Antonito Middle School South Conejos RE-10 M Franklin Middle School Greeley 6 M Freed Middle School Pueblo City 60 M Fremont Middle School Fremont RE-2 M Holyoke Junior High School (closed) Holyoke RE-1J M Iver C. Ranum Middle School Westminster 50 M Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy Colorado Springs 11 M James H. Risley Middle School Pueblo City 60 M John Evans Middle School Greeley 8 M Julesburg Insight School of Colorado at Julesburg Julesburg RE-1 MH Las Animas Junior High School Las Animas RE-1 M Lemuel Pitts Middle School Pueblo City 60 M M. Scott Carpenter Middle School Westminster 50 M Manny Martinez Middle School (closed) Denver Count 1 M P.R.E.P. (Positive Refocus Education Program) Denver County 1 MH Rachel B. Noel Middle School Denver County 1 M Rishel Middle School (closed) Denver County 1 M Roncalli Middle School Pueblo City 60 M Shaw Heights Middle School Westminster 50 M Sierra Grande Middle School Sierra Grande R-30 M Smiley Middle School Denver County 1 M (Colorado Department of Education, 2011).
62 School Enrollment School enrollment amongst the schools in danger of state sanctions is inconsistent (Table 7). The three alternative high schools in this category vary slightly hovering around 200 students, with Lester Arnold Hi gh School reaching 256 students enrolled. The high schools range from three large urban schools, Westminster High School enrolled at 2398 students, Aurora Central Hi gh School enrolled at 2270 students, and Adams City High School enrolled at 17 48 students. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Montbello High School houses 831 s tudents and West High School serves 526 students. Middle school enrollment of s chools that are facing sanctions evidences an even greater disparity in numbers. Th e largest middle school houses 885 students and the smallest middle school serves 31 s tudents. The disparity is most likely explained by the diverse regional location o f middle schools that are facing sanctions. One middle school serves 360 students; the remaining four schools serve fewer than 65 students. Urban middle schools serve approximately between 500 and 800 students while the Pueblo area school educates 559 middle school students. Enrollment does not appear to be a consistent facto r determining student achievement in terms of CDE school ratings.
63 Table 7 Student Enrollment School Name District School Type Count Colorado High School Denver County 1 H-Alt 177 Florence Crittenton High School Denver County 1 HAlt 126 Lester Arnold High School Adams County 14 H-Alt 256 Adams City High School Adams County 14 H 1748 Aurora Central High School Adams-Arapahoe 28J H 2270 Montbello High School Denver County 1 H 831 Westminster High School Westminster 50 H 2398 West High School Denver County 1 H 526 Aguilar Junior-Senior High School Aguilar Reorganized 6 MH 31 Antonito Middle School South Conejos RE-10 M 39 Franklin Middle School Greely 6 M 768 Freed Middle School Pueblo City 60 M 291 Fremont Middle School Fremont RE-2 M 360 Iver C. Ranum Middle School Westminster 50 M 812 Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy Colorado Springs 11 M 491 James H. Risley Middle School Pueblo City 60 M 355 John Evans Middle School Greeley 8 M 651 Julesburg Insight School of Colorado at Julesburg Julesburg RE-1 MH 885 Las Animas Junior High School Las Animas RE-1 M 64 Lemuel Pitts Middle School Pueblo City 60 M 254 M. Scott Carpenter Middle School Westminster 50 M 566 P.R.E.P. (Positive Refocus Education Program) Denver County 1 MH 113 Rachel B. Noel Middle School Denver County 1 M 210 Roncalli Middle School Pueblo City 60 M 559 Shaw Heights Middle School Westminster 50 M 648 Sierra Grande Middle School Sierra Grande R-30 M 65 Smiley Middle School Denver County 1 M 206 (Colorado Department of Education, 2011).
64 Student Ethnicity There are very little measureable populations of s tudents of American Indian, Alaskan Native identity or Asian identity who atten d the schools that are facing sanctions (Table 8). CDE does not report populatio ns of students that are under 20. Only five schools on the list serve a small percent age of Black or African American students. Colorado County High School serves 26.50 % of its population who are Black or African American, Aurora Central High Scho ol serves 15.24% of its population, West High School serves only 9.69% of B lack or African American students, Adams City High School serves only 2.86% of its population that is Black or African American students, and Montbello High Schoo l serves 24.90% students who are Black or African American students. Eight scho ols that are low performing serve a population that is at least 80% Latino/a and 13 of the 27 schools, almost half of the schools, serve a population that consists of at lea st 70% of Latino/a children. Only two schools on the low performing list serve a majo rity white population, Julesburg Insight School and Fremont Middle School, which is a mountain community school.
65 Table 8 Student Ethnicity School Name American Indian or Alaskan Native Asian Black or African American Hispanic or Latino White Two or More Races Colorado High School N<20 N<20 26.56% 63.27% N<20 N<20 Florence Crittenton High School N<20 N<20 N<20 83.33% N<20 N<20 Lester Arnold High School N<20 N<20 N<20 81.64% N<20 N<20 Adams City High School N<20 N<20 2.86% 83.23% 12.41% N<20 Aurora Central High School N<20 4.93% 15.24% 67.04% 6.65% 2.1 % Montbello High School N<20 N<20 24.90% 36.30% 4.33% N<20 Westminster High School .9% 6.25% 1.5% 71.92% 17.59% 1.4 % West High School N<20 N<20 9.69% 87.26% N<20 N<20 Aguilar Junior-Senior High School N<20 N<20 N<20 N<20 N<20 N<20 Antonito Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 92.30% N<20 N<20 Franklin Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 78.25% 18.76% N<20 Freed Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 65.97% 29.55% N<20 Fremont Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 17.77% 78.05% N<20 Iver C. Ranum Middle School N<20 5.54% N<20 78.87% 13.82% N<20 Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy N<20 N<20 12.62% 54.98% 22.40% 7.1 % James H. Risley Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 90.53% 6.76% N<20
66 School Name American Indian or Alaskan Native Asian Black or African American Hispanic or Latino White Two or More Races John Evans Middle School N<20 5.06% N<20 73.57% 16.58% N<20 Julesburg Insight School of Colorado at Julesburg 2.48% N<20 3.61% 20% 72.31% N<20 Las Animas Junior High School N<20 N<20 N<20 51.56% 31.24% N<20 Lemuel Pitts Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 68.68% 22.44% N<20 M. Scott Carpenter Middle School N<20 5.47% N<20 82.86% 9.36% N<20 P.R.E.P. (Positive Refocus Education Program) N<20 N<20 30.97% 63.71% N<20 N<20 Rachel B. Noel Middle School N<20 N<20 25.71% 69.53% N<20 N <20 Roncalli Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 71.37% 24.50% N<20 Shaw Heights Middle School N<20 5.70% N<20 43.67% 29.93% N<20 Sierra Grande Middle School N<20 56.92% N<20 81.93% N<20 N<20 Smiley Middle School N<20 N<20 47.57% 32.52% 13.59% N<20 (Statistics found at Colorado Department of Educati on website) Note: The ethnic category of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Island ers is not included in this table. No school had this ethnic group in attendance.
67 Socioeconomic Status of Students After reviewing the Free and Reduced Lunch statist ics on the CDE website, I determined that the median free and reduced lunch p ercentage for all schools in Colorado is 42.94% and the mean percentage is 45.02 %. These facts indicate that the poverty levels of the schools facing state sanction s are severe (Table 9). The lowest poverty level of the 27 schools is 40.11% and the h ighest is 96.34%. Of the 27 school that are low performing, 16 schools serve 80% or mo re students and families who qualify for free or reduced lunches. In order to q ualify for the federal program, the family must be well below poverty guidelines. Twe nty-two schools serve families where above 70% qualify for free or reduced lunches
68 Table 9 Socioeconomic Status of Students School Name School Type F&R Colorado High School H-Alt 60.45% Florence Crittenton High School H-Alt 87.30% Lester Arnold High School H-Alt 51.56% Aurora Central High School H 72.42% Westminster High School H 78.32% West High School H 84.41% Adams City High School H 75.11% Montbello High School H 82.07% Smiley Middle School M 81.07% Fremont Middle School M 52.50% Franklin Middle School M 83.33% Las Animas Junior High School M 81.25% Sierra Grande Middle School M 89.23% Shaw Heights Middle School M 78.40% Roncalli Middle School M 76.39% Iver C. Ranum Middle School M 89.04% M. Scott Carpenter Middle School M 90.11% Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy M 86.15% Rachel B. Noel Middle School M 88.57% John Evans Middle School M 85.87% Freed Middle School M 76.29% James H. Risley Middle School M 96.34% Lemuel Pitts Middle School M 89.37% Antonito Middle School M 66.67% P.R.E.P. (Positive Refocus Education Program) MH 83 .87% Aguilar Junior-Senior High School MH 83.87% JULESBURG Insight School of Colorado at Julesburg M H 40.11% (Colorado Department of Education, 2011).
69 Summary of Findings The majority of secondary schools that face state s anctions due to the CDE ratings are located in the Denver Metro area, inclu ding Aurora, Commerce City, and Westminster. The second most populated of the low performing schools is the Pueblo area. Schools facing possible sanctions also are l ocated in Colorado Springs, Greeley, and rural mountain areas. Enrollment in these scho ols varies widely. Three schools serve above 1500 students. Several middle schools t hat are rated in the Turnaround or Priority Improvement categories enroll above 800, w hile many of the rural schools serve about 60 students. Urban middle school typic al enrollment is 400 to 800 students. A high percentage of students who atten d schools that are in danger of sanctions are predominately students who live below poverty guidelines. In terms of student ethnicity, urban schools on Turnaround or P riority Improvement serve a high population of Latino/a population. Eight schools t hat are low performing serve a population that is at least 80% Latino/a and 13 of the 27 schools, almost half of the schools, serve a population that consists of at lea st 70% of Latino/a children. Only two schools on the low performing list serve a majo rity white population. A high percentage of students who attend schools that are in danger of sanctions are predominately students who live below poverty guide lines. Of the 27 schools, 16 of the schools serve students where 80% or more of the families qualify for free or reduced lunches and 22 of the school serve families where 70% or more qualify for free or reduced lunches. The medium rate for free and reduced lunches in Colorado is 42.94% and the mean percentage is 45.02%. Schools facing state sanctions are primarily schools that are serving high minority/hi gh poverty areas.
70 Strategies of Schools That Have Moved Out of Turnar ound or Priority Improvement The future for schools that currently have receive d one of the two lowest accreditation ratings in the state appear to be ten uous, however, 19 schools were similarly situated, and have moved out of the two l owest ratings in the 2011-2012 school year. The schools include six high schools, two middle school-high school combination schools, ten middle schools, and one al ternative school that is a combined middle school-high school. This section examines t he demographics of the schools and compares the statistics to schools that remain on Priority Improvement or Turnaround categories. The School Performance Fram eworks (SPFs) are analyzed to determine areas where schools made the most growth. The section also discusses the improvement strategies of the school's most recent Unified Improvement Plans (UIP) to determine the types of reforms the successful sc hools are implementing. Finally, the results of interviews with six principals who h ave lead these schools are reported, resulting in a framework for successful strategies for moving Colorado schools out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement status. School Regional Location Similar to the schools that remain on the five-yea r time clock and are moving toward state sanctions, schools that have moved out of the two lowest categories have various regional characteristics (Table 10). High schools that have moved out of the two lowest ratings are located in both rural and De nver metro areas. One high school is located in Denver, one in Fort Morgan, one schoo l is located in Pueblo, and two are found in mountain areas. Four schools are located to the north of the Denver metro
71 area, including Fort Morgan, and Hayden. Other urb an secondary schools are located in the Denver metro area, Jefferson County, Englewo od, and Sheridan. The one alternative school is located in the Colorado Sprin gs area. When analyzing the regional location of middle schools and middles sch ool-high school combination schools, the first notable finding is that six scho ols are located in rural mountain areas. The Denver metro area, including Jefferson County a nd Sheridan moved five middle schools out of the two lowest categories. Successf ul middle schools are located in the Colorado Springs area, St. Vrain, Brighton, and Pue blo areas. The schools that have moved out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement ten d to be located more evenly across the state, with a large number of schools lo cated in the mountain areas. Table 10 Improved School Regional Location School Name District School Type Alameda High School Jefferson County R-1 H Carmel Middle School Harrison M Creighton Middle School Jefferson County R-1 M Englewood High School Englewood 1 H Fort Morgan High School Fort Morgan RE-3 H Genoa-Hugo Middle School Genoa-Hugo C113 M Hayden Middle School Hayden Re-1 M Heritage Middle School St. Vrain Valley RE 1J M Ignacio High School Ignacio 11 JT H Manzanola Junior-Senior High School Manzanola 3J MH North High School Denver County 1 H Otho E. Stuart Middle School Brighton 27J M Patriot Learning Center Falcon 49 MH Alt Pueblo County High School Pueblo County 70 H Rangely Junior/Senior High School Rangely RE-4 MH Sheridan Middle School Sheridan 2 M Skinner Middle School Denver 1 M Soroco Middle School South Routt RE 3 M W. H. Heaton Middle School Pueblo City 60 M (Colorado Department of Education, 2011).
72 School Enrollment School enrollment in the schools that have success fully moved out of the two lowest state ratings is slightly different from the schools that are still low performing (Table 11). The first notable difference is that t he largest school enrolls 899 students compared to the Westminster High School that has be en on Priority Improvement for three consecutive years and serves 2398 students. North High School, an improved Denver school, enrolls 899 students. In addition, of the 19 schools that have improved, four schools are small rural schools that house anywhere from 35 students to 89 students. The remainder of the middle school s appear to be of average size ranging from enrolling approximately 200 students u p to enrolling 721 students.
73 Table 11 Improved School Student Enrollment School District Enrollment Alameda High School Jefferson County R-1 832 Carmel Middle School Harrison 407 Creighton Middle School Jefferson County R-1 719 Englewood High School Englewood1 630 Fort Morgan High School Fort Morgan Re-3 630 Genoa-Hugo Middle School Genoa-Hugo C113 35 Hayden Middle School Hayden Re-1 89 Heritage Middle School St Vrain Valley RE 1J 414 Ignacio High School Ignocio 11 JT 212 Manzanola Junior-Senior High School Manzanola 3J 73 North High School Denver County 1 899 Otho E. Stuart Middle School Brighton 27J 585 Patriot Learning Center Falcon 49 244 Pueblo County High School Pueblo County 70 869 Rangely Junior/Senior High School Rangely RE-4 233 Sheridan Middle School Sheridan 2 296 Skinner Middle School Denver 1 372 Soroco Middle School South Routt RE 3 89 W H Heaton Middle School Pueblo City 60 721 (Colorado Department of Education, 2011).
74 Student Ethnicity The most notable difference in the schools that ha ve moved out of the endangered status is that eight out of nineteen sch ools had a population of 50% or more of White students where two out of the 27 scho ols that are still in danger of sanctions serve a population of 50% or more of Whit e students (Table 12). Schools with a higher White population are making more prog ress than the minority schools. However, several schools on the improvement list do serve high Latino/a populations: Heritage Middle School has an enrollment of 82% Lat ino/a students, North High School has an enrollment of 85%, Sheridan Middle Sc hool has an enrollment of 76% students, and W.H. Heaton Middle School has an enro llment of 71% students. Only Carmel Middle School, and Alemeda Middle School, se rves a measureable population of Asian students. Several schools serve low popul ations of Black or African American students.
