EDUCATORS PERCEPTIONS OF IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVES IN A PERSISTENTLY LOW PERFORMING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL By ELIZABETH A. DUNN A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2017
2017 Elizabeth A. Dunn
To my family, my husband Michael and my three children, Andrew, Caroline and Peter for their love, encouragement, and support.
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and foremost, I must thank my family who have been with me every step of the way. Thanks to my husband, Mike, and my three children, Andrew, Caroline and Peter, for allowing me to take a step back from the daily hustle and bustle that is our life so that I could pursue this degree. Kids, I hope that you have learned something throughout this process you will NEVER be too old to pursue your dream and I hope that you will never stop learning. Most importantly, hard work and perseverance do pay off!!! I must also thank Dr. Elizabeth Bondy for being a constant rudder on this doctoral journey. You have be en a phenomenal advisor, patiently guiding me toward reflection about my practice and pushing my thinking about equitable education in so many ways. I could never have completed this work without your encouragement, guidance and support. I w ill always reme mber Th anks to my doctoral committee, Dr. Swapna Kumar, Dr. Vicki Vescio, and Dr. Nancy Waldron for your guidance and support. Thank you to the CTTE faculty, Dr. Allison Adams, Dr. Nancy Dana, and Dr. Brianna Kennedy. I have grown in so many ways and this is because of your collective effort and your expertise in developing such an excellent doctoral program. I would like to acknowledge my doctoral cohort Cohort Three. Thank you for your candor and for challenging me through our conversations about education over the last three and half years. It makes me happy that you all are advocating for students all over America. I would like to give a special thanks to the Core Four who became the Sassy Six: Stac ey, Corinne, Shari, Suzanne and Jen. Many thanks for the support, the laughter, our daily conversation, your love, and your passion for your students and their
5 education. Without the five of you, I would never have had nearly as much fun over the last few years nor would I have attained this degree. I would like to thank the many colleagues who I have had the privilege of working with at Fall River Public Schools. Your determination to help our students be successful is second to none. An extra special th ank you to the faculty and staff of Harrison Elementary School who participated in this study. Finally, I would like to thank all of the students who have crossed my path since I began my teaching career in 2006. You have made me laugh and cry as well as motivated me to be the best educator I can be. It has been a gift to help each of you to discover who you are. These interactions have enriched my life and I am honored to have been a small part of your journey.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 9 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 10 LIST OF KEY TERMS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 11 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 13 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY ................................ ................................ ........ 15 Background and Significance of Problem ................................ .............................. 18 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ....................... 20 Relevant Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ 21 History of School Reform ................................ ................................ ................ 22 A Fr amework for School Reform ................................ ................................ ..... 23 Key Elements of Effective School Reform ................................ ....................... 26 School culture ................................ ................................ ........................... 26 School leadership and building capacity ................................ ................... 27 Collaboration and professional learning communities ............................... 28 Teacher leadership ................................ ................................ ................... 29 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 30 Research Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ 31 Criteria for Participant Selection ................................ ................................ ............ 33 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 36 Phase One: Lay of the Land ................................ ................................ ............ 37 Phase Two: Interviews ................................ ................................ .................... 40 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 42 Researcher Pos itionality ................................ ................................ ........................ 43 Enhancing Trustworthiness ................................ ................................ ................... 45 Summary and Overview ................................ ................................ ........................ 46 2 FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 47 Harrison Elementar y: A School In Flux ................................ ................................ .. 49 ....... 53 Climate ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 54 Relationships among adults ................................ ................................ ...... 55 St ress, anxiety, and low teacher morale ................................ .................... 57
7 Theme 2: Teacher Participants Lack Knowledge of Initiatives They Perceive as Irrelevant to Teacher Practice ................................ ................................ 60 .......... 61 Administrative role versus teacher role ................................ ..................... 61 Lack of participation ................................ ................................ .................. 63 In itiatives ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 65 Theme 1: Participants Judged Nonacademic Initiatives as Most Impactful ...... 66 Theme 2: Participants Perceived That Initiatives Were Not Effectively Implemented ................................ ................................ ................................ 72 Harrison: Optimism and Hope ................................ ................................ ............ 74 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 76 3 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 78 Contributions to the Literature ................................ ................................ ................ 82 School Culture and Strong Relationships ................................ ........................ 82 Communication is Paramount ................................ ................................ ......... 83 Professional development ................................ ................................ ......... 84 Professional collaboration ................................ ................................ ......... 85 Building Capacity and Accountability ................................ ............................... 86 Teacher Leadership ................................ ................................ ........................ 87 Implications for Practice ................................ ................................ ......................... 89 Implications for School Administrators ................................ ............................. 89 Implications for Classroom Teachers ................................ .............................. 93 Implications for District Leadership ................................ ................................ .. 94 Implications for School Improvement ................................ ............................... 95 Next Steps ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 95 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 97 APPENDIX A INITIATIVES ENACTED AT HARRISON ELEMENTARY 2016 2017 SCHOOL YEAR ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 99 B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ................................ ................................ ................... 100 C HARRISON ELEMENTARY SC HOOL LEARNING WALK OBSERVATION PROTOCOL ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 103 D INFORMED CONSENT FORM, INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW ................................ 105 E INFORMED CONSTENT FORM, FOCUS GROUP INTERVIEW ......................... 107 F DATA ANALYSIS TABLE SAMPLE ................................ ................................ ..... 109 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................ 110
8 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ......................... 113
9 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2 1 Participant knowledge of initiatives. ................................ ................................ ...... 64
10 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 MCAS data for ELA, Harrison Elementary. ................................ ........................... 50 2 2 MCAS data for ELA, school, district, state comparison. ................................ ........ 51 2 3 MCAS data for mathematics, Harrison Elementary. ................................ .............. 51 2 4 MCAS data for mathematics, school, di strict, state comparison. ........................... 52
11 LIST OF KEY TERMS Behaviorist Staff member who supports social emotional learning and behavioral interventions needed for students. Th e role includes the development of interventions and functional behavioral assessments for the purpose of aiding students in their ability to access the curriculum. Th e Behaviorist participates in social emotional learning team meeti ngs. Level 4 School A Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary A Level 4 school is low performing on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) over a four year perio d in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science, and has not showed signs of substantial improvement over that time ( Massachusetts Executive Office of Education n.d.) This designation is based on an analysis of four year trends in absolute ach ievement, student growth, and academic improvement where students have failed to demonstrate substantial improvement. Level 4 schools are referred to as "turnaround schools" since designation as a Level 4 school requires them to undertake an accelerated pr ocess for rapid and sustainable improvement within three full school years. (Massachusetts DESE) MCAS Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System The standards based assessment used by public schools in Massachusetts from grade three through grade ten a nd covering English language arts, mathematics and science. MCAS Achievement Ratings Advanced Students at this level demonstrate a comprehensive and in depth understanding of rigorous subject matter, and provide sophisticated solutions to complex problems. Proficient Students at this level demonstrate a solid understanding of challenging subject matter and solve a wide variety of problems. Needs Improvement Students at this level demonstrate a partial understanding of subject matter and solve some simple problems. Warning (Grades 3 8 ) Students at this level demonstrate a minimal understanding of subject matter and do not solve simple problems. (MA DESE)
12 Opt Out In Level 4 schools, state law establishes conditions by which all staff in the school m ay be required to reapply for positions in the school. In the case of Harrison, all teachers were required to interview with the principal by February 15, 2017. Because this call to action in a turnaround school may not be the right fit for all teachers, t eachers with professional status (employed for three another school in the district for the following school year by providing written notice between February 15, 2017 and June 1, 2017. Those teachers who were deemed by the principal not to be the right fit to carry out the turnaround work required in a Level 4 b y March 1, 2017. Those administratively opted out would be place on a displaced te achers list if they had professional status within the district. Those without professional status would be terminated. Positive Behavior Interventions and Support ( PBIS) An approach for assisting school personnel in adopting evidence based behavioral int erventions that enhances academic and social behavior outcomes for all students. PBIS is prevention oriented to: Organize evidence based practices Maximize academic social and behavior outcomes for students ( OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports 2017) Social emotional Team A team of staff members, such as principal vice principal school adjustment counselors and behaviorists who help to promote st School Adjustment Counselor needs. Th e role includes counseling, crisis management, facilitating social skills groups, monitoring attendance and response to intervention, as well as participating in social emotional learning team meetings. Student Growth Percentile (SGP) A measure of student pro gress that compares changes in a students with similar scores in prior years. Students with similar
13 Abstract of Dissertation Present ed to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education EDUCATORS PERCEPTIONS OF IMPROVEMENT INIT I ATIVES IN A PERSISTEN TLY LOW PERFORMING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL By Elizabeth A. Dunn December 2017 Chair: Elizabeth Bondy Major: Curriculum and Instruction The press for school reform in the United States continues t o intensify In many instances, American schools fail to provide high level expectations and learning opportunities for all students. In fact, the most underfunded American schools are those that educate poverty stricken students of color (Darling Hammond, 2010). The se schools and their students are disadvantaged, without resources and politi cal clout The adoption of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) represented the belief that by establishing high, measurable learning standards, student learning outcomes would improve. NC LB assessments used to measure learning then determin ed whether schools we re deemed performing or failing. In response to these demands, public schools across the United States i mplemented a variety of initiatives to improve student learning. This qualitative study, conducted in southeastern Massachusetts, examined the 2016 2017 school year. As a novice member of the administrative team at Harrison Elementary School the study addresse d the most pressing problem in my current professional life deepening my understanding of how school reform initiatives were
14 implemented and how educators respon ded to them. Nine participants, representing teachers and administration, were interviewed about their knowledge of school and their view of future school improveme nt at Harrison El ementary Data analysis showed that participants had a widely varying knowledge of reform initiatives and that th eir knowledge was shaped by the poor school climate as well as the relevance of the initiatives perceived the nonacademic initiatives as having the most impact although initiatives were not deemed as effective as they might have been due to lack of consistency, fidelity and monitoring of impl ementation Nevertheless, m ost participants were optimistic about the promise of school improvement The results of this study emphasize the importance of creating a school culture that is collaborative and collegial and fostering strong relationships betw een administra tion and teachers and among teachers Further, communication, effective professional development, accountability and teacher leadership must all be considered carefully in order to enact effective school improvement.
15 CHAPTER 1 INTR ODUCTION TO THE STUDY American public schools, in existence since the 1840s and purported to be the persistent under achievement of students, particularly students of colo r and students from low income families. Although public schooling has made major contributions to society for more than 250 years, the urgency of reform continues to monopolize educational circles. The necessity of school improvement and reform touches a multitude of public school districts across the United States. Harrison Elementary School in southeastern Massachusetts is no exception. The number of failing schools 1 in the United States continues to grow. As Darling Hammond (2010) claimed, American sch ools continue to fall far behind Asian 7). In ad dition, American schools fail to provide high level expectations and learning opportunities for all students. In fact, the most underfunded American schools are those that educate poverty stricken students of color (Darling Hammond, 2010). These schools, a long with their students, are dramatically disadvantaged, without resources, political clout, or in many cases, hope. With the adoption of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the resulting demand for accountability, the inequities have reached new heights. This is due to the influx of 1 Throughout the dissertation, I use the deficit based language of the school accountability movement in the United States. Although I am dismayed but this kind of language, I use it because it is the reality fo r me and the participants in this study.