75 Table 12 Improved School Student Ethnicity School Name American Indian or Alaskan Native Asian Black or African American Hispanic or Latino White Two or More Races Alameda High School N<20 7.45% 3% 67.90% 7.42% 2.7% Carmel Middle School N<20 8.84% 15.97% 45.70% 27.76% N<20 Creighton Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 20.30% 24.47% N<20 Englewood High School N<20 N<20 4.60% 31.58% 59.04% N<20 Fort Morgan High School N<20 N<20 4.65% 60.14% 36.75% N<20 Genoa-Hugo Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 N<20 97.14% N<20 Hayden Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 N<20 83.14% N<20 Heritage Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 82.12% 13.28% N<20 Ignacio High School 32.54% N<20 N<20 21.69% 55.18% N<20 Manzanola Junior-Senior High School N<20 N<20 N<20 67.12% 32.87% N<20 North High School N<20 N<20 4.33% 85.20% 7.23% N<20 Otho E. Stuart Middle School N<20 N<20 4.94% 43.61% 44.46% N<20 Patriot Learning Center N<20 N<20 8.60% 20.49% 61.47% N<20 Pueblo County High School N<20 N<20 N<20 36.70% 61.21% N<20 Rangely Junior/Senior High School N<20 N<20 N<20 11.15% 86.69% N<20 Sheridan Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 76.68% 15.54% 7.1% Skinner Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 70.96% 20.16% N<20 Soroco Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 N<20 88.76% N<20
76 School Name American Indian or Alaskan Native Asian Black or African American Hispanic or Latino White Two or More Races W. H. Heaton Middle School N<20 N<20 N<20 71.15% 25.24% N<20 (Statistics found at Colorado Department of Educati on website) Note: The ethnic category of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Island ers is not included in this table. No school had this ethnic group in attendance. Socioeconomic Status of Students The percentage of schools serving students receivi ng free and reduced that have received the stateÂ’s lowest accountability rat ings for three consecutive years are similar to the schools that have moved out of the l ow ratings (Table 13). Earlier, I discussed that the median free and reduced percenta ge for all schools in Colorado is 42.94% and the mean percentage is 45.02%. Of the s chools that have successfully moved out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement sta tus, 14 schools enroll families where over 45% qualify for free or reduced lunch. Six of these schools serve over 80% of students who qualify for free or reduced lun ch. Heritage Middle SchoolÂ’s free and reduced lunch statistic is the highest at 87.68 %. The lowest number of students receiving free and reduced lunch attend Patriot Lea rning Center, which is 25% of students.
77 Table 13 Improved School Socioeconomic Status of Students School Name District F&R Alameda High School Jefferson County R-1 80.17% Carmel Middle School Harrison 81.57% Creighton Middle School Jefferson County R-1 58.41% Englewood High School Englewood1 47.14% Fort Morgan High School Fort Morgan RE-3 57.26% Genoa-Hugo Middle School Genoa Hugo C113 51.43% Hayden Middle School Hayden Re-1 42.70% Heritage Middle School Vrain Valley RE 1J 87.68% Ignacio High School Ignacio 11 JT 49.30% Manzanola Junior-Senior High School Manzanola 3J 76.71% North High School Denver County 1 85.65% Otho E. Stuart Middle School Brighton 27J 36.30% Patriot Learning Center Falcon 49 25% Pueblo County High School Pueblo County 70 48.45% Rangely Junior/Senior High School Rangely RE-4 25.75% Sheridan Middle School Sheridan 2 80.2 Skinner Middle School Denver 1 81.45% Soroco Middle School South Routt RE 3 41.57% W H Heaton Middle School Pueblo City 60 73.79% (Colorado Department of Education, 2011). School Performance Frameworks and Unified Improveme nt Plans The School Performance Frameworks are published on the Colorado Department of EducationÂ’s website for years 2010, 2 011, 2012 and disclose the accountability rating of each school based upon a p oint system. Points are earned as the result of the CSAP and now TCAP test, and the E nglish Language Proficiency test. High schools also earn points in the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness category based upon ACT tests, graduation and drop-out rates The state rates schools based upon academic achievement, academic growth, and aca demic growth gaps for students receiving free and reduced lunch, minority students students with disabilities, English
78 Language Learners (ELL), students who have fallen b ehind and need to catch up, and post-secondary readiness for high schools. Schools that reach an overall point score of 33 move out of the Turnaround category into the Pri ority Improvement category. Schools that reach an overall point score of 47 mov e out of the Priority Improvement Category into the Improvement Category. Schools th at reach an overall point score of 60 move out of the Improvement category into the Pe rformance category. CDE provides a rating in relation to state expectations in addition to a point total for individual indicators on the SPF. The ratings are Â“does not meet,Â” Â“approaching,Â” Â“meets,Â” and Â“exceeds.Â” CDE will begin taking sanc tions or corrective action when a school has been in the lowest two categories for fi ve consecutive years. However, if a school moves out of the lowest two categories, and then returns to either of the Priority Improvement or Turnaround categories, the five-year time clock restarts. Schools then write a Unified Improvement Plan (UIP) that indicat es how the school plans to move the school forward academically. The UIP is a CDE created template. The UIP's that I read for this paper ranged from 18 pages to 78 pa ges. Alameda High School is a school that was rated Tur naround not because of its SPF score, which was 42.4 and would have placed it in the Priority Improvement Category, but because the school did not meet the 9 5% participation rate, which drops the school to one category below the point rating. The 95% participation rate requires that at least 95% of students being tested actually complete the TCAP or ACT tests. The school also showed low student achievement in 2 010 and overall student growth in the 30th and 40th growth percentiles. The gradu ation rate of 73.5% was rated as "approaching," but the ACT score of 16.5 was rated as "does not meet." In 2011, the
79 school was categorized as Priority Improvement; as even though the achievement, growth and Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness sc ores did not increase significantly, the school did meet the participatio n rate. In 2012, the school reached Improvement status with significant improvement in achievement and growth gap percentile scores in the 50's. In addition, the sc hoolÂ’s graduation rate reached the CDE "meets" rating. Alameda High School's 2012-2013 UI P indicates that the school is not using data to drive instruction and that the Englis h Language Acquisition (ELA) teachers have not received training in reading. Th e school plans to implement a systematic data driven dialogue cycle and provide E LA teachers with more professional development. Carmel Middle School achieved a dramatic growth in overall points scored between 2010 and 2012. In 2010 and 2011, the schoo l received the Priority Improvement rating. In 2010, the school received a score of 46.3; a school needs a score of 47 to move into the Improvement category, the next highest category. In 2011, the school once again received a Priority Imp rovement rating as the score dropped to 42.7. The schoolÂ’s lowest area of growt h, where schools can achieve the most points, was in math where growth was 57th growth percentile in 2010 and 33rd growth percentile in 2011. The state average in gr owth percentile is 50. In 2012, the school overall points increased dramatically from 4 2.7 points to 81.4 points, moving the school past the Improvement rating into the Per formance rating. The growth scores increased in reading to the 61st growth perc entile, the 73rd growth percentile in math, and 56th growth percentile in writing. The g rowth percentile scores increased in all of the growth gaps areas as well.
80 Carmel Middle School's 2012 -2013 UIP indicates tha t the school has found that writing, reading, and effective instruction ar e the major challenges that the school must address. The school's focus for further impro vement centers on curriculum alignment and instruction. The school identifies t he root causes of the major challenges as follows: Â“(a) the writing growth and academic achievement is not as high as other content areas; (b) students are so fa r behind in basic reading that there are competing intereststeaching students to read and teaching language arts; (c) lower scores because of ineffective instructionÂ” (Colorad o Department of Education, 2012. Unified Improvement Plans). The improvement strateg ies are as follows: Â“(a) alignment of writing curriculum to Colorado standar ds; ensure time is spent during language arts classes for writing and ensure other contents are integrating writing; (b) ensure more cohesion with learn to read strategies and Language Arts instruction; (c) improve classroom instruction.Â” (Colorado Departmen t of Education, 2012. Unified Improvement Plans). The school focus on curriculum and instruction has resulted in a substantial increase in scores both in academic ach ievement and in student growth in the past three years. Creighton Middle SchoolÂ’s success has not been as high as Carmel Middle SchoolÂ’s growth, and the school still is struggling The school earned a Priority Improvement rating in 2010 with a score of 42.5. T he major academic issue with the school was in the growth gaps with free and reduced lunch students, minority students, English Language Learners, and students needing to catch up. The growth percentiles in these categories were between the 30Â’s and 40Â’s, whereas the state average is the 50th growth percentile. In 2011, Creighton Middle School moved up to the
81 Improvement rating with a score of 50.4 and out of the two lowest categories that would require sanctions. The academic growth gaps improved in 2011 to growth percentiles between 40 and 50. In 2012, the school s overall score dropped to 47, which is the cut score for the Improvement rating; the school barely maintained its Improvement rating. The area of struggle for the 2 012 school year was once again the growth gap scores, particularly in reading, where t he scores fell to the 37th growth percentile for students receiving free or reduced l unches, the 35th growth percentile for minority students, 39th growth percentile for E nglish Language Learners, and 33rd growth percentile for students needing to catch up. Creighton Middle School identified the root causes that underlies the school's challenges in the school's 2012-2013 UIP as follows : (a) in order to meet the needs of our diverse learn ers, teachers need to deepen their understanding of curriculum, instruction, and assessment practice; (b) lack of implementation of systemic instructional pr actices; (c) instruction and assessment are not consistently aligned to grade le vel expectations and rigor. The school determined to implement the improvement strategies in the UIP as follows: (a) implement Frameworks for Mathematics Instructio n to improve alignment to grade level expectations and mathematical rigor; (b) impl ement the Reading Workshop Framework in all Reading Language Arts classes; (c) embed direct reading and writing instruction into all Social Studies and Science cla ssrooms. Once again, this school is determined to focus on curriculum and instruction t o move the school forward in student achievement.
82 Englewood High SchoolÂ’s three-year history of Scho ol Performance Frameworks (SPF) presents an interesting history of accountability. The 2010 overall SPF score was 50.1, yet CDE placed the school into the Priority Improvement rating category; the cut score for the Improvement categor y is 47 points as the school did not reach the required 95% participation rate. The SPF states in the fine print that if a school does not meet the participation rate, the sc hool is assigned one plan type lower than the schoolÂ’s points indicate. Even though Eng lewood High School scored points that would have placed the school in the Improvemen t category, the school was placed on Priority Improvement because the school did not meet the participation rate. In 2011, the school did meet the participation rate, r aised the overall score from 50.1 points to 53.4 points, and earned the Improvement r ating. In 2012, the schools points dropped to 48.3 points, which moved it dangerously close to the Priority Improvement category once again. EnglewoodÂ’s major improvement strategies include improving the progress monitoring of students, shifting writi ng instruction to align with the common core, and implementing a shared leadership m odel. Fort Morgan High SchoolÂ’s accountability history a lso illustrates another interesting aspect of the Colorado Accountability S ystem; CDE will use the overall point total from its current yearÂ’s SPF, or the com bined scores from the most recent three yearsÂ’ SPFs depending on which SPF has the mo st performance indicators, and the highest point total. In 2010, Fort Morgan High School received a score of 45.2 and a rating of Priority Improvement on its three-year rating. The schoolÂ’s lowest area was in academic growth for minority students. In 2011, they received a score of 54.9, moving their rating to Improvement. In 2012, the s choolÂ’s one-year score dropped to
83 44.7, which would have placed the school back down to Priority Improvement, however as the schoolÂ’s combined three-year scores on the three-year SPF in 2012 was 50.6, this kept the school in the Improvement categ ory. Fort Morgan High School identified in the 2012-2013 UIP that the root cause s of the school's major challenges were the lack of CSAP preparation, the lack of pare nt communication, and the lack of consistent grading practices. The UIP major improv ement strategies include aligning curriculum with state standards, continue to develo p common formative assessments, and continue providing additional support for stude nts who are not proficient in reading, writing or math on the TCAP tests. Genoa-Hugo Middle School struggled in math for two years, and then the school rose from Priority Improvement to Improvemen t in 2012. In 2010, the schools overall rating on the SPF was 37.5, ten full points below the Improvement cut point. The school achieved a 24th growth percentile in mat h. The school did not have enough students, at least 20, to measure growth in the growth gap categories. In 2011, Genoa-Hugo Middle SchoolÂ’s overall score increased to 39.6; the math growth percentile decreased to 15, but the writing growth percentile increased slightly. However, in 2012, the math growth percentile increa sed sharply to 49, bringing the overall SPF score to 54.2, and moving the school ou t of Priority Improvement and into the Improvement category. The school identified tw o areas of root causes for its challenges on the school's 2012-2013 UIP. The firs t is writing. The school indicated that students typically only write in Language Arts classes and need to write across the curriculum. In addition, the school realized that math is an issue and students need to develop problem-solving skills. The three major im provement strategies were
84 implementation of 6-trait writing strategies, work on problem solving skills, and ensure that teachers work collaboratively. Hayden Middle School quickly moved out of the Prio rity Improvement rating of 2010 into the Improvement rating in 2011, and su stained that rating in 2012. In 2010, the schoolÂ’s overall rating was 35.5, with th e students receiving free and reduced lunches scoring in the 21st growth percenti le in reading, in the 17th growth percentile in math, and in the 21st growth percenti le in writing. In 2011, the school achieved the Improvement rating by moving the stude nts receiving free and reduced lunches growth percentile scores in reading to 52, in math to 63, and in writing to 38. The school maintained the same overall SPF score in 2012 of 54.2. Hayden is also a small school where the district UIP incorporates th e schools within the district. Although the district's 2012-2013 UIP is general, i t does apply to the middle school. The identified root causes of the major challenges include the lack of consistency in adopting the common core standards and common asses sments, inconsistent use of data and instructional practices, and the lack of s tudent ownership of learning. The three major improvement strategies are strengthenin g professional learning communities, focusing on effective classroom practi ces and data driven instruction, and creating student ownership of learning. Heritage Middle School scored the lowest in 2010 i n growth gap percentiles for students with disabilities in math with a growt h percentile score of 37 and reading with a growth percentile score of 19. In 2010, the schoolÂ’s overall SPF score was 44.5, placing the school in the Priority Improvemen t category. In 2011, little change occurred and the school remained in the Priority Im provement category. Finally, in
85 2012, the School reached the Improvement category w ith an overall score of 51.3. The schoolÂ’s largest area of gains was with ELL stu dents where they were rated in the Â“exceedsÂ” category in growth with an overall score for ELL students of 64th growth percentile. The 2012-2013 UIP indicates that the r oot causes for the challenges in reading and math are "low expectations for students ", "lack of targeted instructional strategies for students on IEPs, those of poverty, and English Language Learners in all curricular areas," "lack of core instructional minu tes," and a "lack of direct support for at-risk studentsÂ” (Colorado Department of Education 2012. Unified Improvement Plans). The school's major improvement strategies include providing sheltered instruction in all content areas and focusing on EL L students, providing additional instructional minutes in core areas, and focusing o n rigor. The school increased instructional minutes by changing the master schedu le to allow for 45 additional minutes of reading and math instruction daily and b y providing after school intervention hours. Ignacio High School was able to move from Priority Improvement in 2010 to Improvement in 2012 by increasing the growth percen tile score for minority students in reading to 51. The overall SPF in 2010 was 44.3 then the school the increased the category to Improvement in 2011 to Improvement with a score of 49.6 by realizing a 50th growth percentile for minority students in rea ding and in the 53rd growth percentile for students receiving free and reduced lunch. The school maintained the Improvement rating in 2012 with an overall score of 49.5, with equally as high growth percentile scores for minority students and student s receiving free and reduced lunch. The school did not have enrolled over 20 students w ho were considered disabled or
86 ELL students; so accordingly, the school did not re ceive points in those growth gap categories. Ignacio High School is another small s chool that is incorporated into the district wide 2012-2013 UIP. The focus of the dist rict UIP is creating a district wide accountability system and improving curriculum and instruction by aligning curriculum with the common core standards. Manzanola Junior Senior High School is a small mou ntain school. The student school does not enroll enough students, over 20, fo r the state to determine student growth for sub groups (students qualifying for free and reduced lunches, minority students, students who have a disability, and ELL s tudents.) In 2010, the school enrolled 72 students, scored 38.6 on the SPF and sc ored in the Priority Improvement category. Only 8.3% of the students were proficien t or advanced in math. The highest overall content growth area was writing with a 63rd growth percentile and the lowest growth content area was reading with a 45th growth percentile. In 2011, student enrollment dropped to only 48 students, but the sch ool moved to the Improvement category with an overall score of 54.5. In 2012, t he school barely reached the Improvement rating with an overall score of 47.4. The student enrollment increased to 66 students in 2012. Academic achievement in math went up to 18.18% proficient or advanced students, but reading scores fell to 9.09% of students who were proficient and advanced. Once again, Manzanola Junior/Senior High School is a small school that is incorporated into the district 2012-2013 UI P. The district UIP indicates that the schools have already incorporated more time during the school day for instruction in math and reading, and plans to further align curric ulum, instruction, and assessments with the new state standards.