16 standardized testing and the ensuing achievement gaps, particularly in low income schools. Gorski (2013) assert ed that the gaps in achievement are due to gaps in opportu children who come from families with poorer economic backgrounds, are not being given an opportunity to learn that is equal to that offered to further argue d that school syst ems tend to pursue misguided approaches by spending an exorbitant amount of money and dedicating resources to a variety of initiatives that are unsuccessful in lessening achievement gaps. Harrison Elementary School serves families from poor economic backg rounds. The school is one of eight elementary schools in an urban setting in southeastern Massachusetts and houses 724 students in five units of grades K 5. Like all Massachusetts public schools, Harrison is rated on a scale of 1 to 5 according to the Mass achusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which measures achievement and student growth over a four year period in English language arts (ELA), math and science. Harrison has been consistently ranked as a Level 3 School by the Massachusetts Depart ment of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the school is among the lowest 20 % of schools in this category statewide (DESE). Further, during the 2015 2016 school year, Harrison moved in ranking from the lowest 5% of Level 3 Schools to the lowest 3% of Level 3 Schools. Because of the continued low performance, Harrison was declare d a Level 4 School in September 2016 based on the spring 2016 accountability data. This means that Harrison was MCAS and the related accountability m easures over a four year period in ELA, math, and science and has failed to demonstrate substantial improvement (Massachusetts
17 improvement, it is imperative that school personnel see k to implement effective reform, and in order to do that, they need insight into the school change process. In particular, school leaders must understand how educators at Harrison Elementary make sense of and enact specific school reform initiatives. As such, the study of a failing school and the subsequent changes implemented have far reaching implications. According to Fullan (2007), successful school change occurs processe (p. 122). That is, in order to develop the right ideas, a school must first examine itself. Indeed, Fullan asserted that planning for educational change fails when reformers do effective change is careful study of the local particulars. Accordingly, it is important to understand what is occurring presently in the beginning stages of s chool reform, along with the values and philosophy of the stakeholders within a failing school. In the 2016 2017 school year, Harrison Elementary ha d a predominantly new administrative team with only one returning academic administrator. It was incumbent u pon the new administrative team to discern a full understanding of the school context in order to plan for improvements leading to changes which strengthen learning outcomes for all students. As a new member of this team, my intent was to conduct a n instr umental case study in order to develop a deep understanding of Harrison Elementary and the preliminary initiatives enacted during the 2016 2017 school year to help improve the poor performance on standardized tests
18 The school district where Harrison is l ocated ha d 18 schools and programs and one third of these schools are designated as Level 3. Using a n instrumental case study methodology to study Harrison Elementary provide d a model for other schools to review and utilize in improving their own context Background and Significance of Problem Children all over the United States are being failed by public schools. This idea of failing schools, documented in A Nation at Risk (1983), shocked the public and catalyzed a call to arms to rectify our American school system. More than 30 years later, failing schools are still prevalent. The distinction of being identified as a failing school is associated with a myriad of accountabi lity measures assigned by federal and state governments. Unfortunately, these accountability measures have failed to repair the American public school system. Many researchers would argue that accountability exacerbates the problems within the public schools. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2001, what is widely known as No Child Left Behind, a host of largely unfu nded accountability measures were imposed which rank public schools, teachers, and students into categories such as proficient or failing (Ravitch, 2010; Rury, 2013). A ccountability measures alone have not addressed the many factors that help to explain t he widespread underachievement in public schools. For example, there are major differences in educational outcomes for different groups of students. Race, socio economic status, and geographical location all impact the learning opportunities for students ( Kena et al., 2015) and, hence, the learning outcomes. For example, in 2012 2013, 24% of all public schools were considered to be high poverty schools, and in
19 these schools, the numbers of Black, Hispanic and English Language Learner (ELL) students were di sproportionately higher than White and Asian students (Kena et al., 2015). In addition, the number of ELL students and Hispanic students in particular was on the rise. Factors associated with poverty, such as trauma and homelessness, are additional variabl es that influence student achievement. Unfortunately, there are no governmental accountability measures which consider the emotional well being of disadvantages associated with The inequities present in our country have not lessened and continue to shape children lived in poverty as compar ed with 10% of white children (Books, 2015). This statistic, along with the fact that schools who serve these most fragile students are often underfunded and have high teacher turnover, all play a role in the reality of failing schools. Another reason why schools fail students is the quality of the educators. Research has shown there is a direct correlation between teacher certification status, pathway into teaching, and teaching experience and teacher effectiveness (Darling Hammond, 2010). It has been rep eatedly documented that the schools with the most vulnerable student populations have the least well prepared teachers (Darling Hammond, 2010; Gorski, 2013; Ravitch, 2010). According to Fullan and Hargreaves (1991), how and whether students learn is direct ly related to how and if teachers improve their practice. Thus, a major ingredient for improving student learning is
20 taken that increases the collective efficacy o f a group to improve student learning through new knowledge, enhanced resources, and greater motivation on the part of the building is contingent upon the identification of the strengths and weaknesses within a particular school. Significance of the Study School reform has claimed the attention of educators, lawmakers, parents and pundits for decades. For the vast majority of students attending failing schools that have ad opted reform efforts, there is little positive movement to report. In fact, most school reform efforts have done little to positively impact student educational outcomes for the long term (Ravitch, 2010). Research shows that students who attend failing sch ools often never overcome the learning experiences they missed (Kozol, 1991). Only one out of ever y ten low income kindergartener s actually graduate s from college and many of these low income students become part of the prison system (Darling Hammond, 201 0). Therefore, it is crucial that we study ways to convert failing schools into successful schools for all of our children. As Fullan (2007) explained, school reform remains a complex process. Since context must be examined in order to determine how to proceed in enacting school change. Many confounding factors contribute to the success or failure of school reform and as such, there is a need to study these factors. Through careful collection and ana lysis of data, I used an instrumental case study approach in this study of Harrison Elementary This approach enable d me to deepen my understanding of how Harrison fell to its current Level 4 status, what changes were deemed appropriate by school leaders how teachers
21 understood new initiatives and how school personnel assess ed the impact of the changes enacted in 2016 2017 Merely enacting changes within a school environment does not alone transform a school. Rather, re culturing a school, where teachers change through questioning their beliefs and habits, is how school change occurs (Fullan, 2007). Th is examination of how the change pro cess begins ould add to the literature on school reform. The study also has the potential to impa ct other schools as they embark on their own change initiatives. For me as a practitioner scholar, this work address ed the most pressing problem in my current professional life. Relevant Literature The purpose of this study was to tell the story of Harriso n Elementary, how its current designation as a Level 4 failing school evolved, what school personnel did to address the problem, and how school personnel understood and assessed the impact of new initiatives. Further, as a new member of the administrative team, it was important to deepen my understanding of how changes can be implemented so that effective school reform can be attained. Thus, this overview of literature provided insight for the study of a failing sch ool and the steps necessary to a ffect scho ol change. The literature review is organized into three sections. The first section explains the history of school reform and the changing views of educational reform since the Cold War era. The second section outlines theoretical perspectives of school r eform scholars Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves, and Dean Fink. The third section discusses major elements of effective school reform including school culture, building capacity, teacher collaboration, and teacher leadership.
22 History of School Reform Schoo l reform initiatives began prior to the Cold War era with progressive reformers, such as John Dewey, who endeavored to make education more responsive to the needs of children while integrating the school with the community (Rury, 2013). These early reforme that through student interaction with real world experiences, students would be better able to become i nformed participants in society. Later, during the Space Race in the 1950s and 1960s, curriculum reform focused on science and math, with little evi dence of improvement in schools (Fullan, 2007; Ravitch, 2010). Although early accountability measures began in the 1980s, innovative and lasting school reform has not been widely successful even though there have been several efforts and initiatives. Throughout the last forty years, it was clear that putting innovative reforms into practice was far more comple x than once thought. Specifically, as Fullan (2007) and others have pointed out, effective reform requires building the capacity of an organization to engage in continuous improvement. In 2017, the global world in which we live demands that education refor m be enacted so that the U.S. can not only compete in the global economy but also that equitable classrooms, those that employ high yield engagement, curricula and learning opportunities for all students (Gorski, 2013) are the norm rather than outlier s An understanding of the theoretical the changes enacted to improve student learning. It is crucial to recognize that effective educational change is much more than putt ing new policies into place. Effective school
23 reform is dynamic in nature, placing student learning at the forefront, with the end result A Framework for School Reform Fullan (1993, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2011), a leading researcher in the school reform field for more than forty years, maintain s that effective educational change is a dynamic and multifaceted process that is interactive, unpredictable and complex. Fullan (1993) advise d schools are laboratories of learning for ad ministrators teachers and students. As such, administration and teachers have a shared purpose: to learn and effectively change schools to give students the best opportunity to be productive and successful citizens. For more than forty years, Fullan, his colleague Andy Hargre aves, and other scholars such as Dean Fink, have done extensive research on school reform. Fullan (2007) refine d key actions that may help to attain successful school reform are as follows: (Fu llan, 2007, p. 44). A school must be cognizant about the many social consequences for not closing the achievement gap for students, such as an increasing dropout rate, lower earning potential, and high rates of incarceration, and must monitor progress and take corrective action repeatedly to improve learning for all students. (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). Literacy, numeracy, achievement.
24 (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). Schools must cultivate collaboration where all levels of staff have a voice work together in high functioning, professional learning communities (PLC). (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). failing school because a school must be engaged in the change effort. (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). Impro ving relationships is at the center of all successful change initiatives. Relationships lead to collaboration on a plan of action, with an emphasis on action rather than elaborate planning. blem, and (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). The capacity building of educators is perhaps most important for change to be successful. Building capacity enha (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). Leadership, therefore, should be utilized to gain maximum impact and should be inst ituted within the teaching ranks as well. Teacher leadership needs to occur in order for change efforts to succeed. (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). A school community must work together to align indi vidual teacher data
25 with the collective expectations of the entire school team. School accountability data should tell the story of hard work occurring in the classroom. (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). A ll stakeholders within a school must work together. Collaboration encourage s individualism, the capacity to think and work independently, and col lectivism, where individuals work as a cohesive team with a shared purpose. Both are key factors for effective sch ool change where everyone becomes a change agent with the ability to contend with the forces of change (Fullan, 1993). (Fullan, 2007, p. 44). By bein g transparent, all stakehold ers will feel they are part of the positive process. This is important at both local and societal levels. At the local level, as public confidence increases and progress is evident, there is more support and investments in public education. As public confi dence increases, society values public school leaders had to build credibility with elected officials, school boards, parents, neighborhood groups, and the press by show would help shape plans for turning around low Along with framework to enact effective school change, there are additional elements that must be scrutinized. The elements of school reform overlap of all effective school reform initiatives. In the next section, these elements school culture, school leadership and building capacity, collabor ation and professional learning communities and teacher leadership will be discussed.
26 Key Elements of Effective School Reform The four elements of effective school reform relate to the inner workings of a school. School culture emphasizes the importance of all relationships within a school and how those relationships serve the purposes of schools The relationships between teachers is especially important for collaboration and profe ssional learning to be effective And t he motivations and goals of teachers and administration influence teacher and school leadership, which greatly influences building capacity in faculty to support and implement change. Combined, these four elements pla y an essential role in school reform and it begins with the culture of the school School c ulture rises the beliefs and values evident in how a school operates (Gruenert, 2008; Peterson & Deal, 1998). s that motivate teachers to teach, school leaders to lead, children to learn and parents and community to have constituents to work together around their shared purpo se. In a failing school, re culturing is typically needed (Fullan, 1993, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2011; Waldron & McLeskey, 2010). Changing the school culture requires school leadership to create an atmosphere where teachers question their beliefs and values abo ut how teaching should be conducted to better meet the needs of all students, particularly those who are most struggling. In modifying the culture, the school change effort creates a new set of beliefs, values, and standards to guide the practices of
27 schoo l personnel. A particular kind of school leadership is required to re culture a school and build the capacity to cultivate student success. School leadership and building c apacity Effective school leadership and building the capacity of a faculty are two of the most critical components of effective school reform. Becoming a change leader (Fullan, 2011) requires leaders to be learners who cause positive movement in a school. Fullan (2011) assert s le to (pp. 61 62). Creating positive pressure and support, or pressure that motivates f urther explain s there are four core ingredients to creating intrinsic motivation in school personnel: a strong sense of purpose, autonomy, camaraderie, and increased capacity. ls 252). School leaders build capacity when they engage personnel in collaborative Wh en enough of the school staff start to enact this collaborative learning in their setting, their context changes. The research reveal ed that when teachers focus on student learning within professional learning communities (PLC), student achievement improve s (Fullan, 2007; Guskey, 2002). Moreover, when teachers were engaged in the collaborative proces s within PLCs, they weaknesses and collaborate to improve learning outcomes across the content areas.
28 Collaboration and professional learning c ommunities Professional learning communities (PLC) are groups of educators who meet consistently and who work in a collaborative environment where the group focuses on sharing problems of practice in order to improve teaching and le arning for all stude nts (Dufour, 2004; Vescio, Ross, & Adams 2008). Richard Dufour, a researcher who is committed to the effectiveness of PLCs, maintained that there are three big ideas which must be in corporated into PLCs. These are explained below. Ensu ring t hat s tudents l earn This is guided through asking: What do we want each student to learn? How will we know when each student has learned it? How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning? A c ulture of c ollaboration Teachers understand that they must work together to achieve their shared purpose of improving learning for all. It is imperative that educators engage in collective inquiry in order to generate professional learning that is sustained over time. A f ocus o n r esults Teams of teachers participate in goal setting with the intent of improving learning outcomes through working together. While student learning outcomes are the central focus of a PLC, another important outcome is the transformation of teacher pr actice. Because teachers are collaborating on a recurring basis, the relationships among the teachers promote a sense of collegiality, allowing teachers to achieve a shared purpose. These relationships stimulate a sense of ease in discussing ideas and shar ing knowledge with one another, which further develops a collective vision in making improvements in student learning. Through their participation in PLCs, teachers report that their teaching practice and the culture of teaching in their context are enhanc ed. These changes are
29 Vescio, Ross, & Adams 2008, p. 84). Fullan (2007 2011 ) advocate d m entors in exploring, refining and improving their practice as well as setting up an environment in which this not only can happen but is encouraged and rewarded and He describe d this work as building collective capacity, or cult ivating the working together of individuals. This helps to motivate educators to innovate and improve. Furthermore, distributed leadership is an important facet of school reform. When school leaders create environments that allow teachers to learn and grow as well as become leaders themselves, the stage is set for school improvement. Teacher l eadership Teacher leadership has the power to a ffect educational change since teachers can build connections to students, other teachers, families, and administrators If teacher leaders work together with other stakeholders in their own contexts, rather than as individuals, they can be successful in positively impacting teaching and learning. As Lieberman and Miller (2004) profess ed for can be realized as they can best advocate for change where change needs to happen on the front lines with the students. Because teacher leaders are vested in th eir schools, they have much more at stake than policymakers in enacting change efforts. Likewise, Schmoker (2004) state d that the key to real and lasting improvement in schools is to put the power of change in the hands of practitioners because the teacher
30 429). This means that teachers on the front line, who work diligently with students managing a variety of issues, are the change agents that can impact t he ways in which children are educated. If effective change is to be realized, the administrative structure of schools needs to be flat rather than top leadership challenges the typical hierarchic al structure of schools by dispersing Silva, Gimbert, & Nolan, 2000, p.782). By eliminating the hierarchy, teachers feel as though their expertise is clude teachers in the decision making about curriculum and instruction. According to Katzenmeyer and Moller (2009), decision making, they Barr & Duke, 2004, p. 258). In this way, there is buy in and change happens because of teacher commitment. Summary Children across the United States continue to be failed by public schools. Although school reform initiatives monopolize educational conversations throughout our country, failing schools have persisted, due in large part to governmental accountability measures that have failed to successfully improve public schools. Harr ison Elementary is one of many schools that face this issue. Our children deserve better. In 2017, the global world in which we live demands that education reform be enacted to provide a more hopeful future for all of our children. As such, school reform l iterature highlights various areas which must be considered when enacting effective reform. The s chool reform literature reviewed here establishe d that cultivating
31 relationships within a school is central to establishing a culture of continuous improvemen t. In addition, effective school leadership require s leaders to be learners who cause positive movement in a school. Instead of impeding school change by rolling out numerous initiatives, we must expand efforts to build the capacity of teachers to impact s tudent achievement. Capacity building can be accomplished through teacher leadership, as well as collaborative professional learning opportunities, such as those afforded by high functioning PLCs. In order to embrace the challenge of improving a failing sc hool, I needed to understand how Harrison Elementary has operated in the past the changes that were implemented in 2016 2017, and how educators perceived the changes and the ir impact. By understanding these things from the perspective of Harrison educator s, I gain ed establish a culture of continuous improvement. Research Methods In developing an instrumental case study focused on Harrison Elementary School, it was essential to gain both a historica l and a current understanding of the status as underperforming and points to practices that could help me as a new administrator in a failing school. Therefore, my three r esearch question s w ere as follows: enacted during the 2016 2017 academic year at Harrison Elementary School? How do the participants interpret the impact of these new initiatives? How do participants view the future of school improvement at Harrison Elementary School?
32 A n instrumental case study methodology was used as a theoretical point of grou n ding this study. This methodology makes sense for the study since it was my intent to life, contemporary bounded syste m over time, through detailed, in depth Ha rrison Elementary School was a prime candidate for a n instrumental case study approach to examine the factors that led to its failure status. According to Creswell (2013), instrumental case study research is often used when the intent of the study is nderstand a specific issue, problem, or concern (p. 98). ). Further, Creswell outlined characteristics of instrumental case study research as including an in depth understanding of the case, an accurate and detailed description of the case, data analysis t hat allows the researcher to understand themes that present themselves, and assertions or lessons learned from studying the case The low academic achievement at Harrison was troubling necessitated school improvement initiatives to be enacted as the school planned for the turnaround process. The perception and impact of these initiatives by school personnel required in depth analysis in order to determine if the initiatives were effective in improvin g the school. In order to understand the current status of Harrison Elementary, I interviewed key informants, specifically those individuals who were employed at Harrison over the last five years. The key informants included the math department head, the literacy coach, one school adjustment counselor, and three teachers. In addition, the remainder of the newly installed administrative team, including the principal and two vice principals were interviewed to gain their perspective of the current situation at Harrison.
33 These interviews helped me to paint a picture of the school culture and the climate that resulted from that culture as well as the teaching and learning environment. The interviews were vital since I am in a new administrative intern position at this school and as such, have little understanding of the previous administrative structures, procedures and processes, and how these systems have contributed to the current school status. Most importantly, interviews with key informants enabled me t o understand the recent history of Harrison Elementary regarding school culture and climate curriculum and instruction, discipline, attendance, teacher retention, administrative practices and protocols, social emotional behavior, and operational procedure s. Included within my interview with the key informants was a discussion of the changes implemented during the 2016 these changes on the school community. Six of the key informant s were interviewed individually while the principal and two vice principals were interviewed as a focus group. With the help of the focus group, I created a list of all initiatives instituted throughout the 2016 2017 school year ( Appendix A ) I then shared the list with the remaining participants to determine how they viewed the initiatives and their impact. Criteria for Participant Selection The instrumental case study involved the bounded system of Har rison Elementary School. Harrison Elementary has never attained Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) since it was established in 2008 As such, the school has been defined as a Level 3 School by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). As of September 26, 2016, Harrison was lowered to Level 4. For the purpose of this study, the entire faculty and staff at the school were considered as participants; however, I interviewed a subset of individuals who had spent at least three
34 years at the school. In this way, the sample was a purposeful sample, since I selected they can purposefully inform an understanding of the research I followed a specific criteria for participant selection considering the importance of including key informants in my study P articipants were representative of a cross sectional group at different grade levels and roles including both faculty and administration Individuals who were interviewed were working in their third year at Harrison Element ary or longer except for the administrative participants As a result, I did not have a large pool from which to select a sample since many who were employed at Harrison for 2016 2017 were new to the school and there fore, could not provide pertinent information for this study. Administrative participants Included within this group was the newly formed administrative team: the principal, the grade K 2 vice principal, and the grade 3 5 vice principal, all of whom were hired in August 2016. This group was interviewed as a focus group due to their ongoing, extensive collaboration. According to Creswell (2013), focus information when Math department head. The math department head was interviewed as she was the only remaining academic administrator who worked at Harrison Elementary prior to the 2016 2017 school year. The head of the math department coached teachers in their delivery of math content, facilitated grade level Professional Learning Time (PLT ) 2 2 Harrison Elementary School used the term Professional Learning Time (PLT) to refer to meetings held with teachers to collaborate on and improve teaching skills. While they were intended to be collaborative, they lacked the collaboration of Professional Learning Communities (PLC). Since they appear to be different, I use both terms throughout this paper.
35 biweekly, and delivered professional development to staff. This individual was also involved in evaluating teachers a s well as assisting students with social emotional development when necessary. It was important to glean an understanding about both achievement data showed no consisten t growth in this academic area. ELA/ELL Coach. The English language arts (ELA)/English language learners (ELL) coach was new to the role but ha d been employed at the school as a third grade teacher and ELL specialist since 2012 2013. The ELA/ELL coach edu cated teachers in their delivery of ELA/ELL content as well as facilitated biweekly grade level Professional Learning Time (PLT) and delivered professional development to staff. This individual was important to interview since he was both a classroom teach er and a coach in an academic area where students have consistently struggled. School adjustment counselor. One school adjustment counselor ha d worked at Harrison Elementary since September 2014. This individual was important to interview since she suppor crisis management, facilitating social skills groups, monitoring attendance and response to intervention, as well as participating in social emotional learning team meetings. Teacher participants. Three teachers were interviewed as part of the study: one from grade kindergarten/1, one from grade 2/3 and one from grade 4/5. Out of the 30 classroom teachers who worked at Harrison, I selected teachers who were in their third year or more at the school. This allowed for a representative sample of teachers within the building.