87 The one Denver high school on the list of schools that has moved out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement, North High Scho ol, moved from the Priority Improvement category in 2010 with a SPF score of 40 .50 to the Improvement category in 2012 and an overall SPF score of 50.9. In 2010, only 9.2% of North High School's 9th and 10th grade students, the only grades of hig h school students that take the CSAP/TCAP tests, scored proficient or advanced in m ath. However, the school's weakest area on the SPF was in the Postsecondary an d Workforce Readiness scores. The graduation rate was 58.2%; the state expectatio n for high school graduation rates is 80%. The school's ACT score was 15.5, and the s tate expectation is 17. In 2011, the school's overall SPF rating dropped slightly to 40.2 and the school remained in the Priority Improvement category. The school dropped in the growth gaps area for students with a disability to the 38th growth perce ntile in reading the 33rd growth percentile in writing. The academic achievement in math did increase slightly to 11.19% students proficient or advanced. The Postse condary and Workforce Readiness scores remained flat and received the "does not mee t" rating. North High School realized a ten point overall SPF improvement in 201 2, moving the school into the Improvement category. The academic achievement in math did not increase, but the overall growth scores in math increased to 55th gro wth percentile and in writing the school reached the 63rd growth percentile. The sch ool also increased in the growth gap areas. In math, students with disabilities ach ieved the 62nd growth percentile, minority students achieved the 55th growth percenti le, and ELL students achieved the 54th growth percentile. The growth percentile in w riting for all subgroups increased as well. The graduation and dropout rates also imp roved.
88 North High School's 2012-2013 UIP identifies the r oot causes of its academic challenges as follows: (a) insufficient and/or inconsistent professional d evelopment on school wide strategies to support critical thinking and effecti ve instruction; (b) lack of consistent progress monitoring systems; (c) insu fficient and/or inconsistent professional development on school wide strategies to support critical thinking and effective instruction; (d) Limited community ou treach and effort to engage families in the school community (Colorado Departme nt of Education, 2012. Unified Improvement Plans). The major improvement strategies include the follow ing: (a) change the master schedule to allow for more instructional minutes in reading, math and writing and adding a Saturday school; (b) provide more time fo r professional development communities for teacher collaboration to improve in struction;(c) change structures and providing more instructional time to support colleg e readiness and (d)increase parent engagement by developing a shared mission statement recreating the website, and implementing a home visit program. Otho E. Stuart Middle School, located in Brighton, also achieved a ten-point gain between 2010 and 2012 on the SPF and the schoo l moved from the Priority Improvement category to the Improvement category fr om 2010 to 2011, and was able to maintain the Improvement rating in 2012. In 201 0, the school was ten points away from Improvement with a SPF score of 37.1 because o f overall low growth; especially low was the growth for minority students in math wh ich was at the 34th growth percentile and in writing the growth for all sub gr oups was below the 40th growth
89 percentile. When the school moved to Improvement i n 2011, it achieved a SPF score of 51.3, and the school's growth scores improved in all areas. In subgroups, reading growth percentiles were in the 50's and 60's, and i n writing, ELL students' growth percentile was 61. In 2012, the SPF points dropped only slightly to 48.2, and the school maintained the growth scores, except that st udents receiving free and reduced lunches dropped to the 39th growth percentile. Th e major improvement strategies include implement systems and structures that suppo rt instruction and align curriculum to the district learning targets. Patriot Learning Center, an alternative school, mo ved out of one of the lowest overall SPF ratings of 25.2 points and Turnaround s tatus in 2010, to a score of 54.3 and Performance status in 2012. In 2010, Patriot L earning Center was faced with low student achievement, a dropout rate of 11.31, and a graduation rate of 50%. In 2011, the school moved to Performance and a SPF score of 43.4 by increasing student growth, including math growth in the 59th growth pe rcentile, increasing the graduation rate, and lowering the drop-out rate to 4.9. The s chool sustained the achievement in 2012 and the Performance rating with a SPF score of 54.3. Patriot Learning Center's 2012-2013 UIP indicates that school plans to align instruction to close the gap for ACT scores. Another school, in addition to Carmel Middle Schoo l that has moved two categories, from the Priority Improvement category to the Performance category is Pueblo County High School. Pueblo High School is a lso unique in that the school's student achievement scores are high, yet it scored 45.6 points on the SPF in 2010. Seventy-five percent of the school's students score d proficient or advanced in reading;
90 however, only 27% of the school's students scored p roficient or advanced in math. The school's overall growth scores and student grow th gap scores were generally low in all content areas and all subgroups in 2010, whi ch explains the low SPF rating. In 2011, the school moved to the Improvement rating wi th a SPF score of 53. 8. Student growth increased significantly for ELL students in reading with a 67th growth percentile and for students with disabilities with a 58th growth percentile. It is interesting to note that the school serves very few students with disabilities, 21 students, but they still received the extra points for achieving the high growth percentile. The SPF score increased to 60.8 in 201 2 due to increasing student growth and growth gap scores. The schoolÂ’s UIP indicates that the school plans to implement research based instructional approaches for literac y and math with progress monitoring. Rangely Junior/Senior High School is another schoo l that moved from Priority Improvement up to the Performance category and was able to do this in just one year. In 2010, Rangely's overall growth scores were very low, 24th growth percentile in reading, 33rd growth percentile in math, and 33rd g rowth percentile in writing. The SPF rating was 39.6. In 2011, the school moved int o the Performance category with the SPF score of 62.5. Student achievement scores increased and student growth increased. Reading increased to the 54th growth pe rcentile, math to the 36th growth percentile, and writing to the 53rd growth percenti le. The school did not have enough students to receive metrics in the subgroup areas. The school's dropout rate also decreased. The school was able to sustain the Perf ormance status in 2012 with a SPF score of 64.8. Rangel School is included in its di strict UIP. The plan provides for
91 addition interventions in reading, writing and math increase instructional effectiveness in reading, writing and math, increase instructiona l effectiveness for males, and increase parent involvement. There was nothing spe cific to Rangely Junior/Senior High School in the plan Sheridan Middle School fought against a tough acco untability score to move out of the Priority Improvement category. The sch ool received the Priority Improvement rating in 2010. The school was struggl ing with both academic achievement and low growth scores in all subgroup a reas. In 2012, the school made major improvements, reaching the Improvement catego ry with 69.2 points Sheridan Middle School rated in the Priority Improvement cat egory in 2010 with a score of 44.2 and then dropped to a score of 37.6, and was able t o just maintain the Priority Improvement rating. The lowest scores were in the reading growth gap scores. In 2012, the school achieved an impressive improvement of 60.6 and movement to the Improvement category. The largest increases in 201 2 were in overall reading gap scores between the 54th and 56th growth percentiles Writing increased to the 65th growth percentile for ELL students and math growth remained low for all sub groups. The school identified the root causes with the lowe r scores in math as "a lack of aligned curriculum and assessments in math and ther e is a lack of solid content and instructional knowledge in math. Supports for novic e teachers at grade 7 & 8 were ineffective" (Colorado Department of Education, 201 2. Unified Improvement Plans). Sheridan's UIP improvement strategies include incre asing best instruction and improvement for the schoolÂ’s high achievers, refine teacher data improvement teams to refine instruction and create and implement a sy stemic instructional approach to
92 delivery of math instruction, including a clear cur riculum alignment connected to quarterly assessments/benchmarks. Another very successful school that turned its sch ool rating around in just one year is Skinner Middle School. In 2010, the school scored 44.2 on the SPF, and the rating of Priority Improvement. The weakest area w here the school lost points was the student achievement categories. In 2011, the SPF p oints jumped to 64.8, moving the school to the Performance category. The school exc eeded state expectations for growth percentiles in reading for students receivin g free and reduced lunches and for ELL students. The school increased the SPF score e ven higher in 2012 to 69.6. The school continued to exceed state expectations for g rowth percentiles for students receiving free and reduced lunches and for ELL stud ents, and also exceed state expectations for growth percentiles for minority st udents. The school's 2012-2013 UIP root cause analysis indicates that the school i s still weak in collaboration amongst teachers for vertical articulation, the school does not have strong support for reading and writing across the curriculum, and the school d oes not have a progress monitoring system for targeted students. The major improvemen t strategies are to implement targeted reading and writing interventions, provide all teachers with literacy professional development, and have students track t heir progress. Soroco Middle School, another smaller mountain sch ool, had the opposite issue than Skinner Middle School; the school had re latively high student achievement but low growth. The school began in 2010 on Priori ty Improvement with a SPF score of 41.7. The overall growth scores were in the low 30's. In 2011, the school was able to move to the Performance category with a SPF scor e of 64.2. The student
93 achievement scores went down slightly, and the grow th scores increased dramatically. Overall, the reading scores increased to the 65th g rowth percentile, writing increased to the 57th growth percentile. Students struggled more in math, increasing to the 31st growth percentile. Soroco Middle School was able to maintain the Performance rating in 2012 with a SPF score of 65.7. Soroco Mi ddle School is included in the district's UIP. The district identifies the lack o f vertical and horizontal curriculum alignment and clear outcomes is the major issue in the district, and has made curriculum alignment and clear outcomes as the focu s of the 2012-2013 UIP. W.H. Heaten Middle School also encountered growth problems in 2010, especially in math with an overall growth percentil e score of 27 in math and all subgroups scoring between the 20th and 30th growth percentile; leaving the school with a SPF score of 41.7 and the category rating of Priority Improvement. In 2011, the SPF dropped to 38.8 with little change in growth sc ores. However, the school saw significant improvement in the students' growth in 2012. The SPF score moved to 54.9 and the school received the Improvement rating by improving their growth scores. Reading increased to the 50th growth perce ntile overall. The most significant change was that students with disabilities scored i n the 59th growth percentile. In the 2012-2013 UIP, the school identified root causes th at underlies its achievement areas as the limited use of data to drive instruction, th e need for job embedded profession development to improve instruction, the "lack of em pathy and understanding towards physical, cultural, and socio-economic needs of all students to create equity" (Heaton Middle School Unified Improvement Plan, 2012, p. 17 ). Heaton Middle School plans to focus on the quality of instruction, "implement a multi-tiered system of Student
94 Supports that meet the socio-emotional needs of all students" (p. 59), and "align instruction and assessment practices" (p. 60). Summary of Findings After analyzing the past three-year trends of the SPFÂ’s of achieving schools, it is apparent that the overall scoring system is comp licated and somewhat irrational. A few quirks in the system are that schools clearly u nderstand that more points can be achieved from growth percentile gains, and schools concentrate achievement strategies in growth rather than student achievement scores. The anomaly here is that a school could serve a small amount of students in a growth gap category and realize large point gains from the growth of a small amount of st udents. In addition, a school could make a few points gain, move out of Priority Improv ement, move off the state time clock of sanctions, and the following year drop bac k into the Priority Improvement category. The cut points are hard and fast, and ha ve high stake consequences for schools. Optimistically, however, out of the 19 sc hools that moved out of Turnaround or Priority Improvement in the past three years, ei ght schools performed exceedingly well and do not appear to be close to moving back i nto the two lowest categories. Carmel Middle School increased 42.7 points in three years and is now in the Performance category. Pueblo County High School, R angely Junior/Senior High School, and Skinner Middle School also moved three categories, from Priority Improvement to Performance in three years. Patriot Learning Center moved four categories, from Turnaround to Performance in three years. Sheridan Middle School, realized a 23-point gain in three years, and Otho E Stuart Middle School and North High School realized ten point gains. Four schools are struggling and are near sliding
95 back into the Priority Improvement category, Creigh ton Middle School, Englewood High School, Ignacio Middle School, and Manzanola J unior/Senior High School. Finally, some strange events occurred in some of th e schoolsÂ’ accountably ratings. Englewood High School and Alameda High School both were lowered one category because they did not meet the 95% participation rat e. In addition, Fort Morgan High School would not have moved to Improvement if the s tate did not use both one year and three year SPFs. Although there are a wide variety of scores amongs t the schools, the 20122013 UIPÂ’s are surprisingly similar. The strategie s that most schools employ for major improvement strategies include aligning curri culum and assessments with the state standards, improving classroom instruction, c hanging the structure to support interventions (meaning changing the master schedule to add additional instructional minutes in the tested content areas), and strengthe ning professional learning communities to build data teams. One school focused on parent engagement, and only one school mentioned meeting the socio-emotional ne eds of the students. Two schools also recognized the need to strengthen their progra ms for ELL students. Principal Interviews I contacted the principals of the 19 schools by em ail after receiving a COIRB exempt certification on July 9, 2013 to schedule th e interviews. The purpose of the interviews was to determine what reforms and strate gies occurred that moved the school out of the two lowest state accountability r atings. Principals of nine schools agreed to participate in the study. One principal later declined. He explained that he received his early test scores from the state and b elieves that his school will be moving
96 back down into the Priority Improvement rating and that he no longer felt confident participating in the study. Two of the principals are employed by Jefferson County School District and Denver County School district. These are districts that require internal reviews for researchers who do not belong to the districts and that would have moved the possible dates of the interviews well bey ond the timeline of this study. I recorded and transcribed the interviews, which re sulted in 53 transcribed pages of interview material. I was able to conduct six interviews; four of the interviews were in person and two of the interviews were by telephone because of the remote locations of the schools. Two in person int erviews were conducted with principals in the Colorado Springs area, one in Pue blo, and one in a Denver metro area urban suburb. The other two interviews were conduc ted by phone with principals located in rural mountain towns on the western slop e. To maintain the confidentiality of the participants, I gave interviewees pseudo nam es and the schools pseudo names. Overview of Principals Interviews The principal interviews can be categorized in two distinctive ways. After listening to their stories, it is evident that thre e principals fall into a veteran category, serving as principals or assistant principal for mo re than five years, and three are fairly new to profession. Mr. White, Mr. Briggs, and Mr. Mendez all lead urban schools. They are highly knowledgeable about technical aspec ts of curriculum and instruction; they are well-trained educators. However, they wer e not in their positions for a long period of time. Mr. White had been at his school f or three years and has now left, Mr. Briggs was in his second year at his school, and Mr Mendez is beginning his third year. They had a no nonsense approach to disciplin e, with one school having expelled
97 20 out of 450 students. The rural school principal s were more willing to put instructional issues into the hands of the teachers They spoke about getting teacher buy-in rather than directives. Two of these princi pals were also in their schools a short time as well, while one had been in the school for six years. Two of the three veteran principals consider themselves Â“turnaroundÂ” princip als, where they are hired for the specific job of turning around a failing school. T hese principals have their specific formula for increasing academic achievement that ha s a proven past record, but they rarely stay in schools for more than three years. Each principal, however, addressed the academic challenge individually, as a school le ader, and as a school. Each principal revealed their own unique story, and comm on themes evolved from their stories. Mr. White, the Silver Bullet I was first contacted by Mr. White who was the prin cipal of a Colorado Springs area middle school on the successful schools list, but who was no longer employed by his former school district. I was excited to recei ve Mr. WhiteÂ’s email and could sense his enthusiasm for my dissertation topic. I was ab le to contact him by telephone and we arranged an early morning meeting in south Denve r for lunch. Mr. White was the principal of Blue Star Middle School for three year s; he took a new position for the 2013-2014 school year. The school is a high povert y middle school with a diverse population that serves approximately 450 students. It is known as one of the lower achieving schools in Colorado Springs. The school district hired Mr. White for the purpose of moving the school off Priority Improveme nt. Mr. White is a self-described Â“turnaround principalÂ” and has worked in various sc hools for ten years to raise student
98 achievement. He also works as a consultant for oth er districts. Mr. White rarely stays in a school for more than three years, and he has s uccessfully raised student achievement in both elementary and middle schools. A principal passionate about his work, Mr. White believes that he holds the formula to help schools succeed, and is frustrated that principals of failing schools do no t collaborate and share their strategies for success. Mr. White compares the educational wo rld to the business world and argues that if something works in the business worl d; others in the industry adopt the trend, where educators tend to operate in isolation He loves the challenge of raising the achievement of low performing schools, but admi ts that it is almost becoming boring for him at this point because his formula wo rks in any school, and he is ready for a new challenge. Mr. White attributes the 42.7 point growth on the SPF the first year he joined Blue Star Middle School to the change in the school Â’s structure and the schoolÂ’s culture. Â“We put in a place a structure where ever y kid got what they needed and we made sure that we had a culture where that was impo rtant. We made kids care about their learning.Â” The leadership role is one of coa ch. There was not one major improvement strategy that he could identify, but a combination of hard work and thinking outside of the box. A unique intervention was that the master schedule was changed to allow for double blocks of literacy and/ or math for students who were not proficient in those content areas. Students would not be offered social studies or science classes until they reached proficiency leve ls. Literacy teachers would teach some social studies and science classes in literacy classes, but the focus was on literacy.
99 When Mr. White came to the school, 80% of the schoo l staff had resigned or retired. Mr. WhiteÂ’s Â“assumptionÂ” in explaining the staff tu rnover was that the staff liked the school and the kids, but they did not want the acco untability. I had the reputation that I would bring accountabil ityÂ…I think they just knew that I donÂ’t want to work in this tough environment with these tough kids and actually be held accountable for their learning. I t was fine if I could just hang out and love working with these kids but, they knew when they were accountable they decided to move on, and it was tou gh. I was the fourth principal in five or six years. The new staff that he hired were strong in building relationships with students, and working with diverse students. Mr. White believes that new teaching graduates are coming into the teaching field with better skills f or working with high poverty and high minority students. In addition to changing the structure of the schoo l by providing systemic literacy and math interventions of double blocked c lasses, Mr. White focused on his relationships with staff and staff relationships wi th students. He took on a coaching role as principal and created an honest, trusting r elationship with his teachers. In discussing using Â“instructional walksÂ” or Â“instruct ional rounds,Â” where teachers observe on anotherÂ’sÂ’ instructions, Mr. White expla ined how coaching both imbeds staff development and builds relationships with his teachers when he states that if I were a teacher in his school: We would know the areas that you would need to work on, so we would go to the teachers that you would want to see, and it was strictly with a coaching
100 mentality. I was not an evaluator, and we had an a greement that we would be open and honest. If we saw something that was not very good, we could talk about that and would not feel like we were talking behind the teacherÂ’s back. It also gave me as a principal a great opportunity to build relationships with the staff. One of the reasons that I think I have been effective in turning around schools is creating that team, creating that relati onship. The instructional walks were embedded professional development because teachers could take what they had learned during the coachin g sessions with Mr. White directly back into the classroom, unlike conferences that th ey would attend in June and Â“then September rolls aroundÂ” and teachers are embroiled in the start of the school year, Mr. White explained. The relationship building with st aff grew to allow open and honest communication. Building a culture of learning and building relati onships with students came first through Mr. WhiteÂ’s zero tolerance policy in terms of discipline. Before Mr. White came to Blue Star Middle School, students wer e receiving up to 24 office referrals, including referrals of a Â“sexual nature, Â” and administration still did not move for expulsion. Mr. White and his staff Â“cracked do wn on discipline.Â” We did not do in school suspension and all that typ e of stuff. We were very clear that if you disrupt the learning process, you are not welcome here. We really made it clear that you are going to respect the adults because respect was terrible. We just said that we will not take the d isrespect, and we will not take the defiance, and if you do that, you will not be h ere.
101 Mr. White expelled 20 students during his first yea r as principal. He explained that those student were the 2% that were getting in the way of other studentsÂ’ learning. Â“Everyone else just fell into line,Â” according to M r. White. He was adamant at this point that he had the backing of the superintendent for the expulsions, and that the students were given other support once they were re moved from his school. Once the students realized that there was a culture of learn ing at the school, they blossomed. Â“That is not always the popular view out there, but I thought that if I could save 98 percent of them, if was worth the 2 percent, becaus e that 2 percent werenÂ’t getting anything anyway,Â” was Mr. WhiteÂ’s bottom line. In addition, Mr. White made sure that teachers offered rigor in their courses, but e nsured that teachers were always supporting students to obtain success. He did not allow teachers to take poverty as an excuse, but to have empathy and still hold high exp ectations. When asked, "explain the extent of parent or community involvement," all principals but one answered "little," "slight" or "minimal." Mr. White went fu rther to state that even though he has minimal parent involvement, it does not bother him. He has the students for seven hours a day, and he will work with them and the sta ff will do their best to educate the students within those seven hours. Mr. White argues that if you provide the intensive interventions, a school culture that centers on student learning, and solid relationships amongst all stakeholders, a school will turnaround. Leadership must be Â“courageousÂ” in a low performing school. The reform takes courage from t he principal and staff and support from the district. He felt the district support fa ltering in his third year as principal; the new superintendent did not uphold his policy on exp ulsions and his policy on
102 interventions to the extent the prior superintenden t had supported him. Mr. White is concerned as to whether true academic progress can ever be sustained in the midst of the political turnover of school boards and superin tendents. He has often seen reform happening, and then new school boards and superinte ndents enter the scene, and nothing is truly sustained. Mr. Mendez, the Young Warrior I met Mr. Mendez, the principal of Hillside Middle School, at his school in the Pueblo area. It was my first time visiting Pueblo, so it was interesting to survey the area. Hillside Middle School is located in an olde r neighborhood that still is well maintained with green lawns and older suburban bric k homes. The school was obviously built in the late 50Â’s ; the structure wa s a one story weathered brick building with several legs representing hallways. During th e interview, Mr. Mendez told me that the school was built in 1959. The school grou nds are green and hedges are well groomed. The school seemed rather small for the 72 0 students that it now serves. I do know from the school statistics and also after inte rviewing the principal, that the school serves a high minority/high poverty populati on. After reading a few articles about the success of t he schoolÂ’s marching band posted on the bulletin board and noticing the schoo lÂ’s vision statement, Mr. Mendez came out to great me and took me into his office. When we first began the interview Mr. Mendez told me that he attended the school wher e he is now employed as principal. He is the only Latino principal that I have interviewed. His parents still live in the schoolÂ’s neighborhood. He explains that the school has a strong performing arts program, boasting of a marching band, jazz band, an d a concert choir. Mr. Mendez
103 has worked as principal for two years and was able to move the school out of Priority Improvement during his first year as principal. Hi s school is the school that students want to choose to attend in his school district. It is actually because Hillside Middle School has become a school of choice, and because M r. Mendez does not turn down students who apply, that the free and reduced popul ation statistics have increased. Mr. Mendez believes that his school really was near the Improvement category when he first arrived; the school just needed more focus. He extended the time for reading interventions for students who were not pro ficient, but did so by removing an elective. The teachers on the building leadership team also decided that the entire school needed blocked, or 90-minute, literacy class es. The schoolÂ’s focus now is on math, where all teachers teach math vocabulary in a ddition to the studentÂ’s regular math class. The teachers and Mr. Mendez also chang ed the schedule so that teachers could meet in professional learning groups to colla borate on curriculum development and unit planning. Benchmark testing, which occurs three times during the school year, is the key to ensuring that students are receiving the appropr iate interventions. Â“The school district designs the benchmark testing,Â” according to Mr. Mendez. When speaking about the testing, Mr. Mendez also addresses school culture. At the beginning of the school year, and in Decembe r and May, we focus on our high partially proficient kids. The students a re identified, and those are the students that teachers work with. The morning tuto ring program is huge here. It is the culture here that if youÂ’re told to do so mething, you do it. It is very much cool to be a smart kid. It is the culture he re that if you are told to do
104 something, you do it. It is very much cool to be a smart kid. ItÂ’s cool to be advanced. It is very much different in other schoo ls. Especially in middle schools. It is just a culture shift. Hillside Middle SchoolÂ’s teachers focus on academic s resulted in a culture shift to a school wide focus on academics. Students were prou d to be achieving. Mr. Mendez supported the culture of learning by being strict o n discipline. After working as a dean in a high school and an assistant principal in an a lternative school, Mr. Mendez admits that he Â“scared the pants offÂ” his students, and th ey knew that they had to Â“toe the line.Â” He believed that the former principal was s ofter on discipline, but that currently, his assistant principal works with him as a team me mber on discipline and that the two are aligned on their philosophy. While he is tough on discipline, he also believes strongly in Positive Behavior Individual Support wh ere students are taught to behave in positive manners, and students are rewarded for positive behaviors. Â“We put in rewards for academic achievement where students cou ld go on field trips to various businessesÂ….We take trips to CU in Boulder and othe r colleges, which is a huge motivator for our students.Â” Mr. Harris, the Zen Master I drove to Mr. HarrisÂ’ Community Academy, a school that is located near the remnants of the Black Forest fire. I could see the shadows of the burnt forest as I drove to the school that Mr. Harris moved from the Priority Impr ovement category, past the Improvement category, up to the second from the hig hest rating, the Performance category. The school resembled various sized Quons et huts welded together into a maze of classrooms. As I entered the building, sig ns on the walls were helpful in
105 helping to direct me through the various hallways t o the office, and a few friendly staff members made sure that I was headed in the right di rection. A student assistant met me at the desk, and Mr. Harris took me into his sma ll office. Mr. Harris is a natural fit for the alternative school and believes in strong r elationships with students, staff, parents, and the community. Mr. Harris was very re laxed and spoke with a soft voice. He was inquisitive as to my studies and was interes ted that I was working on my degree so late in life. This will be his third yea r as principal of the middle/high alternative school. Mr. Harris believes that his scores climbed because the school focused heavily on creating relationships, meeting the affective ne eds of students, and differentiating instruction. When CDE placed the school in the Tur naround category, Mr. Harris explains: The first thing we did is we brought in the affecti ve program that we are using. The program is called Genesis and it came from one of our teachers from San Diego. He brought the program from there, and he a ctually was a starter of the program....The key component with that is that it s tarts building relationships with students. Making it relevant. What does that mean to each student individually? What does it mean to function in soc iety? What are some qualities and characteristics that you need to carr y beyond these walls? Not only while you are in school, but after you graduat e. It is through the Genesis classes that Community Ac ademy created a culture of learning. Classes build their own social contracts and the students and staff have mutual respect.
106 The schedules were changed to allow for interventio n time for all students, and they attend the intervention class of their highest need. The school also focuses on direct communication with parents when a student be gins to fall behind. In addition, the school has a community service program to build school pride. Mr. Harris takes great pride in community service work his students perform. He wants to make sure that I noticed the school sign outside of the schoo l, it stated Â“Giving back to the Community.Â” Mr. HarrisÂ’ eyes lightened when he spo ke about the Thanksgiving feast that his students prepare for the senior citizens. He indicated that they sponsor the annual event to dispel the reputation that his scho ol, an alternative school, where his students have poor behavior.. He described the stu dents not only serving the senior citizens in a full gymnasium, but also sitting and conversing with their guests. Mr. Harris continued to describe other community servic e work that the students performed. We go out to businesses in the community and offer trash pick-up or whatever they need. We put kids to work at the soup kitchen Twice a month we do that. We go to Goodwill. We go to Care and Share. There is a puppy rescue down there. Getting our name out there to the comm unity is huge. Mr. Harris believes that educators need to look out side of the box when grappling with student improvement. However, relat ionships and trust amongst all stakeholders are key to supporting any kind of refo rm according to Mr. Harris. Mr. Briggs, the Rookie South Urban Middle School was running the second da y of school when I visited Mr. Briggs in the older, two-story brick sc hool located on a busy four lane
107 Denver street. When I gave Mr. Briggs the informed consent to sign, he began to question whether he needed district approval to par ticipate in the study. He decided to call his director, and was able to reach her immedi ately. He explained my study, and she told him that he could participate. We then co ntinued with the interview. Mr. Briggs completed his first year as principal at Sou th Urban Middle School. The school also serves a high poverty/high minority population The district hired Mr. Briggs because the school received a federal Tiered Interv ention Grant worth approximately three million dollars. One of the requirements for the grant is that the current principal of the school must be removed if the principal had been there for more than two years. He also is proud of the success of his school. Like Mr. White at Blue Star Middle School, the firs t act that Mr. Briggs performed when coming to South Urban Middle School was addressing the school culture. Mr. Briggs explained, I had one 8th grader that told me that what happened before is t hat the inmates ran the asylum. We came in and cracked down and ma de sure that this was an institution of learning and inappropriate behaviors would not be tolerated. We put in a system that we have, and have been much cl earer about what those systems are. Bringing order to the school is how the students be gan to buy-in to the academic focus of the school. Once order was restored to the school, focusing on higher order thinking skills and depth of knowledge was one key strategy to the schoolÂ’s academic improvement.
108 I believe strongly in 21st Century skills that CDE talks about such as collaboration, selfreflection, critical thinking, and informational literacyÂ…. I feel very strongly in those skills and if you push the rigor in the class, you are going to see those skills. Our expectations for ki ds equates to performance. Everybody has to raise their game. You have to hav e higher expectations of teachers. An example of teacher accountability is asking teac hers to turn in their unit lesson plans. The staff also changed the master schedule; the adj ustment was to add a common plan where teachers could focus on student d ata. Data analysis and the use of assessment were part of the schoolÂ’s UIP, and the s taff utilized the data. According to Mr. Briggs, We had three action steps in our UIP. One was abou t best instruction. That is why we had the planning focus. We wanted to make s ure we were aligned curriculum wise; that we were aligned to our quarte rly benchmark assessments. The second step is that our district has aligned pr ofessional learning communities across the district every Monday, and I am going to call it a data time. That data time of how our kids are doing by grades. We look at triweekly data assessments, which are unit assessments We have quarterly district assessments for reading and math. Our las t action step is on literacy and math; because math has been where we are droppi ng like crazy.