36 According to Creswell and Plano Clark (2010), there are distinct reasons for selecting a method of interviewing that allows a researcher to gain answers to the researc h questions. For this study, I primarily employed one on one interviews using open ended questions since this method allowed the interviewees the opportunity to report their unrestricted views regarding Harrison Elementary. This is important since ticipants can best voice their own experiences unconstrained by any Creswell & Plano Clark, 2010, p. 257). Beyond the one on one interviews, the principal and vice principals were interviewed in a focus group, as stated abo p. 165). For both the individual and focus group interviews, I used an interview protocol as outlined in Appendix B According to Creswell and Plano Clark (2010 ), a protocol helps the interviewer stay focused on the questions and follow up with probes or sub questions that will elicit more information. Informed consent was gathered prior to the commencement of the study. Data Collection There were two phases of data collection for this study. Phase One was a precursory accumulation of information that allowed me to gain an understanding of the gather information prior to my study that would help me to understand the current situation at Harrison. The purpose of Phase Two was to interview the key informants about school improvement initiatives that were implemented during the 2016 2017 school year. Interview s provided the prim ary data for this study as I needed to understand how the key informants made sense of beginning school reform initiatives implemented at Harrison Elementary during 2016 2017. Interviews are critical in
37 qualitative research as they tell the story of the ph enomenon being studied (Creswell, 2013 ; Seidman, 2013). This information is vital for me, as a new administrator, to be effective in my position. As a new member of the newly installed administrative team, I needed to be aware of the changes that were impl emented, how they were implemented, and how participants understood and interpreted the changes and their impact. Phase One of data collection helped me deepen my knowledge and understanding of Harrison in preparation for Phase Two. Phase One: Lay of the Land During this initial phase of information gathering, various data were reviewed with the purpose of understanding the history of Harrison Elementary as well as its status at the beginning of the 2016 2017 school year Informed consent was not required for this first phase which took place during my first six months in the school and helped me gain important insight into the school, staff, and students In order to get the lay of the land, I collected four kinds of data. These included historical infor mation about the school, school and student accountability data, academic and operational procedures and protocols, and staff data The historical data collected was any information related to the school itself including the original plans for the school when it open ed in 2008. This information was collected via digital files from the district website and, as in the case of MCAS data, often overlapped with current accountability data, but was essential in understand ing the historical context of the school I also examine d the curren t school context by collecting school and student accountability data, which include d academic, systemic and procedural information These data include d district benchmark data and student mobility rates that show ed the
38 transi ence and stability of students moving into and out of Harrison Elementary Student enrollment and record data were also studied, which comprised enrollment zone maps, att endance and academic information Academic data included Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ( DESE ) reports regarding accountability and assessment based on state tests (MCAS). Data collected also included documentation of academic and operational procedures and protocols such as school wide adopted elements of Responsive Classroom, annotation during ELA blocks, and the use of the CUBES mnemonic in solving math problems. Furthermore, as I beg a n learning walks as a function of my job, I record ed observational data using an observation protocol (s ee Appendix C ). The observation protocol enable d me to record procedures and protocols used at both the grade level and the classroom level. By reviewing grade level data, I gain ed insight into which classrooms need ed assistance in ELA, math a nd/or science. I bega n my weekly learning walks in November 2016 and continue d to note observations throughout the school year. In a follow up to grade level specific thinking, I also review ed grade level benchmark data for classroom trends. I specifically look ed at the grade level groups as well as individual teachers to see the growth or lack thereof in the classrooms. Data about school staff were probably the most prolific. Each week, I collect ed both classroom observational data using the observation pr otocol ( Appendix C ) as well as administrative meetings and Professional Learning Time (PLT) with teachers In order to gain an understanding of daily teaching a nd learning occurring in classrooms, I attend ed Professional Learning Time (PLT) and the notes record ed in my
39 during PLT help ed frame the pulse of what was occurring in the classroom. My attendance at PLT help ed me develop an understa nding of the instructional focus of each team and team dynamics The dat a gathered through observation protocols and the research journal help ed me gather insight into the teaching and learning that occurred at Harrison Elementary and help ed to craft my in terview questions prior to beginning my study. the professional learning time (PLT) for grade level teams at Harrison. PLT meetings were held weekly for forty eight minutes and rotated biweekly between ELA content and math content. During PLT, grade level teams discussed curriculum, instructional practices, assessment, student data, grade level data, as well as other educational practices. These meetings were meant to be professional learning for teachers and therefore, the work therein was best done collaboratively. Collaboration within professional learning communities is open practice in ways that encourage sharing, reflec ting and taking the risks necessary to Vescio, Ross, & Adams 2008, p. 84). I primarily attended the ELA PLT for multipl e grade levels Although I attended these meetings on a regular basis, I did not attend the meetings every day for every team. The intended collaboration during these PLT meetings was not observed on most grade level teams. The grade level teams were inconsistent in the areas of professional collaboration and pedagogical know ledge. While some teachers fully participated, others were verbally oppositional and still others remained silent. I observed the teachers resisting intended outcomes of the PLT such as curriculum planning and
40 assessment data dives by remaining silent The silence primarily was indicative of complyin g while in the meeting ; however, these teachers often closed their classroom door s and did not follow what was discussed and agreed upon during PLT. The purpose of collecting these data was to assemble a portrait of the context in which the study was locat ed. Sketching a portrait of the school context during the fall of the 2016 school year allow ed me to understand school conditions and help ed me to understand and shape the changes implemented at the school. Furthermore, t hese data gathered during Phase One helped build a foundation for the interviews that took place in Phase Two. U school year assisted me in making the school in 2016 2017. Phase Two: Interviews The purpose of Phase Two was to interview the key informants about changes that were implemented at the school during the 2016 2017 school year. As a new member of the newly installed administrative team, I needed to be a ware of the changes that were implemented, how they were implemented, and how participants understood the changes. Prior to interviewing participants, I reviewed the information gathered during Phase One in order to gain preliminary insight into the school This information was vital in creating a portrait of the school and it helped me understand factors that newcomer to this persistently underachieving school. The interviews were developed using open ended questions along with probing questions ( Appendix B ), which encouraged participants to discuss their perceptions while providing information to answer the research questions. Prior to the intervi ew, the
41 key informants were provided with a consent letter to sign ( Appendix D and Appendix E ). The le tter clearly stated that all identifiers would be removed when the interviews were transcribed, recordings would be erased following transcription, they could withdraw from the study at any time without consequence, and they were not required to answer any questions they did not wish to answer. During this phase of the study, I first interviewed a f ocus group that included the principal and two vice principals regarding the change initiatives enacted during the school year. This provided the perspective of the administrators as to what the changes were and why these changes were needed and put into p ractice during the 2016 2017 school year. Further, I also interviewed the other key informants: the math department head, the ELA/ELL coach, the school adjustment counselor, and three teachers, one from grades kindergarten/grade 1, one from grade 2/3, and one from grade 4/5. This set of interviews was important during this phase of my study as they addressed the key 2017. The interviews were conducted over a six week period during April 2 017 and May 2017 with each session lasting between 60 90 minutes. The discussion was recorded using a recording application on an iPhone. If the key informants seemed apprehensive to answer an interview question, I reminded them that their responses were c onfidential and that their identity would be protected. The transcribed data were maintained on my personal computer which is password protected. I carefully followed these guidelines, and I have been vigilant in removing identifiers when writing the find ings of this study.
42 Data Analysis This instrumental case study tells the story of school reform initiatives occurring at Harrison Elementary School during 2016 2017 K ey informants told their stories as they responded to various interview questions that f ocused on honing in on the three research question s Once the interviews were completed and transcribed, each perspective on the school reform initiatives at Harrison Element ary School. The single spaced transcribed pages of interviews totaled 193 pages from all participants. While reading through the interviews, I highlighted partial sentences and made notes in the margins as ideas, themes, and codes began to emerge from the data. I developed a table to further dissect and consolidate the interview data. A sample page from the table is represented in Appendix F In using the tab le to aid in my data analysis, I listed the interview questions in the rows and the participants (e.g., Teacher A) in the columns. While continuously reading interview into t he appropriate cells. When the tables were complete, I printed and read through the data several times again and began to code and list evidence that supported the developing themes I detected, all the while making certain that the findings aligned with my research questions. According to Dana and Yendol Hoppey completed with the goal of answerin g my research question s and I beg a I started memoing, which is the Hoppey,
43 2008, p. 117). Memoing help ed ma ke sense of the codes, determining the ways in which the y intersect and form patterns. In addition to the interview data, I reviewed my hoping they would help me to analy ze the interview data. journal helped me to create a portrait of the school as well as provide insight into professional development occurring at Harrison during professional learning time (PLT). The notes on the PLT in my rese prior to the signing of consent forms, so I used them as supporting data that was not related to specific participants. Throughout the data analysis process, my research question s were revisited to ensure my focus remained on answering those questions. Following this data analysis process, the three research question s were answered in a narrative that presents and attemp ts to explain the perspectives of the study participants. Researcher Positionality As a twelve year veteran in the public school system, I have taught every grade and academic level of English Language Arts, including multiple English electives for grades 8 through 12. As such, I have had a myriad of teaching experiences and professional development experiences, and I have participated in writing district level curriculum as a member of the Grades 6 12 Curriculum Team. While my sphere of influence with my students was important, after beginning my doctoral studies, I felt I would be better positioned administrative role. After ten years in the classroom I assumed the role of Administrative Intern at Harrison Elementary School in August, 2016 and am currently
44 working as the Redesign Coach at Harrison. As the researcher for this study, it is vital that I recognize what I bring to the process including who I am as a participant. As Creswell (2013) of a research study and as such, must be open to and accept how they may be influenced by biases or experiences. I am a White, middle class woman, a career changer, beginning my teac hing career at nearly 40 years of age Because of my analytical background in auditing, I enjoy analysis. Since I have been positioned at Harrison Elementary as an Administrative Intern, and now the Redesign Coach, it is important to garner an understandin g of the whole school: the processes, procedures, and most importantly, the people. It is central to who I am as an educator to advocate for what is in the best interest of students. When I began my career, it was apparent that students were much more apat hetic than when I was a student, and this perplexed me greatly. I sought out anything and everything that I thought would engage them in the classroom. It was only two months into my teaching career that I was exposed to The Freedom Writers Diary and with in the pages of this book, I vividly saw my students and the obstacles that they I wanted to know more. I ultimately was selected to participate as one of the original 150 teachers to train at The Freedom Writers Institute in 2007. This training has been at the foundation of everything I try to accomplish in the classroom and now, as an administrator, working with the most struggling students, either academically or beh aviorally. Like Gruwell, I recognize that every student has a story, and it is that story which must be recognized and honored in helping students reach their success. It is
45 incumbent upon educators to build bridges and connections with students so that th ey realize that educators respect who they are and where they come from. Educators must students within our sphere of influence. The school improvement at Harrison i s the most pressing issue in my current professional life. I feel strongly that all children should have the opportunity for the best education environment in which to learn and grow. As an administrator in a school that is embarking on the school reform p rocess, it is important to remain steadfast to this emotional learning are at the forefront of all decisions and improvement efforts. This is my passion helping all students find success in their education and in their lives. By gaining insight into how to cultivate school improvement at Harrison their future. Enhancing Trustworthiness I took several steps to bolster the trustworthiness of my findings. These included collection of historical information, member checking, and triangulation of data. Historical i nformation I amassed extensive historical information during the f all of 2016 regarding the conte xt. This provided a rich description of the context in which the data collection took place, thus enabling a reader to judge the trustworthiness of the findings as they relate to the context. Member c hecking In this step, I sought to corroborate my tent ative findings through interviewing the key informants. By reviewing my findings with my participants, I received feedback about their accuracy and solidified that my findings were accurate.
46 Triangulation of d ata I strengthened my findings through the u se of a wide range of informants. This was one way of triangulating via data sources. The individual viewpoints and experiences of each informant were verified against others and, thus, a Shenton, 2004). Summary and Overview American schools deprive poverty stricken students of the rich learning opportunities available to their peers. In many cases, high poverty schools are underfunded as well as disadvantaged in resources, particularly effective teachers. As such, accountability measures negatively impact these schools because too often their academic performance is abysmal, leading these schools to be marked as failing. As a new membe r of the administrative team at a failing school, it was vital that I deepen my understanding of how changes were implemented and how educators responded to those changes. It is my hope that through this study, I will gain insight into how to e ffect chang e at Harrison Elementary and improve the lives of the students for whom we are responsible.
47 CHAPTER 2 FINDINGS The press for school reform in the United States continues to intensify. In many instances, American schools fail to provide high level expectations and learning opportunities for all students. In fact, the most underfunded American schools are those that educate poverty stricken students of color (Darling Hammond, 2010). These schools along with their students are dramatically disadvant aged, without resources, political clout or in many cases, hope. The adoption of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) represented the belief that by establishing high, measurable learning standards, student learning outcomes would improve. NCLB compelled states to learning annually, and the high stakes assessments used to measure learning then determined whether schools were deemed performing or failing. In response to these demands, public schools across the United States have implemented a vari ety of initiatives to improve student learning. Harrison Elementary School is no exception. Since its opening in 2008, Harrison Elementary has exemplified many of the characteristics outlined above. The school is currently deemed a failing school by the M assachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Given the that school personnel seek to implement effective reform and in order to do that, they need insi ght into the school change process. In particular, I along with other school leaders must understand how educators at Harrison Elementary make sense of and judge the impact of specific school reform initiatives.
48 To accomplish this goal, I conducted an in strumental case study focused on the school reform initiatives implemented at Harrison Elementary School during the 2016 2017 academic year. Three research question s guided the study: enacted durin g the 2016 2017 ac a demic year at Harrison Elementary School? How do the participants interpret the impact of these new initiatives? How do participants view the future of school improvement at Harrison Elementary School? In order to gain an understandin g of the context in which reforms were implemented, data were gathered to paint a historical picture of Harrison Elementary. These data are related to academic achievement [e.g., accountability data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secon dary Education (DESE)], instruction (e.g., elementary classroom practices) and discipline (e.g., conduct and behavioral reports). To answer the research questions, one on one and focus group interviews provided the main source of data. I interviewed nine participants who represented different roles and have been employed in the Harrison School over the last five years about school improvement initiatives that have been implemented at the school during the 2016 2017 academic year. All participants were inte rviewed once during the study. The interviews began with a focus group that included the principal and two vice principals. The other six participants were interviewed individually once during the study. These partici pants included administrators ( the math department head and school adjustment counselor) as well as teachers. The teachers interviewed included the ELA/ELL coach and three classroom teachers one for grades K 1, one for grades 2 3 and one for grades 4 5. Analysis of the data revealed six them interpretations of the school improvement initiatives at Harrison Elementary. The
49 first followed by e impact of improvement initiatives, and then their views of the future of school improvement at Harrison. I introduce these findings with a brief portrait of Harrison Elementary School, drawn from the data I collected during Phase One of the study. Harris on Elementary: A School In Flux Harrison Elementary School opened in September 2008 a s a Title I community elementary school housing grades kindergarten through five. In the early 2000s, the school district embarked on a capital building plan replacing the original 31 neighborhood elementary schools with eight larger community schools. Harrison Elementary was built at this time, renamed, and combined with four existing elementary schools The school was intended for a 650 student capacity; how ever, there are currently 724 students. Since the school opened in 2008, there have been five principals as well as multiple other administrators who are no longer working at the school. The faculty has turned over as well. For example, at the beginning of the 2016 2017 school year, there were 14 new teachers out of 44 teaching positions, or a 31% turnover. There are currently 78 staff members at the school. Further, in 2014 2015, economically disadvantaged students comprised 73% of the student population. In addition, Harrison is one of two elementary schools that primarily serve English Language Learners, which are 20% of the total student population in the school. The school is more diverse than all of the other elementary schools in the district with nea rly 56% m inority students, including 9.2% African American, 5.2 % Asian, 31% Hispanic, and 10.2% Multiracial. In addition, 11% of the total student population is classified as having disabilities.
50 Harrison Elementary School has never met its Adequate Year ly Progress (AYP) and the school has not made any academic gains either in the aggregate or in the disaggregated groups Figure 2 1 provides data for the percentage of students at Harrison Elementary School at each level of proficiency on the MCAS for ELA from 2013 to 2016 Figure 2 1. MCAS data for ELA, Harrison Elementary. A review of MCAS accountability data in Figure 2 1 revealed no sustained student growth over a four year period, from 2013 2016. Students in the a dvanced plus p roficient categories, which are deemed as passing, improved slightly from a combined 32% to 37 % The percentage of s tudents whose results indicated n eeds i mprovement remained fairly stable, while the number of students who w ere found Failing had a slight decline from 23% to 18%. Slight improvements in MCAS ELA data in Figure 2 2 show an increase from a low of 32% in the proficient plus advanced categories in 2013 to 37% in 2016. District percentages for proficient plus advanc ed rose from 48% to 53% between 2013 and 2016, which mirrors the 5 percentage point increase (Darling Hammond, 2010, p.110) in
51 the school. District scores, however, were a full 16 percentage points higher than school scores in both 2013 and 2016. Figure 2 2. MCAS data for ELA, school, district, state comparison. Likewise, the percentage of students in the warning /failing score category decreased by 5 percentage points, from 23% to 18% in the same time period (Figure 2 2) ; however, the district scores did not change dramatically decreased by only 1 percentage point It is also important to note that the proficient and advanced percentage at Harrison declined slightly from 39% in 2015 to 37% in 2016, and the Median Student Growth Percentile (SGP) remained below the state target of 50 across the four years. Figure 2 3 provides data for the percentage of students at Harrison Elementary School at each level of proficiency on the MCAS for mathematics from 2013 to 2016 Figu re 2 3. MCAS data for mathematics, Harrison Elementary
52 proficient plus advanced improved from 31% in 2013 to 38% in 2016, as shown in Figure 2 3. Test results for stu dents in the warning/failing score category decreased from 30% to 24% over the same time (Figure 2 3). However, as was the case with ELA, the percentage declined from 2015 to 2016. S tudents classified as proficient plus advanced went from 43% to 38% and students in the w arning /failing score category increased from 22% to 24%. When compared to district percentages, however, the difference in mathematics scores was not as noteworthy as the differences in ELA scores ( Figure 2 4 ) Figure 2 4. MCAS data for mathematics, school, district, state comparison In 2013, district scores for proficient plus advanced were seven percentage points higher than school scores, and in 2016, scores for the district were only 5 percentag e points higher. T he differences b etween school and district for students in the warning/failing score category were insignificant for both the school and the district in 2013 and 2016. However, it is important to note that t he median math SGP was at a low of 34 in 2013, rising to above th e target of 50 in 2014 (52) and 2015 (54), and dipping again below target to 43 in 2016.
53 Upon observing the dynamics of instruction at Harrison, I gained insight into potential explanations for the school achievement data. It seemed that teachers lacked pedagogical content knowledge that could push students to higher order thinking skills needed to access complex texts and tasks. In fact, when the Instructional Leadership Team examined MCAS results for 2016 we noted that students seemed to guess a t answering question s, suggesting that perhaps they had difficulty reading the text and perhaps understanding what the questions were asking. In addition, the way in which colleagues who were in the same professional learning time (PLT ) team worked togeth er provided insight into the case of Harrison. It appeared that the grade level PLT teams did not effectively work together. The teams were scattered in terms of instruction, working in isolation and did not shar e or develop resources that were used consi stently in all grade level classrooms The findings for this study are organized by research question: first, the ; f the ; view of the future of school improvement at Harrison Elementary School. Research Question 1: At the outset of this study, a list of all initiatives was compiled ( Appendix A ) with the help of the administrative focus group which included the principal and two vice principals. This list was used during the six participant interviews to determine their knowledge of the initiatives and their perceptions of their impact. I begin this section knowledge of improvement initiatives ranged from detailed t o nearly nonexistent.
54 When the participants were asked to review the list of initiatives compiled by the administrative focus group, their knowledge varied widely. For instance, P4 stated she n them, whereas all of the other participants (P5, P6, P7, P8 and P9) mentioned that there were certain have knowledge regarding some of the initiatives, but they c ould not comment on other initiatives. I identified three themes that help ed explain the wide ranging nature of impact of the school culture and its influence on school climate the l ack of relevance of initiatives to Harrison in shaping their knowledge of the reform initiatives. Theme 1: Culture and Cl imate School culture and school climate are interrelated and synergistic concepts and both are important forces in improving (and, too often, damaging) schools. Often, the culture climate dis tinctive differences between them. School climate is defined as the attitude of the school, whereas culture comprises the beliefs and values evident in how a school operates (Gruenert, 2008; Peterson & Deal, 1998). Climate is a manifestation of school cult ure since it is a collective feeling that people display as they act and react in the organization (Fullan, 2007; Gruenert, 2008; Gruenert & Whitaker, 2017 ) Culture is comprised of an overarching common set of beliefs and expectations that dictate actions that then cultivate a particular kind of climate (Fullan, 2007; Gruenert, 2008; Gruenert & Whitaker, 2017). For example, Gruenert (2008) illustrates the relationship between culture and climate
55 most Monday mornings, it is the culture that dictates how members of the group are ultima tely, the culture, along with the climate, is what allows an o rganization to succeed or fail. At Harrison, participants described a debilitating climate that impeded the communication and collaboration necessary to develop knowledge and action that is need ed for a positive school culture. At the core of that debilitating climate affecting the overall culture were two factors: chilly relationships among the adults at the school and low teacher morale. Relationships among adults As part of the turnaround process in Massachusetts, the principal has the autonomy and authority to build a staff focused on improving teaching and learning. who were no t deemed ready to engage in the rigorous turnaround process. At the time of my study, these opted out teachers did not yet know what or where their jobs would be in the coming year; thus, they expressed considerable anxiety and stress, as illustrated by on e My opinion is that [opt out] was done too soon. We are all human beings; once you are told you are not wanted here anymore, it affects the way you feel about your self, your performance, and if think that w Not surprisingly, participants described friction and a severe divide within the staff, particularly between those who were staying at Harrison for the 2017 2018 school year and those who were o pted out.