109 The school addresses math by grade level math teams and specials have a literacy and math focus. Mr. BriggsÂ’ major frustration is tryin g to teach students at grade level when they come to the school more than a grade leve l behind academically. Mr. Smith, a New Sherriff in Town Mr. Smith, of Miners Middle/High School, has spent his past three years in a rural mountain town where the major industry is min ing. His major frustration, in addition to the instability of the superintendent p osition as he has served under five different superintendents in the past three years, is that his male students can walk out of high school and start work in one of the various mines at $24 an hour. We have a very transient school. We are in a commu nity that is very high income but very low priority, especially for males, for education. We sit on the ninth largest oil field in the world. We have a go ld mine and a Gilsonite mine that employs the members of the community, and we h ave pipeline coming through that employs a lot of people. My students can start at 24 dollars an hour right out of high school, so they are not gett ing any post-secondary training. We had to impart upon the community the importance of getting an education so they have something to fall back on. Mr. Smith said it is hard to convince students the benefits of going to college when their only goal is to buy a pickup truck when they graduate. He describes his arriving at Miners Middle/High School as truly coming to the Wild Wild West. According to Mr. Smith, students were urinating on teachersÂ’ ca rs, throwing desks at walls, and those were the minor behaviors. Suspending student s stopped the behavior, which made parents angry at first. However, after parent s saw the change in the school
110 culture, they became supportive. In addition, Mr. Smith built a strong football program, which raised the stature of the school. Â“My forte is turning around broken schools,Â” admit s Mr. Smith. Â“This is the fifth school I have done this with.Â” Once behavior was under control, he began to work with the teachers on Saturdays to create a cur riculum that was non-existent at the time. The teachers built curriculum, pacing guides and cycles of common assessments. The staff then created interventions after testing the students. They increased the amount of time that students were in literacy class from 60 to 120 minutes a day. The principal and staff added a mat h lab for math support. Students lost their physical education class when they recei ved additional math or literacy support, until they reached proficiency. Mr. Smith also was able to fund the summer school through a grant. Retaining teachers is Mr. SmithÂ’s major challenge. The rent in his area is Â“astronomical.Â” The school provides Â“teacheragesÂ” or teacher housing, but it is unkempt. Mr. Smith has asked the school board to r epair the teaherages, to no avail. The teacher pay is also one of the lowest in the st ate. Mr. Smith feels as if he is constantly fighting staffing issues and has little district support. He has high teacher turnover due to the low wages, the hard work that i s expected, and the lack of suitable housing. Mr. Scott, the Collaborator Mr. Scott, is the principal of Summit Middle/High School, which is a very small rural mountain school of 75 to 80 students. The school serves about 50% students receiving free and reduced lunches, and mo stly serves White or Caucasian
111 students. Mr. Scott has also left his school this year. When the staff first received their SPF it was in the Priority Improvement catego ry, but Mr. Scott explains that we were pretty close to Turnaround, so were at the low er level.Â” The news was shocking to the staff. Â“When we got that information, and t he accountability system changed, and also the UIP was being written differently, we went through that information and dove pretty deep into the data. We put that back o n to our teaching staff.Â” After analyzing the data, and with some guidance from Mr. Scott, the teachers decided to change the schedule from a seven period day to an e ight period day. They added an extra hour of literacy instruction and separated re ading instruction from writing instruction. They also used a period during the da y to provide targeted intervention that was skilled based. The interventions were tie red and students were placed dependent on their NWEA (a nationally normed test) scores. Students that did not need a targeted intervention took an enrichment cla ss, which motivated students to move out of the intervention classes. We saw a lot of growth and progress from kids who w ere missing specific skills. The reading interventions were really tier ed at many levels. We would go all the way down to phonics. We used Accelerate d Reader as an expectation for the school. All students had to ge t 25 points on Accelerated Reader each quarter as far as their English grade. That is a significant amount of reading for studentsÂ….You would always see kids reading books. The schoolÂ’s success is attributed to teacher buy i n to the UIP, and the teacherÂ’s hard work to implement the plan. The teachers became e xperts in analyzing student data an applying the data to classroom instruction. Mr. Smith explained that convincing
112 teachers of the urgency to improve was not difficul t because the scores are published in the local paper, and because each teacher only t eaches one subject, the community knew each teacherÂ’s scores. The major part of the school success was that the teachers created the improvement plan and implemented the pl an with enthusiasm. Four Major Themes The purpose of analyzing the UIPÂ’s of successful sc hools and interviewing principals who have led schools out of the two lowe st state categories is to determine whether there are major themes surrounding school i mprovement that schools could employ to increase student achievement, especially in high poverty/high minority schools. I analyzed each of the interview transcri pts independently first to understand the measures that the principals and schools took t o move out of the two lowest ratings. I used the Constant Comparative Analysis process to code the data line by line (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Words and phrases t hat began to emerge included the following: behavior, schedule, relationships, asses sments, valued, building leadership team, professional learning community, structure, c ulture, relevancy, order, curriculum, trust, flexibility, courage, and collab oration. I began to see similar themes arising from these terms and the interview data gen erated the four following themes: a) teachers work collaboratively utilizing formativ e assessments to guide instruction; b) the master schedules provide additional instruct ional and targeted intervention time in language arts and math; c) schools maintain a cu lture of high academic expectations and respectful relationships with all stakeholders, especially with students and teachers; d) school districts are flexible and supp ortive of schools.
113 Theme 1: Teachers Work Collaboratively Utilizing F ormative Assessments to Guide Instruction Almost every principal who was interviewed spoke a bout professional learning communities or data teams that would review benchma rk assessments to provide intensive intervention for students. The idea of d ata teams is one that has been in educational literature and a source of much of Dufo ur and EakerÂ’s (1998) work. The schools that are seeing growth in successful high p overty/high minority schools are using and refining the practice. Every school had benchmark tests, or were creating benchmark tests and knew exactly which students nee ded what kind of intervention and monitored the progress of every student. Hillside Middle School reorganized the master sched ule to give the teachers a common collaborative time. Â“The school district wo uld design the benchmark tests. There are three of them.Â” The school uses unit ass essments as well. The teachers use data to track student progress, to identify student s needing interventions, and to guide instruction. Mr. Mendez tells his teachers: If we are not meeting state expectations, I will be the first one to go. It is not you, it is me. We have to do what is best for the students. Teachers now are very much aware now about their failure rates. We are very transparent about our data. I send out end of unit assessment data e very week to teachers. There are end of the unit assessments that are tracked in the computer. Hillside Middle School has become a very data rich environment, where teachers have a common plan, and where they have time to analyze the data.
114 In South Urban Middle School, Mr. Briggs has distr ict support for teacher collaboration, where every Monday all teachers meet by grade level in their buildings and analyze grade level data. In addition, the sch ool analyzes unit assessments as well. StudentsÂ’ progress is monitored, and interve ntions are assigned if needed. Mr. Briggs defines the philosophy of the data teams as having a Â“clear intentional focusÂ” for his staff. Refining the professional learning data teams is part of the schoolÂ’s UIP. The planning steps in the UIP that reinforce effect ive data teams include providing teachers with the opportunity to attend a data conf erence at the University of Virginia, refining the literacy benchmark assessments, and ch anging the schedule to allow for collaboration time. Teachers also receive professi onal development on appropriate interventions to address the results of the assessm ents, and receive monetary incentives for increased TCAP scores. Mr. ScottÂ’s teachers created their own formative a ssessments, and then use the results to provide tiered and specific intervention s for the students. The teachers became Â“expertsÂ” on analyzing student data and then providing interventions. Based upon assessments, teachers divide students into int ervention groups depending upon the literacy or math skills that the students need. Mr. Scott explains that teachers would Â“divide students into different groups and th en the interventions were tiered. They were specific with the students about what a s tudent needed to do to move out of that tier or move out of an intervention.Â” When Mr Scott left the school, the staff was at the point of creating skill inventories for ever y student so that students could set their own goals.
115 Mr. Smith used NWEA, a nationally normed assessmen t, and Alpine to provide short cycle assessments for his students. Â“We built a cycle of common assessmentsÂ”, according to Mr. Smith. These assess ments Â“give us a great picture of where kids are and what we need to do to improve th eir skill sets in each area.Â” The staff also works with Dr. MarzanoÂ’s team on assessm ent development and training. One of Dr. MarzanoÂ’s team coaches his new teachers. Mr. Rangely has a building leadership team that works with the collaborative c ontent teams on data analysis. One of the major improvement strategies found in the di strictÂ’s UIP is that the district continue to refine common assessments. The principals who were interviewed discussed the u se of benchmark assessments in identifying students in need of inte rventions, and assisting in identifying specific skills that need addressing. Mr. White uses assessments to hold teachers accountable. He attributes the 80% turnov er in his staff to his Â“reputationÂ” that he Â“would bring accountability.Â” The principa ls also emphasized the need for a collaborative time for teachers to discuss student data to guide instruction for students. The schools that have moved out of the two lowest s tate categories also have made data a part of the staff culture. Many of the UIPÂ’ s from leaders who were not interviewed also addressed the need for data teams analyzing formative assessments to guide instruction. Theme 2: The master schedules provide additional i nstructional and targeted intervention time in language arts and math When each principal was met with the challenge of leading a low performing school, they immediately rearranged the master sche dule to offer more time during the
116 school day to provide interventions for students wh o were not proficient in literacy and in math. Literacy and math hold more weight on the SPFs than Science. Social Studies and electives are not tested. Each princip al approached both the process in making the master schedule change and the structure of providing the interventions differently, but the changes resulted in increased student achievement. When addressing the changes in the master schedule, Mr. Scott, the principal of Summit Middle/High School, was transparent when he explained that the change came from the teachersÂ’ collaborative work around a nalyzing the TCAP data when the staff wrote the UIP. In explaining the schedule c hange, he said that Â“we doubled our English instruction by doing that. The teachers we re really focused and pretty specific on what that instruction would look like, so studen ts were getting the skills they needed.Â” The teachers decided to separate reading instruction and writing instruction between the blocks. The schedule change also provi ded for an additional period for targeted interventions; the students were scheduled into a course where they were identified as needing skill-based instruction based upon assessments. The principal supported the training the teachers would need to p rovide the intervention. The interventions became specific and tiered, and stude nts could move out one tiered intervention to the next fluidly. Mr. Harris of Community Academy uses innovative thi nking to set up a schedule that allows every student to receive an in tervention time. The primary focus of the schedule is ensuring that every student enga ges in a Genesis class, which serves as an affective education class, and forms a close mentor relationship between the teachers and their students in the Genesis classes. The teachers are responsible for
117 tracking their students and keeping in contact with the students families. The master schedule also allows for an intervention period, li ke the intervention period at Summit/Middle High School, where a studentÂ’s needs are identified, and the skills are addressed during that period. Mr. Smith of Miners Middle/High School created doub le blocks of literacy and math. He stated that Â“with the low kids, we would put them in a math lab until they could show us that they had their skills under cont rol, and we saw some phenomenal growth with that.Â” Students receive an addition 60 minutes of reading and math every day through master schedule changes. The students lose physical education classes to receive the addition English and math instruction. Once the students can show proficiency in math and/or English, they can return to their physical education elective. Mr. Mendez describes the collaborative process of changing the master schedule at Hillside Middle School when he explains : We worked with staff and the building leadership te am and they really said we need more time in content areas. To be a better ba sketball player, what do you need to do? You need to practice. You are not goi ng to become better at math unless you do more math, so we decided to make all math classes a block. Instead of only 44 minutes of math class, every mat h class became 95 minutes. The teachers agreed that they would all teach math during fifth period. Mr. Mendez described the staffsÂ’ response once they looked at the TCAP results that Â“Our reading and writing scores were not as quite as bad as our math. We were hemorrhaging in math. We were probably in the emergency room on th e operating table.Â” During fifth
118 period, all teacher focus on math vocabulary lesson plans that the math teachers provide to all teachers weekly. Mr. Briggs of Urban South Middle School, changed th e master schedule at second semester last year to create add Â“an interve ntion time where teachers could get together an discuss what was happening with kidÂ”. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the teachers would plan and look at data together. Â“Thursday was an intervention time where they would actually pull ki ds after looking at the data.Â” On Friday, the teams would analyze the results of the their work and begin planning interventions for students for the following week. Mr. White, the leader of Blue Star Middle School, i mplemented an immediate master schedule change as soon as he took helm of t he school; he changed the master schedule so that any student who was not proficient in literacy or math would receive a double block in those content areas, and would not receive instruction in social studies, and/or science. Literacy teachers would expose stu dents to social studies and science content through the literacy intervention, but Mr. White firmly believed that students needed to be able to read and do math. Offering ad ditional content areas until students were proficient at the basic skills was meaningless Across the board, principals acknowledge that in or der to improve student scores in literacy and math, students must be given more time during the school day in literacy and math. Some schools offered before sch ool and after school learning opportunities, but the principals agreed that to in crease the fundamental literacy and math skills of secondary students, schools must off er more time with those skills during the school day.
119 Theme 3: Schools maintain a culture of high academ ic expectations and respectful relationships with all stakeholders, esp ecially with students and teachers All the principalsÂ’ voices resonated in leading a s chool where the culture was one of high academic expectations, where learning c ame first, and where there was mutual respect between everyone in the building. M r. White explained that, Â“ you hold a high barÂ…and then support the heck out of th em and then they will make it.Â” Mr. White also made clear through his strict discip line policy that if the student is not at school to learn then the student is Â“not welcome here.Â” He created relationships with his staff through utilizing instructional walk s or rounds and working as an instructional coach. He saw this type of imbedded staff development as creating trust between staff members, and as creating trust betwee n him and his staff. Having a clear discipline policy resulted in a culture of high aca demic expectations; students knew that they were going to school to learn. It is Â“cool to be smart or advancedÂ” at Mr. Mendez Â’ school, which is a rare culture in many middle schools. Mr. Mendez said th at it was Â“just a culture shift,Â” but perhaps the teacher focus on data caused that shift Principals built relationships with staff through coaching and collaborating. Honesty and trust are values that important to Mr. Mendez and his staff. Relationships were fo rmed with students through extracurricular program such as the marching band, through athletics, and through mutual respect. Mr. Mendez is tough on discipline which he also sees as contributing to the high expectations in the school. Â“The cultu re comes from the administration, from the top down, but the staff has to be out in t he halls. If that is not happening, you
120 have to have those difficult conversations with sta ff.Â” Mr. Mendez also believes in positive rewards for appropriate behavior as well. Students will engage in behaviors that staff pays the most attention to according to Mr. Mendez. When Mr. Smith joined Miners Middle/High School, he first Â“set the toneÂ” for what was acceptable behavior. Â“It was just absolut ely holding the line. If you want to be in this building, this is the way you will dress and this is the way you will act. Now they couldnÂ’t be more proud of themselves.Â” Mr. Sm ith disclosed that he Â“took some of the worst kids in school and put them in the wei ght room with me, and we came to respect each other after about six weeks, and it re ally helped turn the school around.Â” He also believed that building a successful footbal l team that made it to the playoffs brought pride to the students. His teachers worked hard to tutor students during lunch and during the summer. Mr. Smith worked with the s chool board to achieve a higher pay scale for teachers, and included teachers in de cision making to establish a collaborative staff. He ensured that his teachers were valued. Going to Mr. HarrisÂ’ office is not intimidating bec ause he explains Â“when I get kids in my office it is not like I am coming down o n you. ItÂ’s like we have mutual respect and letÂ’s work through this. Those are the types of relationships we try to build.Â” The principals interviewed were equally cl ear that the students were expected to achieve, and the entire staff worked on building relationships not only with students, but also with each other, to ensure that students s ucceed. Theme 4: School districts are flexible and support ive of schools. All principals voiced the need for a supportive sc hool district in order to achieve reform. Mr. White explained that he had a very supportive board and
121 superintendent his first two years, but there was a new election, and a change in his superiors, and he did not feel that some of his ini tiatives were supported. He states, Â“I am a big fan of local control (of school districts) but I really see it hurt the turnaround districts because I donÂ’t know how you get any sust ainability.Â” Mr. White also indicated that he had he trust and confidence from his former superintendent, but he did not feel that same level of support with the in coming superintendent. Whatever I wanted to do, I was supported by the ass istant superintendents and by the superintendent. That second year of reform was when the support went awayÂ….support with discipline and trust in the buil ding. I was given autonomy with my staff to do what we thought was be st for kids before the change in administration. Mr. White, who is now works in another district, sa id that his major frustration was the lack of support of from the new central administrat ion. Mr. White questions whether reform can ever be sustainable when school board me mbership changes every two to three years, and when there is a high turnover with the superintendent position. He states that the district had a superintendent for s even years that had made a great deal of improvement, then the new board hired the new su perintendent during his second year at Blue Star Middle School and the new superin tendent Â“threw out everything we had done. He did not value anything the district h ad done, and we would start completely over. So, of course, everyone is going to leave, and in a couple of years someone new will come inÂ”; Mr. White believes that the transient nature of educational leadership results in lack of sustainab le reform.