56 The description s of the adult relationships by the participants at Harrison is striking. One participant described the 2016 t will lose The way in which part icipants interpreted the relationships depended on the role of the participant. The teacher participants thought there was a divide between administrators and staff, as illustrated in the following interview excerpts: There is hostility between admin and t eachers. If we want teachers to talk about or with kids in a certain way, admin needs to be a model of that talking with kids and teachers in the same way. (P5) Admin I see as separa te [from teachers]. I would love to have a different interaction with administrators a more comfortable feeling. I have had Administrative participants perceived that there were stron g relationships within the administrative team and felt as though they were a cohesive unit, as expressed by this for united, collective action between administrators and teachers as evidenced in their responses. Some of the phrases they used were indicative of a call to action where all staff work toward student success. For instance, they stressed that all the adul
57 a team and collaborate for the good of the stude nts and the school. The interview data did not provide insight into how the administrators viewed their relationships with This point will be addressed in chapter three. The lack of healthy, collegial relationships contributed to how the participants in this study perceived and experienced school improvement initiatives at Harrison. Participants appeared to be isolated from one another. Teachers felt isolated from other t eachers, and perceived that they were isolated from the administration. With little communication and community, it was not surprising to find that Harrison educators did not share strong knowledge of the reform initiatives to be implemented. It was also not surprising to find that poor relationships among the adults contributed to the low morale of the Harrison faculty. Stress, a nxiety and low teacher morale The culture of poor relationships at Harrison inevitably led to a climate of low morale, stress and anxiety for the teaching staff. When participants were asked about the culture and climate at Harrison Elementary, some of the words and phrases used to of the school climate were related to how participants described the culture of the 5 7
58 oneself ma y have been due to the increased stress levels and staff members feeling pow erless of the initiatives was sketchy at best. present at Harrison. Some felt that there was more a divide among teachers at different whereas others felt there was a gap between the teaching corps and administration. Both Participant 5 and 8 describe d this gap in their individual interviews: Communication is not great...lots of frustration [teacher teacher, teachers admin, student teacher]. (P5) line between administration and faculty. The administration does everyone as a person which I feel is important. (P8) Some participants describe d issues rather than on academic achievement. In fact, P9 confirmed this thinking during extremely challenging . [ this] takes a toll on staff to try to be accountable for scores social emotional needs of t he students caused many teachers at Harrison to feel so overwhelmed in addressing these needs that academics became secondary. climate of low morale and debilitating culture at Harrison Elementary. A ccording to some participants, the
59 deterioration of school climate occurred during the last five years and was directly related to a culture of excessive turnover of teaching staff and administration. Participants described the challenges Harrison educato rs faced in a school In 2015 2016, Harrison posted its highest teacher turnover rate of 73%. The persistent high turnover meant that new teaching teams were built every year, many times with teachers new to the profession or those who lack ed experience within an urban setting. Participants explained that turnover prohibits solid relationships from being formed for the long term benefit of the school. One participant noted that both the faculty and the administrative vice principals in five years. In order for something to work, it needs to be consistent for Not only can rapid turn over lead to stress and anxiety, stress and anxiety can cause turnover of staff every year, thus preventing th e needed consistency in building collegial relationships and capacity to increase student achievement. As such, the high level of turnover at Harrison sheds light on why the climate was so compromised and relationships damaged among the adults. When the ad ults do not know or trust one climate, as described by participants, appeared to hinder the Harrison community from forming the stable and unified culture necessary for sharing knowledge effectively and moving forward as a unified whole.
60 In addition to the culture of poor relationships, which had deleterious effect s on the climate perceptions o that they did not recognize as relevant to their practice or students was a predominant theme and is highlighted below. Theme 2: Teacher P articipants L ack Knowledge of Initiati ves They Perceive as Irr elevant to Teacher Practice Using the list of initiatives that I compiled with the help of the school administrators, I asked the teacher participant s to comment on their knowledge of each initiative. Several of the participants sta ted that they had knowledge of a particular initiative but not firsthand experience in using the initiative or participating in but I have never that although P9 knew about learning walks, she did not have primary knowledge of this initiative. Likewise, P8 explain ed that although she did not use a particular instructional model, her knowledge was based on w only because of (another teacher) current math department head who provided classroom support in 2016 2017 was one of inconsistent effort always been a band aid effect. All hands on deck [grades] three, four and would come in for three weeks, [ months. (P7) In each example, teachers revealed how little they knew of academic initiatives that did not directly impact their classroom. While teachers might have known about the
61 academic initiatives it is clear the y did not fully understand them These examples show that since these initiatives did not change the teacher participants practice or affect their students, the teacher participants had little knowledge of them. Teacher participants at Harrison were deta ched from improvement initiatives in which they or their students d id not personally participate. Moreover, the lack of consistency of implementation was also cited as an issue as explained by three ot used as m uch. It is more e inconsistencies in or lack thereof, re lated to their inability to see the relevancy of the initiatives to their practice but it also spoke to the lack of consistency in implementing the initiatives Both factors appeared to be related to their role at the school. Theme 3 : Influenced their Interpretation of Initiatives and their interpretation of the reform initiatives. In particular, administrators and teachers appeared to understand the reforms differently. In short, administrators were generally more knowledgeable about the initiatives than teachers. Administrative role versus teacher role Four of the nine participants held teaching positions while the other five parti cipants were administrators During data analysis, it was clear that the
62 participant s role influenced their individual interpreta tions of th e initiatives. The administrative participant received at first If management] and being consistent that we s P4 went on to explain that The administrative participants believe d that the initiatives have had impact, but ck of classroom management and lack of consistency as well as commitment to these initiatives. Nevertheless, the administrative participants 36 forms created in previous year that are no longer used and for which there was no follow through ared to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the reforms. Since the administrative team developed these improvement initiatives, it is not surprising that most of them had knowledge of and could provide commentary on them.
63 Lack of participation An ext ensive list of initiatives was generated during the administrative focus group interview. Three of the four thematic categories generated comprised non academic initiatives, and through the interview process, a prevailing theme was revealed. The participan initiative. If a participant engaged in the initiative, they gained knowledge about it because it affected how they did their job. If they did not participate, the participant was level of participation. Five of the nine participants indicated that although several of the initiatives sounded familiar, they could not comment on them because they had no student programs has not been good, teachers are not aware. Maybe heard about it in a staff meeting but no follow bed a general understanding that encapsulates the y may student participate, their knowledge was vague at best The teacher participan comments o n seven of the 30 initiatives are shown in Table 2 1. Their responses highlight the assertion that communication between administration and teachers was not effective.
64 Table 2 1 Participant knowledge of initiatives. Initiative Teacher pa rticipant knowledge SEL Counseling Outside Counseling Afterschool Programming working or not because I only see one side [using the Attendance (closely monitored) (P9). SMILES (mentoring program) United Neighbors/Community Partnerships Out of School Suspension/In School Suspension/Saturday School Further, in [academics] certainly does have an impact on behavior in 6). A s a nonacademic administrator, was directly related to her role. She claimed that her awareness of academic initiatives were impeded and that there was poor communication about academic changes with those who were not de their individual perceptions. The teacher participant interviews suggested that their perceptions of the initiatives were directly related to their roles as teachers. For example, P5 exp lained that
65 clarification needed to be provided so that teachers realized that initiatives were not additional work but rather, an improved method of accomplishing school goals. P5 t of [academic initiatives] are not in addition to what teachers were already doing but supporting what Teacher participant s indicated that their perception of the impact of the initiatives was directly tied to their daily experiences. For example, P7 could not provide her perception of certain initiatives because the initiatives were not was unaware of the community walks come in [to my classroom] but I have never been part of a learning walk so I am teacher participant could effectively comment on the initiative and its impact. If the initiative did not personally effect the teacher participant or their students, in each case, they could not Research Question 2: P articipants I nterpret ations of the Impact of New I nitiatives initiatives enacted during the 2016 2017 school year was another focus of this instrumental case study. A comprehensive list was compiled and presented during interviews for participants to review. This list was loosely ca tegorized according to academic an d nonacademic (related to social emotional learning, behavioral expectations or wraparound services/attendance/ procedures) initiatives. Participants were provided with this list ( Appendix A ) in order to assess their perception s of each individual initiative. In short,
66 participants tended to judge the nonacademic initiatives as more impactful than the academic reforms, while they expressed concern that none of the initiatives w as likely to have the intended impact because they w ere neither implemented with consistency and fidelity nor were the implementation s being monitored. Theme 1: Participants J udged Nonacademic Initiatives as Most Impactful A list of 30 school reform initiatives were drafted through interviewing the admini strative focus group at the onset of the study. Twenty of the 30 (67%) were nonacademic in nature. The list of the initiatives can be found in Appendix A Examples of these nonacademic initiatives included those characterized a s addressing social emotional learning such as mentoring and counseling, while others addressed student conduct such as changes to the detention process. Further, there were initiatives that were described as wraparound services, like those that addressed attendance and community partnerships These included initiatives such as the attendance initiative, known as the Walking School Bus. The participants overwhelmingly believed that the nonacademic initiatives were the most impactful or at least, they expr essed great enthusiasm and hope for these reforms. believed o academic initiative could happ en without the others by side in order line educators I bstacle to their academic progress. They declared that it was often hard for them to teach due to student behavior
67 Except for the focus group who compiled the initiative list, all other participants cited that afterschool programs had a major impact at Harrison. For example, several participants noted the effectiveness of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program which created aftersch ool opportunities for Harrison students that support ed them through exposure to academic, artistic and cultural enrichment place to go, they have a snack; it is consistency for the kids who have very little more opportunities they have, the more successful Similarly, participants named other after school programs such as the EL science initely positive afterschool programs for students. The participants seem to be saying that providing Other non academic initiatives that were most often described as having immediate impacts during the 2016 2017 school year included role changes of the
68 social emotional learning (SEL) team including school adjustment counselors and behaviorists. In addition, par physical location within the building from the former music room which is physically located apart from any classrooms to individual offices closely located to the grade level classrooms they su pported. We were literally most sense [to me] year the kids are being supported with the behavioral piece so much better than in the lo P6 explained that she was now able to per form the other functions of her job such as screening students for emergency interventions, providing individual or group counseling services, and coordinating referrals for a wide range of student assistance. P6 expounded that in previous years, under a d ifferent administrative team, she was not allowed to carry out the regular functions of her job. She dealt with student behaviors and conduct regularly. From the perspective of some of the participants, the new roles and location of the SEL team had an imp ortant impact on the school. The expansion of counseling and Youth Court services were also discussed as being positive changes at Harrison. Regarding counseling, P6, whose role
69 encompassed counseling, explained that prior to 2016 llowed school personnel still needed improvement because of other demands on the SEL team during the school day, such as emergency screening and monitoring attendance, the outside counseling services ha d been restructured P6 explained, The difference this year is that we are trying to streamline and use two agencies with two counselors. That means we have a caseload here versus multiple counselors. The continuity of car e [provided] is helpful when the outside counselor is based here [at Harrison] and to see how the building functions, to see the population, to be more part of the team versus outside clinicians that just come in to serve the kid, and then leave. I think t his [new] model is better for our kids. P6 was hopeful about this reform. Although she could not provide evidence that proved impact, she viewed Youth Court is a program that is based on the principles of restorative justic e for students who have committed minor misdemeanor crimes. Students appear before a jury of peers who have the goal of helping them build the necessary skills that will help them to productively reconnect with the community. In years past, this program wa s not effective this program was in this school year since it was being administered on a workers] check in once a week, and I am in touch with the Youth Court person that is in charge of the student (P9). for students but provided no additional evidence to support a claim of impact.