122 Mr. Smith echoed Mr. WhiteÂ’s frustration with a la ck of stability with school boards and superintendents. We havenÂ’t had a functioning superintendent since I have been here. We had a superintendent that was here part time. He was her e on Tuesdays, and then he would take off for the rest of the week, and we I n ot even see him the second semester. We hired the Chairman of the Board, and then he quitÂ….We have a system that is thriving in spite of nothing much at the central office level. No support at central office. I love my building and I love my kids, but at the end of the year, I am going to find a new job. Mr. Smith and his teachers are building curriculum and implementing programs in a vacuum, without direction or support. The work is demanding and Mr. Smith has high teacher turnover because of the high demands of the job. Mr. Harris is confident that he has his district an d boardÂ’s support and trust, and feels that it is important in order to take the necessary risks for student improvement. Mr. Briggs also has full support of h is district. Â“The district has aligned PLC time across the district every Monday,Â” that Mr. Briggs finds important for teachers to collaborate on understanding common assessment results. The district also provides quarterly assessments for reading and math, as does Mr. MendezÂ’ district. The school administrators are supported by central administration, but have the flexibility to determine their master schedules and to implement appropriate interventions for students.
123 Research Questions The first part of this study examines the demograp hic data of schools that CDE has identified in the two lowest performance catego ries for the past three years. The research then analyzes data of schools that have mo ved out of the two lowest stat accountability categories, including the schoolsÂ’ d emographic statistics, the SchoolsÂ’ Performance Frameworks (SPFsÂ’), and the schoolsÂ’ Un ified Improvement Plans (UIPÂ’s). In addition, data was collected from inte rviews with six principals who have led schools that have moved out of the two lowest s tate accountability categories. The findings in this chapter address the research q uestions, and the responses with evidence from the findings are provided What are the Characteristics of Schools that are Ra ted as Turnaround or Priority Improvement Status Rendering the Schools on a Drama tic Time Clock for Severe Sanctions? Sixteen of the schools that have received Turnaroun d or Priority Improvement ratings in the last three years are located in the Denver urban area. The remaining schools are located in Greeley, Pueblo, Colorado Sp rings and rural mountain areas. School enrollment ranges from 64 students to 2270. In terms of student ethnicity, urban schools on Turnaround or Priority improvement serve a high population of Latino/a population. Eight schools that are low pe rforming serve a population that is at least 80% Latino/a and 13 of the 27 schools, alm ost half of the schools, serve a population that consists of at least 70% of Latino/ a children. Only two schools on the low performing list serve a majority white populati on and those schools serve a high population of students receiving free or reduced lu nches. Six of these schools serve
124 over 80% of students who qualify for free or reduce d lunch. Although the schoolsÂ’ demographics vary because rural and urban schools a re included in the list, 21 high poverty/high minority schools are in danger of rece iving state sanctions. What Strategies do Principals Utilize to Move the S chools out of Turnaround Status or Priority Improvement Status? After reviewing the major improvement strategies l isted in the schoolÂ’s UIPÂ’s and coding the interviews of the six principals in this study, four themes emerged that summarize the major strategies that principals used to move schools out of the two lowest accountability categories. The first strate gy is that teachers work collaboratively utilizing formative assessments to guide instruction. All six schools had access to some sort of benchmark assessments; s ome assessments were district created, some assessments were unit assessments, an d some assessments were created by staff. Teachers collaboratively use the assessm ents to place students into needed interventions, to progress monitor student learning and to plan for instruction. Many of the schoolÂ’s UIPs major improvement strategies a ddressed the need for teacher collaboration and the use of formative assessments. Another major strategy is that schools change the m aster schedules to provide additional instructional and targeted intervention time in language arts and math. Every principal interviewed discussed rearranging t he structure of the school, which primarily meant changing the master schedule to pro vide for extra time in literacy and math for students who were not proficient in the co ntent areas. In addition to changing the school culture, many principals stated that thi s was the most effective reform the school made.
125 Schools also create and maintain a culture of high academic expectations and ensure that respectful relationships with all stake holders, especially with students and teachers. Many principals stated that they created a culture of learning by implementing a strict discipline system, sending a clear message that students attend school to learn. Principals also fostered a cultur e of learning by ensuring that teachers set and maintain high expectations. Principals als o held teachers to high expectations. Relationships with staff were important to all prin cipals, and served as a model for mutual respect throughout the schools. Finally, if reforms are to be successful, school di stricts must allow school staff autonomy, flexibility and must remain supportive of schools Two of the principals were leaving their positions this year because of t he change in district support; the principals did not believe that they had the necess ary support to continue their reform efforts. All the principals interviewed believed t hat they needed support, trust and flexibility from their districts. Other strategies that principals implemented to tur naround their schools include imbedding professional development that tea chers can take directly to the classroom, such as instruction walks or Â“roundsÂ” an d utilizing classroom coaches. Hillside Middle School is entering the second year of offering the AVID program, which is a national program that supports and motiv ates students to choose a college path. Hillside also has a tradition of offering a strong fine arts program. A description of strategies found in the schoolÂ’s UIP Â’s and revealed through interviews are listed in Table 14.
126 Table 14 Successful SchoolsÂ’ Improvement Strategies School Name Strategies Alameda High School Implement a systematic data driven dialogue cycle Provide ELA teachers with more professional development Carmel Middle School Create a school culture of learning High academic expectations Double time in math and literacy for students below proficient in the content areas Instructional Walks Creighton Middle School implement Frameworks for Mathematics Instruction to improve alignment to grade level expectations and mathematical rigor implement the Reading Workshop Framework in all Reading Language Arts classes embed direct reading and writing instruction into all Social Studies and Science classrooms Englewood High School improving the progress monitoring of students shifting writing instruction to align with the common core standards implementing a shared leadership model Fort Morgan High School aligning curriculum with state standards continue to develop common formative assessments continue to provide additional support for students who are not proficient in reading, writing or math on the TCAP tests Genoa-Hugo Middle School implementation of 6-trait writing strategies work on problem solving skills ensure that teachers work collaboratively
127School Name Strategies Hayden Middle School strengthening professional learning communities focusing on effective classroom practices data driven instruction creating student ownership of learning. Heritage Middle School providing sheltered instruction in all content areas and focusing on ELL students providing additional instructional minutes in core areas, and focusing on rigor increasing instructional minutes by changing the master schedule to allow for 45 additional minutes of reading and math instruction daily providing after school intervention hours. Ignacio High School creating a district wide accountability system improving curriculum and instruction by aligning curriculum with the common core standards. Manzanola Junior-Senior High School more time during the school day for instruction in math and reading further align curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the new state standards. North High School change the master schedule to allow for more instructional minutes in reading, math and writing and adding a Saturday school provide more time for professional development communities for teacher collaboration to improve instruction change structures and providing more instructional time to support college readiness increase parent engagement by developing a shared mission statement, recreating the website, and implement a home visit program Otho E. Stuart Middle School implement systems and structures that support instruction align curriculum to the district learning targets
128 School Name Strategies Patriot Learning Center align instruction to close the gap for ACT scores continue to build relationships with students continue community service programs Pueblo County High School implement research based instructional approaches for literacy and math with progress monitoring. Rangely Junior/Senior High School additional instruction minutes in reading and math for students who are not proficient addition interventions in reading, writing and math increase instructional effectiveness in reading, writing and math increase instructional effectiveness for males increase parent involvement Sheridan Middle School increasing best instruction and improvement for the schools' high achiever refine teacher data improvement teams to refine instruction create and implement a systemic instructional approach to delivery of math instruction, including a clear curriculum alignment connected to quarterly assessments/benchmarks. Skinner Middle School implement a targeted reading and writing intervention provide all teachers with literacy professional development have students track their progress. Soroco Middle School curriculum alignment and clear outcomes W H Heaton Middle School implement a multi-tiered system of Student Supports that meet the socio-emotional needs of all students align instruction and assessment practices
129 Chapter Summary The findings in this chapter began with an analysis of the characteristics of schools that the Colorado Department of Education ( CDE) has rated in one of the two lowest accountability categories, Turnaround or Pri ority Improvement, for the past three years. Characteristics that are described in clude regional location, enrollment, ethnicity, and free and reduced lunch statistics. The majority of secondary schools that face state sanctions due to the CDE ratings are loc ated in the Denver Metro area. The number of students who attend these schools vary gr eatly, ranging from 60 students to over 2000 students. The a majority of the low perf orming schools serve a high population of students who qualify for free or redu ced lunch and Latino/a students. The study next reviews the characteristics of schoo ls that have moved out of the two lowest CDE ratings. The characteristics of the schools are similar to the schools that remain in Turnaround and Priority Impr ovement, but some differences are apparent. The regional location is varied for all schools. The successful schools have lower enrollment amounts, with the largest school s erving 899 students. The successful schools also enroll a higher percentage of White or Caucasian students. The number of students who qualified for free and r educed lunch are similar amongst all schools. This chapter further analyzed schools that have imp roved by examining two documents, the School Performance Frameworks (SPFs) and the Unified Improvement Plans (UIP). The SPFs further describes the school s in terms of content areas where the schools improved as well as how far the schools grew in CDE ratings. The UIPÂ’s disclosed the schoolÂ’s major improvement strategies
130 This chapter then presents the summary of the inter views with six principals of schools that moved out of the two lowest ratings. Four themes emerged from the interviews and after reviewing the major improvemen t strategies the school staff discussed in the UIPÂ’s. Schools that are improving are using data and assessments to implement interventions for students, and to inform instructions. Most schools are also scheduling students who are below proficiency in math and/or literacy into a double block one or both of those content areas. T he schools also address school culture and take deliberate actions to ensure that the school is a school of learning. Intertwined with school culture is that principals and staff intentionally focused on building relationships with students, and with one another. Principals need support from central administration in order to implement c hange. This chapter concludes with a discussion of the res earch questions that frame tie study and serve as the focus of this paper. Th e findings in this chapter directly relate to the questions and two research questions were answered with the data from this study. Chapter V will further address the sig nificance of these findings.
131 CHAPTER V DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS This study presented qualitative data describing th e characteristics of the lowest performing secondary schools according to th e Colorado Department of Education (CDE). The study also analyzed character istics of schools that have turned around low academic achievement trends and presente d data from interviews of six principals who successful moved their schools out o f the two lowest state accountability ratings. The findings indicate that many of the low performing schools are urban schools serving a high population of mino rity students and a high number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches. Five small rural schools also surfaced as low performing schools. In addition, t his study identified four themes that explain strategies and reforms that schools impleme nted to raise student achievement. This chapter discusses the findings in relation to the conceptual framework used in this study. A revised framework is propose d based upon the research findings. Unexpected observations have surfaced from the find ings, including the manageability of the Unified Improvement Plans (UIPs) and the sta bility of leadership in high-risk schools and districts. The issue that some small r ural schools are struggling with the Colorado accountability system is also discussed. This chapter finally presents recommendations for educators, followed by limitati ons of the study, and implications for future research. The Conceptual Framework and Findings The conceptual framework for this study documents s trategies high performing/ high minority schools implemented acros s the nation. The strategies were
132 compiled from four researchers who studied several high performing/high minority schools. The conceptual framework is represented i n Table 15. The results of the strategies implemented by the three principals in t his study who successfully led high minority/high poverty schools out of the two lowest accountability ratings are added to the conceptual framework in Table 15 to serve as a comparison between the findings of this study and the original conceptual framework The results of the successful schoolsÂ’ Unified Improvement Plans analyzed for thi s study are also represented in Table 15. The other three principals who were inte rviewed for this study served in isolated rural schools, and the findings of those i nterviews are discussed later in this chapter. Table 15 Conceptual Framework Compared to Findings Researchers Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Strategy Rigor Intensive I nterventions Relation-ships Explicitly acknowledge issue of race Culturally responsive curriculum Parent and community engagement Curriculum alignment, teacher collaboration; formative assessments Lee, Smith, Perry and Smylie (1999) X X Reeves (2000) X X X X Chenoweth (2009) X X X X Howard (2010) X X X X X X Mr. White X X X X Mr. Mendez X X X Mr. Briggs X X X X UIPs X X X X Rigor Schools, particularly high minority schools, must h old high academic expectations for students. Lee, Smith, Perry and S mylie (1999) studied high minority Chicago Public Schools and determined the combinati on of academic press with social
133 support resulted in higher achievement for students After studying four high minority schools, Howard (2010), found that princip als in high minority schools who held a vision of high achievement for all students were academically successful. Chenoweth (2009) studied high minority schools acro ss the nation and found that successful schools instilled Â“the love of learningÂ” with students, and one school required that all 10th grade students pass the state exam. Reeves (2000) studied schools where 90% of the population were minority s tudents, 90% of the population qualified for free and reduced lunches, and 90% of the students performed at grade level, evidencing the schools held high expectation s. The principals who led successful high minority sch ools in this study were adamant about implementing high academic expectatio ns in their schools. Mr. White of Blue Star Middle School described his school as having a Â“culture of learning.Â” If a student did not want to be a part of that culture, he or she was not welcomed at the school. Mr. Mendez boasted that it is cool to be s mart at his school, which he stated was not the norm in most middle schools. Mr. Brigg s addressed the issue of rigor by explaining that teachers focus on higher order thin king skills and on depth of knowledge. It is clear that educators agree that i f schools serving high minority students are to be successful, leaders and teachers must insist on a culture of high academic expectations (Chenoweth, 2009; Howard, 201 0; Lee, Smith, Perry and Smylie. 1999; Reeves, 2000). Insisting on rigor and creating a culture of high e xpectations is necessary, but the principals did not speak about the supports the schools provided for students who are not high achieving other than providing student s with an additional literacy or
134 math class. Mr. White indicated that students who do not attend his school to learn must leave the school. Rigor must include student engagement, which the principals did not address (Chenoweth, 2009; Howard, 2010; Lee Smith, Perry and Smylie,1999; Reeves, 2000). All schools should hold high academic expectation s, but to overcome minority student resistance, the curriculum must be engaging through responding to the studentsÂ’ lives and cultures. Rigor alone will not meet the needs of all students, teachers must address the social inequities that ma ny minority students face (Chenoweth, 2009; Howard, 2010). Intensive Interventions The studies that formed the conceptual framework di d not address Â“intensive interventionsÂ” to a deep degree. HowardÂ’s (2010) st udy found some schools offering intensive interventions during the school day. Che noweth (2009) also found that one of the schools that she studied offered Â“rescue cla sses.Â” Intensive intervention, such as adding additional c lass time in literacy and math, was the strategy that principals in this stud y found to be the most effective. Principals generally provided additional time in li teracy and/or math for students who were below proficiency, and the students would gene rally lose an elective class to receive the intervention. The principals agreed th at double blocking literacy and math, the most highly tested subjects on the TCAP test, h ad the most direct and immediate impact on student achievement. The issue at the se condary level is that changing the master schedule to add additional sections of langu age arts and math requires that teachers must be highly qualified to teach those su bjects. This necessitates staffing
135 changes where the school would employ more language arts and math teachers than elective teachers, if elective courses were the cou rses that students would relinquish for the intervention. In Mr. WhiteÂ’s case, the stu dents did not receive social studies or science instruction in lieu of the additional liter acy or math classes. When Mr. White arrived at his school, 80% of the staff had resigne d, so he had the unique opportunity to hire staff based upon his master schedule needs. Mr. Briggs entered the school when the master schedule change was already in plac e. Mr. Mendez utilized the whole staff to provide the interventions, and liter acy and math teachers created the lesson plans for other staff to teach literacy and math vocabulary during the intervention times. Mr. Harris used Title I funds to employ full time interventionists. While each principal has managed to address the pla n to provide additional core time during the instruction day in literacy and math for students who were below proficiency in their own creative way, Â“changing th e master scheduleÂ” involves much more than a paper and pencil change. Without the a uthority to transfer and hire teachers, many secondary schools do not have the fl exibility to double block literacy and math instruction. Relationships Relationships became part of the conceptual framewo rk because of studies published by Chenoweth (2002) and Lee, Smith, Perry and Smylie (1999). When addressing Â“relationships,Â” the literature not only identifies respectful relationships between staff and students, but also trusting relat ionships between principals and staff. Lee et. al., whose study resulted in the finding th at high minority schools must offer students Â“academic pressÂ” and Â“social support,Â” def ines social support as the need for
136 schools to provide Â“supportive learning environment s and stronger relations between students and teachers and between schools and famil iesÂ” (p. 5). Chenoweth (2002) found that in successful high minority schools teac hers have respectful relationships with students and have high expectations (p.103). Cummins (1986) argues that the reason that many minority students are not succeedi ng in our schools and educational reforms are not working is because relationships ha ve not changed between teachers and students and between schools and communities (p 19). She explains that a redefinition must occur that empowers students, inc orporating studentsÂ’ language and culture into the schools programs (p. 24). What is missing from the UIPÂ’s of the successful Co lorado schools and from the principal interviews is an intentional focus on building respectful relationships between students and teachers, and between principa ls and teachers. Mr. White spoke more about building relationships with his staff th an with his students. However, he explained that his staff was young and were able to have empathy for students. Mr. Harris, the principal of Community Academy, who tur ned around an alternative school, but the school does not serve a high popula tion of minority students, did focus on building relationships with students as a primar y strategy for turning the school around. He stated, It all involves relationships. ItÂ’s about building relationships to cross that barrier between social issues and academic issues. We pay a lot of attention to the affective needs of students. Probably as much if not more than the academic needs of students.