70 A variety of other initiatives were mentioned as positive and successful in th e 2016 2017 school year. Categorically, these items were all congruent with showcasing students in a positive manner. For example, a program called Youth Leaders was introduced which emphasizes and recognizes students for being positives of children dents] are Leaders]. Likewise, other social emotional initiatives were mentioned as impactful by a ll participants. These included the changes in recess structures and location as well as ted, succinctly described how the PBIS initiatives had impact, The PBIS strat egies are positive initiatives that shift the culture. In the past it once a semester or quarter. The most significant shift is the schoolwide routine ways of recognizing students th at are doing the right thing. Yet another initiative that three participants viewed as highly successful was the Walking School Bus, developed to address chronic absenteeism at Harrison. Harrison
71 staff volunteered to walk a 1.25 mile route around the surr ounding neighborhood and School Bus helped two kids in particular with attendance because we have a lot of have been considering changing the route to include more kids Although participants rarely cited d ata when they claimed that many of the nonacademic reform initiatives had been impactful at Harrison, some of their claims actually are supported by end of year data. For example, conduct referrals decreased over the course of the 2016 2017 school year, an d physical restraints dramatically decreased as well. Conduct data indicate d that referrals decreased between September and June. For instance, the total referrals for October 2016 were 372. By June 2017, those numbers dropped to 149. Restraint data trends also indicate a significant decrease. In October 2016, there were 96 total restraints for the month but at the conclusion of the school year as of June 26, 2017, monthly restraints totaled seven. P articipants also revealed that there was an overall fee ling of consistency and follow through in practices at the end of the school year that did not exist at the beginning. P6 explain ed ll try things then d worked at Harrison, the 2016 2017 school year was the first time there was not only consistency in enacting initiatives but a proactive rather than a reactive approach. She
72 through. Thirty six forms were created [in the previous year] and are no longer used. Participants perceived that some of the school re form initiatives particularly those that addressed nonacademic elements of school life did indeed have an impact at Harrison. They also expressed enthusiastic hope that the reforms would bear fruit. However, there was also a general consensus that the acad emic and nonacademic initiatives were not as effective as they might have been. Theme 2: P articipants P erceive d T hat I nitiatives W ere N ot E ffective ly Implemented Although participants deemed many of the improvement initiatives to be impactful, there was also dissension about their impact. This was due to implementation that participants perceived lacked consistency, fidelity and monitoring. These concern s w ere mentioned by each of the participants whose role was that of an instructional leader. P4 explai ned that although she observed some teachers implementing academic initiatives, she observed other teachers who were not implementing them: There are teachers that use [4W/CUBES] faithfully and there are teachers one or two teachers [per grade level] that use it in their classroom. Some teachers are not making the connection that in order for this to work as a whole school that we need to be actively working on it together and ta king it on. unlikely to have the desired impact on students. Some of the participants cited that consistency is critical to reach success practice] in grade two, then when [students] get to grade three, they already have a
73 foundat P4 claim ed [We need] c ontinued work on initiatives. It needs to be ongoing throughout a nd then not talk about it for a couple of months and bring it up for like ten to have to be constantly looked again and again, with that vision of why are we doing this? This poi nt regarding consistency of implementation is related to some of the staff need to be held accountable for accurately enacting improvement initiatives. P4 makes this point in the following statement: I know I need to go in an d really hold my teachers accountable for will work so hard during PLT on what they want to do on creating a plan, ator]. The participants describe d the lack of monitoring and accountability at Harrison as another reason why the reform initiatives were not as impactful as they could have and I feel like they using [initiative] or not iece is monitoring and it has been difficult to monitor because of the behavior piece. The missing accountability element has made it difficult for the improvement ini tiatives to achieve the effectiveness the administrative participants had hoped for in 2016 2017.
74 Research Question 3: Harrison : Optimism and Hope Regardless of the lack of consistency, accountability an d monitoring, eight of nine participants were optimistic about school improvement at Harrison Elementary. 1 used an apt metaphor to reform process takes time, stamina, and consistency in order to be successful. P3, an administrator, explained the general feeling she perceived in the school: We are positive because we are working together, but we are taking it a day at a time. We have great days, and we have other days that are not so great, but we are taking those days as experience to come back the next day stronger. We are not giving up. We are here to support the students, and we know that we are going to make this school a level one. This feeling described by P3 was significant. In spite of the myriad issues at Harrison, participants were beginning to feel that the school reforms held promise for the students and staff. Similarly, other participants claimed that they were optimistic. P4 affirmed that ment was echoed by P5 who explained that 2017 school year had been me to a close, she felt energized. She
75 positive change: At the beginning of the year, there were literally kids running around the building with multiple people chasing them all day long. That still happens frequent, and then the kids that do run, the duratio n of their runs or elopements out of the room is shorter. Improved student conduct was only one of the reasons participants cited for their optimism for school reform. Participants explained that not only had conduct improved but school reform had been wel improvement [happen]. determined to take part in the difficult work of school reform. P5 agreed that the initiatives marked a new beginning and a new way to think about the work that needs to en doing this for four years, and within that four years, this has While most participants felt hopeful and optimistic, two of the participants were more tentative. P9 descr explained: The feelings that P9 exhibited are commonplace for a teacher in a failing school. The fear of the unknown with respect to a ccountability and workload can be paralyzing.
76 better, and I hope it has a positive school in the district. It is significant to note that P9 remained in her position for the 2017 2018 school yea r. Similarly, P8 was unsure about the future of school reform at Harrison. She going to happen, but actually living it is going to be challenging and demanding and it the study concluded and was reassigned to work at another school in the district. Conclusion The findings for this study revealed that participants had widely v arying knowledge of the reform initiatives at Harrison Elementary. While some participants, particularly the lead school administrators, had detailed knowledge of the reform initiatives, the teachers tended to have much less knowledge. I found that the stu dy culture and climate at Harrison. This culture, in turn, was re shaped by the deteriorating relationships among staff and the low morale they experienced. The lack of he althy, collegial relationships contributed to how the participants in this study perceived and experienced school improvement initiatives at Harrison. Participants appeared to be isolated from one another: teachers felt isolated from other teachers, and te achers perceived that they were isolated from the administration. The teacher participants also
77 revealed that they had little knowledge of initiatives that they did not perceive as relevant to their practice or their students. s of the impact of reform initiatives, participants judged the nonacademic initiatives as having the most impact, perhaps because this category had more initiatives but more likely because they viewed these initiatives as helpful in addressing the many so cial emotional issues they observed in Harrison students. Nevertheless, participants, administrators in particular, perceived that improvement initiatives were not as effective as they might have been. This is because they believed the initiatives were nei ther implemented consistently and with fidelity nor was the implementation of the initiatives closely monitored. Finally, most participants were optimistic about the promise of school improvement at Harrison Elementary. In the next chapter I will discuss the findings, consider how the findings contribute to the existing research, provide implications of the findings for school based administrators and teachers, and describe next steps I will take given the knowledge I have generated in this study.
78 CHAPTER 3 DISCUSSION School reform has claimed the attention of educators, lawmakers, parents, and pundits for decades. For the vast majority of students attending failing schools that have adopted reform efforts, there is modest positive movement to report. In fact, most school reform efforts have done little to positively impact student educational outcomes for the long term (Ravitch, 2010). Research shows that students who attend failing schools often never overcome the learning experiences they mis sed (Kozol, 1991). Therefore, it is crucial that we study ways to convert failing schools into successful schools for all of our children. Successful school reform is attainable but it is a process that takes time and can (Darling Hammond, 2010, p.110). Common fac tors for attaining successful school reform include garnering an initial learning from data and reflection on improvement efforts as well as building the capacity toward new knowledge across the entire school. S uc cessful school improvement s focus on the ability of the principal to effectively manage and motivate a productive environment. This environment allows for the empowering them to increase their efficacy in order to carry out necessary improvements. In turn, the collaborative organization, both administration and teachers continually work toward implementing, reflecting on, and improving school reforms fostering a successful school. Since every school is different, the parti examined in order to determine how to proceed when enacting school change. Many confounding factors contribute to the success or failure of school reform, and as such,
79 there is a need to study these factors. Through car eful collection and analysis of data, I used an instrumental case study approach in this study of Harrison Elementary. This approach enabled me to deepen my understanding of how Harrison fell to its current Level 4 status, what changes were deemed appropri ate, how participants understood these changes, how participants assessed the impact of the changes, and how participants viewed the future of school improvement at Harrison. For me as a practitioner scholar, this work addressed the most pressing problem i n my current professional life. The following three research question s guided this study: enacted during the 2016 2017 academic year at Harrison Elementary School? How do the participants interpre t the impact of these new initiatives? How do participants view the future of school improvement at Harrison Elementary School? Over a six week period, interview data were collected from nine study participants. Data analysis revealed six findings which I categorized by sub question and outline below. three factors shaped their knowledge: (1) the culture and climate at Harrison ; (2) the relevancy of the initiatives to teache practice and students ; and ( 3 ) role at the school First, their knowledge was shaped by the debilitating culture and climate at Harrison. The data revealed that the instability of consistent staff, both teachers and administration, negatively affect ed adult relationships at the school. Because of the constant influx of new staff, relationships were difficult to establish and nur ture. A manifestation of the challenging relationships was low teacher morale fueled by stress and anxiety as well as high teacher turnover. This factor chiefly promote d a
80 cool climate and this cool climate hindered the Harrison community from forming the stable and unified culture necessary to propel the school to success. from improvemen t initiatives in which they themselves or their students did not personally participate. In many cases, the teachers were unaware or their understanding was cursory at best. The disjointedness between the reform initiatives tanding contribute s improvement initiatives at Harrison Elementary. Further, t interpreted the initiatives. The participants who worked in an administra tive role felt that the initiatives were initially well received but due to behavior management issues, teachers felt frustrated and were not consistent with the implementation of the improvement initiatives. The teacher participants interviews su ggest t hat their perceptions of the initiatives were directly related to their role and their daily experiences. If the named initiative was used, the teacher participants could effectively comment on the initiative and its impact. If the initiative did not perso nally a ffect the classroom instruction or their students, in each case, they could impact of school improvement initiatives, t wo fa (1 ) the nature of the improvement initiative and ( 2 ) the lack of effectiveness of the initiative.