137 Mr. Briggs revealed that the students in his school know that the staff Â“love and care about them.Â” However, in a time of high stakes testing, and sc hool and teacher accountability, educators do not place an emphasis on building relationships with students, where, according to research, relationshi ps should be foremost in education (Cummins,1986). The measurements on the School Per formance Frameworks are turning educators into technicians, determined to g ain the most points, rather than focusing on what matters most, building relationshi ps with students. Explicitly Acknowledge Issues of Race Howard (2010) determined that the four high minorit y secondary schools that he studied explicitly acknowledged issues of race, and staff were comfortable discussing race and racism. Critical Race theorist s find that there is an uphill climb in the arena of teacher education when it comes to con fronting the inequities of race. In their article, Solrzano and Smith-Maddox (2002) ar gue that it is difficult and uncomfortable for teachers to confront issues of di fferences and race, resulting in the reality of Â“colorblindnessÂ” that masks what King ca lls a Â“dysconcious racism, an uncritical habit of mind that justifies inequity an d exploitation by accepting the order of things givenÂ” (King, 1991, p. 135; Solrzano & S mith-Maddox, 2002). Rather than finding cultural responsiveness in succ essful high minority Colorado secondary schools in this study, there rem ains a belief of Â“colorblindnessÂ”; that all students are equal (King, 1991; Solrzano & Smith-Maddox, 2002). This study validates Critical Race theoristsÂ’ belief tha t educators are not addressing issues of inequalities of race in education (Solrzano & S mith-Maddox, 2002). Tim Wise
138 (2012) observes, Â“racial disparities continue unaba tedÂ” in education (p. 33). He writes, Then, in what amounts to a cruel joke, after having provided unequal and understandardized educational resources from fundin g to teacher quality to curriculum offerings-our schools administer standar dized testsÂ…. (Wise, 2012, p. 35). Even though a majority of the schools analyzed in t his study serve high minority schools, the schools do not address race, and the i nequalities in education continue; race matters. Educators do not think critically about the ethical issues that exist in high minority schools. By not examining issues of race in their schools, educators allow the social injustices minority studentsÂ’ face to perpetuate. It is interesting that the major strategy for impr ovement that Colorado leaders rely upon is to provide additional time in literacy and/or math for students who are below proficiency, and the students would generally lose an elective class. LadsonBillings (1997) argues that this type of instructio n for minority students is based upon the deficit theory, that the right strategy must be found to correct at-risk (minority) students who are placed in remediation. Students a re slated for remediation through assessments, which, according to Ladson-Billings, i s a form of scientific theory to subordinate minorities and indicate what the studen t does not know that is on the test, not what the student knows. The entire process of giving minority students a standardized test to find out where the students ar e deficit and then putting the students into remediation further subordinates minority stud ents (Ladson-Billings). Instead,
139 educators should find the strengths and values of a student and then build upon those assets to educate the whole child. Finally, the School Performance Framework system h ighlights and even exaggerates how minority students perform on standa rdized tests. For high minority schools, the disaggregation of scores is repetitive If students receive scores in the 40th percentile in reading in a school that serves 70% m inority students, then it is not surprising that the school will also show that mino rity students also score in the 40th percentile in reading in the minority sub-group. The findings in this study indicate that the princi pals do not explicitly acknowledge issues of race in their schools. Inste ad, educators rely upon remediation. Mr. White and his staff hold high standards for all of his students. However, the only time he described his population, which is above 80 % minority students, is when he stated that Â“learning is the only chance that they have got, and so the equity part may be making teachers understand that our poorer, at-r isk kidsÂ” not be allowed to use their home lives to become excuses for low academic perfo rmance. What is interesting is that Mr. White did not mention the high populations of Latino/a students and African American students who attend his school. He referr ed to his student population as Â“poorÂ” and Â“at risk.Â” Even though Blue Star Middle School accomplished tremendous academic growth in the past two years, students are not receiving equitable education if race in the school is not addressed. Mr. Mendez who serves over a 70% Latino/a student population, also does not address race when speaking about his students. He stated that he was Â“looking at Capturing Kids Heart sÂ” as a program for providing equity training. However, Capturing Kids Hearts ad dresses building relationships with
140 all students and does not specifically address race Mr. Briggs also does not face race in his high minority school. All students are trea ted equally, indicating the Mr. Briggs is living in a belief system of unintentional racis m and colorblindness. He addresses the diversity of his students by intentionally hiri ng staff who are fluent in Spanish. The UIPÂ’s are also void of confronting the inequiti es in educating minority students in schools. The racial inequities that Wise (2012) id entifies will continue Â“unabatedÂ” if educators are unable to confront the existing inequ alities that students of color face. Culturally Responsive Curriculum Culturally relevant curriculum occurs when teachers work to understand and offer curriculum that addresses the various culture s of students in the school (Howard, 2010, p. 144). Yosso (2002) explains that the trad itional curriculum or hidden curriculum perpetuates white dominance, and she cha llenges this trend through her avocation of offering a Critical Race Curriculum. Curriculum is a way to engage minority students in school. The student of color is empowered to study the works of their own culture, challenge the dominant ideology, understand social justice, and validate their own experiences (Yosso). Madhlangob e and Gordon (2012) described an assistant principal of a successful high minorit y school who publically acknowledged teachers relating curriculum to the cu ltural lives of their students (p. 193). The principals that led the successful minori ty schools in this study did not implement culturally relevant curriculum and there were no discussions in the UIPs concerning culturally relevant curriculum. At the most, the major improvement strategies in some schools plans outlined further d evelopment for English Language Learner programs.
141 Mr. Briggs addressed improving instructional strate gies rather than curriculum as a major improvement point in his school. The cu rriculum was a traditional curriculum that was aligned to the state standards. In addition, students who were below proficiency in literacy and/or math, would no t receive social studies or science courses until they reached proficiency in the teste d areas. Mr. Briggs and his staff focused on aligning the schoolÂ’s curriculum to the new state standards and focused on creating common lesson plans. The teachers did not focus on culturally responsive curriculum. None of the principals provided any ty pe of equity or diversity professional development. A few principals indicat ed that the district did provide some diversity training. There is not a knowledge base of culturally responsive curriculum in schools that serve high minority stud ents and that have moved out of the low accountability ratings in Colorado. Literatur e exists that indicates that leaders need to be culturally responsive, yet principal pra ctitioners seem oblivious to the tenants (Madhlangobe & Gordon, 2012; Saifer & Barto n, 2007). Principals in high minority schools often are in crisis mode, and thei r jobs depend on immediately increasing student achievement on standardized test s. What limited education principals had gained in the area of culturally res ponsive curriculum is replaced by implementing the new state standards that will appe ar on the standardized tests, and have no connection to cultural responsiveness. Parent and Community Engagement The schools in HowardÂ’s (2010) study were the only schools that utilized high parent and community engagement as a major improvem ent strategy (p. 144). The three principals that led successful high minority schools in this study did not have
142 high parent or community involvement. Mr. White ex plained when asked about parent and community involvement that he had little parental involvement. I may be one of the few that donÂ’t mind. It may be very easy to blame the parents. I have always had the philosophy, letÂ’s s pend time controlling what we can control. If kids donÂ’t do their homework be cause there is no one to help them, donÂ’t give homeworkÂ…. You have a lot of grandparents raising kids and donÂ’t have the time or energy. The typical mom working two jobs. The other two principals who were interviewed agree d that parent support was minimal. Mr. Briggs hired a company to determine h ow the school can engage its high Spanish speaking community. Mr. Mendez has a PTO, but he explained, It is not a huge gathering of parents. That is not to say that parents donÂ’t really care about their studentsÂ’ education, but something happens when they get to middle school. They are not as involved as they we re when kids were in elementary. The principals recognized that parental involvement often lessens once students become older, and that the economic situation for p arents often does not allow for high parent involvement. While serving as a princi pal, I spent hours with the few committed parents who served on the PTO committee, and often wondered what Â“meaningfulÂ” parent involvement looked like. I app reciated the few parents committed Latino/a parents who worked with me and t he advice they openly offered. They told me when there were problems with the lunc hes, or rumors that they were hearing that I could easily address. As a group we tried to brainstorm ways to bring more parents into the school to help in classrooms or to help support their student
143 learning. We worked with the Colorado Parent Coal ition to engage parents in learning nights. This study indicates that schools can succeed without strong PTOÂ’s, but that parent engagement is something more than p arents serving on committees. Secondary schools have to find ways to keep parents actively engaged in their studentÂ’s learning. Parent involvement does not en d when a student enters middle school. Curriculum alignment, teacher collaboration, format ive assessments Three schools in this study addressed improving tea cher collaboration as a major improvement strategy on the UIPs. The school s plan to either give teachers more time or plan to increase the effectiveness of the collaboration time. Mr. Briggs of South Urban Middle School increased the teacher collaboration time Â“where teachers could get together and discuss what is hap pening with kids.Â” Mr. WhiteÂ’s teachers met once a week in departments to discuss instructional strategies. Mr. Mendez changed the master schedule to allow for Pro fessional Learning Community (PLC) common planning time where teachers could mee t every day to plan and align curriculum. Schools use this collaboration time fo r common assessment analysis, common planning, or intervention discussions. Six schools in this study address curriculum refin ement and alignment as a major improvement strategy on the UIPs. Mr. Mendez Â’s staff determined that math was an area in need of improvement at Hillside Midd le School. The math teachers would determine the grade level needs and would pro vide lesson plans for all teachers to teach during fifth period. The common planning time also gave teachers an opportunity to further refine curriculum focus. Mr WhiteÂ’s teachers focused on skill
144 based needs of students. The school district suppo rted Mr. Briggs by providing a structured time and common assessments as the teach ers intentionally focused quarterly on curriculum and benchmark assessments. Curriculum alignment, teacher collaboration, and th e use of formative assessments is a fundamental best practices that le ads to student achievement; yet, the best practices are not systemic in Colorado schools Implemented with fidelity, aligning curriculum, collaborating, utilizing commo n formative assessments and using the results to guide instruction are effective stra tegies for raising student achievement Working in Professional Learning Communities PLCs, as Dufour and EakerÂ’s (1998) have been instructing for 15 years, will increase s tudent achievement. The question to ponder is why has the practice not become systemic in public education? As Mr. White explained, In any other industry, if you found the way to get 60 miles to the gallon, if you found a cure for cancer, if you found a way to make bigger profits, it would be all over the place, but in education, it is not val id, or replicable or something. I am not sure. It just puzzles the heck out of me. Why we know how to do it, and it is not done everywhere However, when considering the issues of race and eq uality, it is evident that a silver bullet will not repair our educational system. The accountability system itself must first be examined to determined why it is perpetuat ing the Â“achievement gapÂ” and why it is racist in and of itself.
145 Additions to the Conceptual Framework The principals who participated in the study ident ified two areas that were important to their school improvement success, that are not identified in the conceptual framework in this study. All of the principals spo ke about the need to Â“take control of the schoolÂ” and ensure that student behavior was ad dressed immediately. I listened to stories of desks being thrown, students cursing at teachers, and students urinating on teachersÂ’ cars. The principals ensured that the sc hools provided safe learning environments for students and staff as soon as they entered the schools. The principals also made clear that their success was dependent up on district support, and that the school district allowed the principals the flexibil ity to make changes that the principals believed were necessary to turn the schools around. School Safety One school improvement strategy that the principals addressed in the interviews, that was not part of the conceptual fra mework of this study, is the issue of student discipline and school safety. The principa ls of the successful high minority schools were clear that they were tough on discipli ne. Mr. White expelled 20 students his first year at Blue Star Middle School Mr. Mend ez described the former principal as Â“softerÂ” with students and said that he was toug h on discipline. Mr. Briggs indicated that the discipline lines were clear in h is school, and Â“he wasnÂ’t afraid to send kids home.Â” The principals set high behavior standards for their students and created a safe environment for learning. Having hig h expulsion rates and putting a high emphasis on student behavior would not be nece ssary if students were engaged with their learning in a culturally responsive envi ronment. However, the principals
146 were clear that when they came to the schools, they needed to create an orderly environment where students and teachers felt safe b efore learning could occur. Districts are Flexible and Supportive of Schools Another practice that the principals who participat ed in this study discussed, but that was not part of the conceptual framework, is that in order for the principals to implement reforms in low performing schools, their supervisors must support and ensure that principals have flexibility to make dec isions. Mr. White and Mr. Smith were outspoken when they explained that changes in school board membership and superintendents undermine the reform process in the ir schools. The other principals indicated that they could implement the reforms onl y because they benefited from a trusting and supportive relationship with their sup eriors. Even though principals are leaders of schools, and they will be the first to b e removed if their schools maintain low performance, principals are middle managers and serve at the whim of superintendents and the school board. A permeated sense of fear exists in principalships in high-risk schools. Principals ar e Â“at willÂ” employees, and do not enjoy the protection of tenure that teachers hold. In some instances, this anomaly provides teachers more job security and positional power than principals hold. Principals must maintain the trust and support of t heir superiors if they are to take the necessary risks to create dramatic change in school s. Principals need to make the decisions of which interventions to implement in th e school, and how to design the interventions. In the interviews, the principals h ad complete cite base decision making power, with guidance, trust and support of their su pervisors. When the supervisors and level of support changed, one principal left hi s position, and another was planning
147 to leave. Decisions, such as removing studentsÂ’ el ectives or social science classes to offer the students intervention classes may be met with resistance from teachers and parents. Principals must be able to implement prog rams such as AVID quickly and without district interference, and not fear that if the district leadership changes, the work the principals have accomplished will be subje ct to district review. Without district support, principals must address additiona l battles beyond increasing student achievement. The revised conceptual framework adds the notion that school districts are flexible and supportive of principals in order for change to occur. What is Working in High Minority/High Poverty Schoo ls The two issues that the principals who led the successful schools in this study addressed, and that were absent from the original c onceptual framework, are that the principals ensured that the schools maintained a sa fe learning environment, and that they operated in an organizational structure where they garnered the flexibility and support to implement the necessary changes to ensur e student achievement. These two aspects that support increased student achievement in high minority schools are added to the conceptual framework (Table 16) to provide a dditional reference for educators who are grappling with student improvement in high minority/high poverty schools.
148 Table 16 Revised Conceptual Framework: What is Working in Hi gh Minority/High Poverty Schools Strategy Rigorous Culture of Learning Intensive Interventions Respectful relationships between staff and students and between principal and staff Staff explicitly acknowledges issues of race Culturally responsive curriculum Parent and community engagement Aligned curriculum; teacher collaboration; formativ e assessments Safe learning environment Schools are supported by districts that are flexibl e Revelations I appreciated the candid and honest nature of the i nterviews with the principals. The frustrations that two principals f elt with the Unified Improvement Planning process were palatable; they felt that the process actually impeded their work. The principals were also honest about their professional lives and either explained their plans to leave their positions or e xplained why they had left their jobs. Finally, I was not only surprised by the fact that schools existed that enrolled as little as 31 students, but was interested to learn about t he issues that the rural schools faced when I spoke to some of the leaders of the isolated schools. The Unified Improvement Planning Process Last year, in October, I and four other staff membe rs attended three days of training provided by staff members of the Colorado Department of Education at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland covering how to complete the Unified Improvement Plan. Although it was beneficial to sp end time with my teachers to delve into our achievement data, I was concerned th at we were creating a plan in
149 October that should have been implemented in August In addition, we received directives that Â“root causesÂ” must be something tha t we could control; staff are not to imply that they face equity issues when educating h igh populations of minority students. The major improvement strategies would t hen address the root causes. While it is understandable that schools cannot blam e low scores on high minority/high poverty population, issues of equity and racism whe n educating minority students will never become addressed. This may explain why the improvement strategies found in the UIPÂ’s in this study are similar. While attempt ing to be Â“equitableÂ” CDE is caught in the net of Â“colorblindnessÂ” that has possessed s ociety and that has hindered the advancement of minority students since the inceptio n of public education. The UIPs that I reviewed ranged from 18 pages to 48 pages; this indicated there are different levels of understanding and com mitment to the process. The root cause analysis and resulting major improvement stra tegies were consistent between schools. Most schools addressed some form of curri culum alignment and best practice in instructional strategies. The findings reported that three principals of schools that showed a high increase in academic achievement did not find the UIP format useful. I personally wrote four UIPs as a principal. While t he process of analyzing the data with staff was beneficial, it was not new. Before CDE released the UIP format, every year the staff would divide into departments and an alyze needs. I disliked the fact that I was spending time in my office filling out the fo rms rather than spending time in classrooms. The root cause analysis was helpful, b ut not authentic. When we are working in a 90% minority, high poverty school, tho se factors must be addressed, or reaching an improvement strategy that will affect a chievement for minority students
150 will not address issues of race and poverty. We wr ote root causes such as Â“the lack of instructional strategies that meet the needs of min ority students,Â” but it was very difficult to bring the staff to that point. Anothe r issue is that the actual plans are threeyear plans, but schools are expected to rewrite the plans every year. Because of the late release of data, the plans usually are not com pleted until January, one month before standardized testing begins. The cumbersome nature of the plans signal that CDE needs to either survey principals and staff reg arding the usefulness of the UIPs or create a committee of principals to address the iss ues of the UIP process. Staff Stability I was particularly concerned with the high turnover of principals that were leading the at-risk schools. While conducting my r esearch, I realized that the instability in the districts also extended to schoo l board membership and teachers. The turnover in leadership both at the district and sch ool level may also be an underlying cause of why many practices have not become systemi c in schools. Mr. White and Mr. Smith describe how the instability that school board turnover creates issues for school leadership. The change in membership in Mr. WhiteÂ’s school board and the introduction of a new superintendent after he was s uccessful leading Blue Star Middle School for one and a half years resulted in his hav ing to remove many of the interventions that were working. He left the schoo l at the end of the second school year. When he joined the school, 80% of the staff had left. Mr. Smith of MinerÂ’s Middle/High School was also discouraged after worki ng with the changes in his board membership and changes with the superintendents. H e found it very difficult to implement any changes, and planned to leave after h is third year in the school. School
151 leadership, especially in at-risk schools tends to be unstable. Of the six principals interviewed for this study, only one principal has been in his building for more than five years. Mr. Mendez, who was entering his third year as principal at Hillside school joked Â“I say that it is always raining in this scho ol district, so you have to learn how to dance in the rain.Â” Rural Schools While I expected to find urban schools that enroll a high percentage of high minority/high poverty students included on the list of schools in danger of sanctions, I was surprised to see five schools identified as low performing that are either rural mountain schools or eastern plains schools. The schools are listed in Table 17. These schools are located in isolated areas, where typica lly the Superintendent also serves as the principal of the secondary schools. The popula tion of the schools is as low as 31 students. The quandary with these schools that ser ve a majority of White students is there is not a realistic state sanction for these s chools. The schools also have high poverty rates. Closing a small rural school, where the next nearest school is possibly 50 miles away, is not practical. CDE needs to look at the issues in these isolated areas that are creating the low achievement and that cann ot be captured through standardized testing, rather than threatening sanctions. The in terviews with principals that turned around the rural schools indicate that student moti vation is one of the major factors causing the low performance of the schools. The is olated nature of the communities does not offer a high level of employment opportuni ties. The students generally face a future of agriculture, drilling/mining employment, or poverty.
152 Table 17 Low Performing Rural Schools School Enrollment Aguilar Junior-Senior High School 31 Antonito Middle School 39 Freemont Middle School 360 Las Animas Junior High School 64 Sierra Grande Middle School 65 Recommendations ColoradoÂ’s new system of accreditation is in its in fancy; it has only been in affect for three year, and flaws from such an intri cate system are predictable. Five recommendations have resulted from this study. The recommendations are as follows; (a) Colorado leaders, including CDE leadership coul d benefit from culturally responsiveness training; (b) Colorado principal li censure programs should include a culturally responsiveness curriculum for leaders an d culturally relevant curriculum training; (c) CDE needs to provide support rather that threaten low performing schools that serve high populations of minority stu dents; (d) the School Performance Framework formula should be revisited to determine whether the formula is equitable; (e) the format of the Unified Improvement Plan need s to be revisited. It is evident that the principals, and even CDE, do not have an understanding of best practices when educating minority students in Colorado. Nowhere in the 19 Unified Improvement Plans is there a mention of cul tural responsiveness for minority
153 students and the principal interview data also evid ence a lack of understanding of cultural responsive curriculum. Any attention that state educational leaders pay to understanding the inequities that minority students still endure is symbolic, and culturally responsive practices are not entrenched in our school system, even though a majority of schools that are failing serve a high p ercentage of minority students. CDE, school districts, and principals, must become experts on the issues that minority students face and become experts on best practices for educating minority students. At this point, Colorado is Â“colorblind.Â” It is time t hat all educators in Colorado become experts in racial equality; difficult conversations about race and education must occur if the Â“achievement gapÂ” will ever be addressed. A second recommendation is that principal licensure courses should include curriculum that includes culturally responsive lead ership and culturally relevant curriculum training. At this point, educational le aders are still operating with mindset that Â“if you try hard enough you can do it.Â” The f indings of this study indicate that principals hold high expectations for students, but place little emphasis on building relationships with students, and offer no training for staff on culturally responsiveness and do not offer students a culturally relevant cur riculum. In addition, rather than sanctioning high minority schools, CDE must find ways to support the failing schools. The Colorado Depar tment of Education also must not operate from a basis of threats. The current menta lity is that if you lead an at-risk school that does not improve dramatically, then sev ere sanctions will befall upon the school. This mentality only places anxiety upon ed ucators and in turn upon students. The negative environment leads to high turnover in leadership and staff. Supportive
154 interventions rather than threats would serve to be productive for improving student achievement in at-risk schools. A fourth recommendation is that CDE needs to analyz e the validity of the School Performance Frameworks (SPFs). A school tha t serves a high minority population, a high ESL population, a high populatio n of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches, and/or a high population of stu dents with disabilities have statistically many more targets to meet that a scho ol that serves a majority of White students. Schools that are diverse are penalized b ecause of their Â“subgroups.Â” In attempting to track the progress of underserved pop ulations, the result is that schools that serve these populations are penalized. The re ality that minority students are underperforming is publicized year after year, addi ng to the racial stigma that somehow minority students are deficit in academic a chievement. While the point system seems objective, the result of SPF point sys tem is that the likelihood that a school will receive a low accountability rating inc reases with the amount of diverse populations that a school serves. Finally, CDE needs to revisit the format and proces s of the Unified Improvement Plans with a representative body of pri ncipals. Principals in this study commented the UIP process and format are not useful Three principals were bold enough to voice their opinion that the format was a rduous and did not help their school improvement process. The UIPÂ’s reviewed for this st udy ranged from 18 pages to 48 pages, indicating a lack of uniformity and understa nding of CDE requirements. The UIP is meant to be a three-year plan, yet principal s tackle the tedious task of turning in
155 a plan yearly. The plan usually is not submitted t o CDE until January, well into the school year. Recommendations for Future Research The study of characteristics of schools that are pe rsistently low performing according to the Colorado accountability system, an d the study of the practices that are moving low performing schools out of the lowest rat ings have significant implications. One issue in need of future study is the fact that the current Colorado accountability system is racist. Schools that are in danger of sa nctions are predominately high minority/high poverty schools. This draconian syst em of accountability should cease before it further injures the most vulnerable stude nts in this state. The current accountability system results in a continuous label ing of predominately high minority/high poverty schools as low performing, pe rpetuating the notion of the Â“achievement gap.Â” A system of accountability must emerge that considers the issues of race and poverty. Another area of concern that needs further investi gation is that the findings of this study indicate that principals are not impleme nting culturally responsive practices in high minority schools. A recommended area for future research stems from the fact that many rural schools are low achieving. Future research should explore alternatives to acco untability systems that further marginalize minority students. Since the i nception of accountability systems, it has been apparent that White students are academica lly out performing minority students. The accountability system reinforces the se results year after year. It is necessary to revisit the bias nature of standardize d testing, and accountability systems
156 that exist across the nation to seek alternatives t hat will provide both school accountability and social equity. In addition, the research should consider how accountability systems can support rather than sanc tion high minority schools. Another area of interest for further research is to investigate how principal licensure programs are creating culturally responsi ve leaders. The results of this study indicate that even leaders of successful high minor ity schools are not including the cultural home lives of minority students in the stu dentsÂ’ curriculum. While these schools are achieving short term success, the long term results of focusing on academic rigor without cultural responsiveness are unknown. A final interesting area for further research is th e topic of academic achievement of rural schools. Some research on rur al schools exists, but this study provides evidence for need of further research in t he area. I was surprised that these small schools appeared on the Â“in dangerÂ” list. Af ter speaking to the principals of these isolated schools, I realized that educating a nd motivating students in isolated small communities are real issues, and should be su bjects for future research. Summary The results of this research have revealed that the Colorado Department of Education accountably system has led to a high numb er of minority schools that face the threat of closure. In addition, there are a si milar amount of isolated rural schools that are faced with the same threat. Research has indicated that high minority/urban schools will benefit students if their staff become culturally responsive schools, where schools provide culturally relevant curriculum and build authentic relationships with their students. High minority schools in this stud y are not concerned with equity
157 education. The concerns of principals are centered around how to raise student achievement in literacy and math in order to raise test scores and reach the acceptable ratings on the stateÂ’s SPFs. A true disconnect exi sts between the highest levels of Colorado educators and scholarly theory. Leaders m ust understand that working with minority students is not just an issue of working w ith poverty students, but that there are historical and social issues involved. Race is not a comfortable issue for anyone, but CDE, boards of education and principals must ad dress the issue of race honestly. The current Colorado system of accountability is ra cist evidenced by the result that a majority of the schools facing sanctions are high m inority/high poverty schools. The schools that have turned around are providing skill ed interventions to students, and those students are losing elective or social conten t areas, to ensure that the schools gain points on the School Performance Frameworks. Schools are not educating the whole child; schools are educating children to scor e well on a test so that the schools will gain points. It is time to rethink the nature of school accountability in Colorado.
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165 APPENDIX A SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS After a brief introduction of the purpose of the st udy, to determine what measures the leader took to move the school out of one of the tw o lowest state ratings. 1. Describe your school. What are your values? G oals? 2. Why has your school moved from Turnaround (or P riority Improvement) rating? (with specific follow-up questions). What role has your Unified Improvement Plan played in your school improvement? 3. What have you and your staff implemented that y ou believe has had the largest impact on student achievement and why? 4. How do you recruit, retain and support good tea chers? What are your expectations for your schoolÂ’s curriculum? What are expectations fo r your schoolÂ’s instructional program? For professional development? Are there any discipline issues? 5. Explain the extent of parent and community invo lvement in your school. 6. What are the major challenges in your school an d how do address those challenges? 7. Do you provide diversity or equity professional development your teachers? 8. What else would you like to tell me about your success?
166 APPENDIX B INFORMED CONSENT: PARTICIPANT RELEASE AGREEMENT You are being asked to be in this research study be cause you are the principal of a secondary school that has moved from Turnaround or Priority Improvement Status to a higher rating in the past three years. If you join the study, you will be asked to partici pate in an interview that will take approximately two to four hours. This study is designed to learn more about the meas ures that were implemented that affected the increased student achievement in your school. Possible discomforts or risks include discussing pr ofessional experiences may bring up unpleasant thoughts or feelings. There may be risks the researchers have not thought of. Every effort will be made to protect your privacy a nd confidentiality by keeping personal information confidential, destroying the audio tape s after transcription, and keeping the data in a locked, secure cabinet. You have a choice about being in this study. You do not have to be in this study if you do not want to be. If you have questions, you can call Kelly Williams at 303-356-2481. You can call and ask questions at any time. You may have questions about your rights as someone in this study. If you have questions, you can call the COMIRB ( the responsibl e Institutional Review Board). Their number is (303) 724-1055. COMIRB APPROVED for EXEMPTION 11-Jun-2013 11-Jun-2016
167 APPENDIX C : SCHOOL PERFORMANCE FRAMEWORK EXAMPLE
170 APPENDIX D: UNIFIED IMPROVEMENT PLAN EXAMPLE
177 These pages represent example pages from a 47 page UIP document.