81 P articipants judged the nonacademic initiatives as having the most impact although participants perceived that improvement initiatives were not as effective as they might have been. This is because the participants felt the initiatives were not implemented consistently and with fidelity nor were the initiatives closely monitor ed. Most of the nonacademic initiatives that were deemed effective were those that accentuated students in a positive way or were in some way tied to social emotional learning initiatives. At the end of the 2016 2017 academic year, conduct referrals decrea sed over the course of the year and participants reported that disruptive student behaviors also diminished. s of the future of school improvement at Harrison Elementary School, most participants were optimistic about the promise of school improvement at Harrison Elementary. Although there are significant issues that face Harrison, the participants were beginning to feel that the school reforms and the turnaround process held promise for the students and staff. T he findings in this study emphasize the need to establish a healthy, collaborative culture among school personnel who wish to implement school reform in which all staff members communicate effectively across roles. This collaborative culture will ensure th at all educators are working toward improving student learning outcomes. Further, when implementing school improvement initiatives, it is vital to consistently monitor the initiatives so when they are introduced, all administrators and teachers are held ac countable for their effective implementation. In the following section, I describe improvement initiatives contributes to the existing literature on the topic.
82 Contributio ns to the Literature As noted in the literature review, there are various components in the school reform process as the process is dynamic, multifaceted and complex. Fullan (1993) asserts tha to make a difference in the liv (p.4). Therefore, we need to consider that schools are laboratories of learning for administration, teachers and students. As such, administration and teachers have a shared purpose: to learn and effectively change schools to give students the best opportunity to be productive and successful citizens. This study focused on the beginning of school improvement initiatives at Harrison Elementary during their initial stages of enacting school reform. Below I outline how the findings connect to the literature. School Culture and Strong Relationships School reform literature recognizes that cultivating relationships within a school is central to establishing a culture of continuous improvement. The first and most crucial aspect of school refor m is improving school culture. According to Fullan (1993, 2002, 2007, 2008, 201 1 ), re culturing a school is typically needed and is achieved by school leadership and educators working together to cultivate student success. As stated previously, school clim ate and school culture are interrelated ideas. While culture comprises the beliefs and values evident in how a school operates s chool climate is defined as the attitude of the school (Gruenert, 2008; Peterson & Deal, 1998). Climate is a manifestation of s chool culture in that it is a collective feeling that people display as they act and react in the organization. Culture is comprised of an overarching common set of beliefs and expectations that dictate actions that then cultivates a particular kind of cli
83 knowledge of improvement initiatives at Harrison was related to the debilitating culture and climate As Fullan (2007) states when teachers question and change their beliefs that is how a school is re cultured School administrators and teachers must be urged to question the status quo in order to shift the culture. As Fullan (1993, 2002, 2007, 2008, 201 1 ) claims, improving the culture at Harrison must be the first step in a n effective school change process. The participants in this study noted that, while there may be pockets of collegial relationships among grade level teams, there is no consistency across the entire staff. This evidence confirms what school reform literat ure supports t here is a need to build strong relationships for reforms to be effective Fullan (2007, 2011) asserts that schools in need of reform must recognize that all successful strategies are based on strong relationships in a school and are action or iented. Improving relationships is at the center of all successful change initiatives. Supportive r elationships lead to collaboration on a plan of action (Fullan, 2007). Communication is Paramount entation is far more responsible for enacting school change efforts must be privy to the elements of the initiative as well as understanding its purpose. According to F ullan (2 011), if two way communication exists between the different levels of a school, problems can be identified and implementation of reform initiatives revised as needed. This helps in solving problems collaboratively as ) identity around a common vision (p. 74). The study showe d that teacher participants ha d little knowledge of initiatives that they d id not perceive as relevant to their practice or their students. The
84 ineffective communication. The lack of communication between administration and r in some cases me them, identity at the school. Exacerbating this problem was the perception of administrators who thought the goals and requirements of the initiatives were clearly communicated to teachers. T he lone nonacademic administrator and the tea chers did not agree. In this study, it was clear that t he administration and teachers were not working together to create a common vision so ( Fullan, 2011, p. 74). If communication channels are effective, a ll members of school staff will know the purpose of the school reform initiatives, how they are to be implemented and how they are being monitored for effectiveness. The experience at Harrison, based on this study, reinforces the idea found in the literat ure that communication is paramount when implementing school reform initiatives Professional d evelopment It is evident from the findings that professional development must be delivered to not only build teacher capacity but also to allow reform initiati ves at Harrison to be consistently implemented and monitored closely. Learning that is situated in a context and that is authentic or that encompasses ordinary practices of a culture (Putnam & Borko, 2000) is most beneficial to educators since it mirrors what they do in their daily roles. According to Webster Wright (2009), professional development opportunities must be authentic and match the theoretical (what an educator learns in a course) to the practical (what an educator does at work every day) The literature on professional development is clear in order for teachers to benefit, professional learning
85 must be situated in the context of the teacher to be authentic and match theory to practice which in turn transforms teacher practice (Dufou r, 2004 ; Fullan, 2007; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Vescio, Ross, & Adams 2008; Webster Wright, 2009). Based on professiona l learning time (PLT), which is professional development, was ineffective; those who led PLTs were often unable to secure teacher buy in. The culture of disunity and lack of communication made it difficult for any successful professional development to occur. Professional c ol laboration School reform literature (Fullan, 2007; Dufour, 2004; Vescio, Ross, & Adams 2008) suggests that schools cultivate collaboration where all levels of staff have a voice otivation to work together in effective professional learning communities. Collaboration is at the engagement with their colleagues and with mentors in exploring, refining a nd improving their practice as well as set ting up an environment in which this not only can happen but is encouraged rewarded states that this work builds col lective capacity or cultivates the working t ogether of individuals. backgrounds, the gap in student results between the best teacher and the least effective overall collaborative environment was lacking at Harrison. This was shown through the felt which was reflected in
86 their vague understanding of initiatives that they perceived as irrelevant to their practice or their students While the administrative participants overwhelming ly believed that they, as the administrative team, were working to gether effectively, there was not the same feeling about the teaching corps or from the teacher participants. One administrative we have to be honest with each other and we have to take our str engths and weaknesses and work with Teacher participants felt differently. Teachers felt alienated from administration to some degree ; therefore, teachers felt there was a barrier in the collaborative environment present at Harrison Accordin purposeful, focused working together that gets results precisely because it motivates the masses to innovate and to (p.108). It is incumbent on the administration at Harri son to be reflective about their interactions with all staff in order to build those critical, collaborative relationships necessary to improve the school. Building Capacity and Accountability Building capacity is a critical component of effective school everything you do that effects new knowledge, skills and competencies; enhanced resources; and stro ng commitment The literature suggests that capacity building can be accomplished through distributed leadershi p, including teacher leadership, as well as ongoing professional development including collaborative professional learn ing opportunities such as those afforded by high functioning PLCs as enumerated above (Dufour, 2004; Fullan, 2007; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Vescio, Ross, & Adams 2008; Webster Wright, 2009).
87 The participants noted that when implementing reform initiatives consistency and monitoring are both needed. The missing accountability element made it difficult for the improvement initiatives to achi eve the effectiveness the administrative participants had hoped for in 2016 2017. School reform literature suggests that effective school leadership requires leaders to be learners who cause positive movement in a school (Fullan, 2007, 2011). In order to cause positive movement, we must expand efforts to build the capacity of teachers to impact student achievement. Building the capacity of teachers is difficult when there is a lack of unity, communication, collaboration, and a belief among teachers that they are on their own, which was evident at Harrison. Teacher Leadership Fullan (2007, 2011) suggests that schools must leverage leadership and leaders must develop other leaders within a school. Hargraves and Fink (2006) assert that ship spreads. It sustains as well as depends on the leadership of through teacher leadership. Teacher leadership has the power to effect educational change since teachers can build connections to students, other teachers, and administrators. If teacher leaders work in a collective manner with other constituents at a school, their impact on teaching and learning can be significant. Scholars assert that since teachers are practitioners who are vested in their schools teacher leadership is an effective way to enact school reform Teachers can best advocate for change where it is most impactful on the front lines in the classroom with their stu dents (Lieberman & Miller, 2004; Schmoker, 2004). Likewise, when teacher leaders are part of the administrative structure, acquiring
88 responsibility and taking part in the decision making process, this creates commitment and a willingness to enact the emergent decisions (Ka tzenmeyer & Moller, 2009; Yendol Silva, Gimbert &Nolan, 2000; York Barr & Duke, 2004). The literature on teacher leadership is apparent t eacher leaders are change agents in the school reform process. T here were no opportunities however, for teacher leade rship at the time of my study, and t he findings in this study support that teacher leadership was lacking at Harrison. As Lieberman and Miller ( 2004 ) suggest, teacher leaders invigorate The teachers at Harrison di d not appear instead described the tension and hostility evident in what they called a toxic environment. Teachers felt their voices were not valued so they did not believe they had an important role in changing Harrison Elementary. The one finding that might predict in the future optimism that the next year woul d be better Teacher leadership can have an extreme impact if employed during school reform efforts. Teacher leadership could help support the myriad of new staff and foster the feeling that Harrison is a place of support and not trial by fire. The lack of unity and the feeling among teachers that t hey were on their own indicates a lack of leadership from administration and among teachers. This lack of leadership helped create a culture of detachment that did not support school reform initiatives. Administrators were not empowering teachers to take o n leadership roles, as the literature deems necessary for the successful implementation of reform initiati ves (Fullan 2007, 2011; Hargre a ves & Fink, 2006). The consistently high staff turnover rate at Harrison was evidence that teachers and administrators did not feel empowered to fulfill their role at the school.
89 Based on the literature, teacher capacity is strengthened and excessive turnover minimized when staff feels supported and know they can rely on both teachers and administrative staff for whatever assistance they need Implications for Practice The results of this study generated implications for practice for various groups of educators. In this section, I discuss the implications for school administrators, classroom teachers and district leadersh ip. Implications for School Administrators As this is my first time working in a Level 4 school, there is much I and the other administrators at Harrison need to learn. Although we have varied experiences, including some who have worked in other Level 4 s chools, no two environments are precisely the same ; therefore, we all must be open minded about the important and intense work that lies ahead. One main learning experience that I can take away from this study is that it is incumbent upon administrators t o be communicative and approachable. It was disheartening for me as the researcher, and also as an administrator to realize how teachers perceived their relationship, or lack thereof, with administration. I was surprised that there was such a tremendous ga p between what administration believed were about the administration. It was eye opening to realize that although administration felt their communication with teachers was effective, the teachers did not perceive communication the same way It is essential that administrators be reflective about their practice and consistently make the effort to build effective relationships with all staff in order to motivate them and crea te a healthy work environment.
90 In addition, it is critical to proactively monitor everything that is considered to be an improvement within the confines of the school. As administrators, we need to be empathetic while at the same time holding ourselves an d the entire staff accountable to enact whatever is needed to increase academic and social emotional student learning and success. Ultimately, through holding ourselves accountable, we are raising the bar for student achievement and success. According to was evident that the focus on teacher capacity was minimal. The findings indicate that the reasons for this are related to the considerable behavioral issues present at Harrison. In fact, the academic initiatives outlined by administration were not considered as having the most impa ct during 2016 2017, but rather those initiatives categorized as social emotional or behavioral initiatives were considered most impactful. This was attributed to the initiatives that focus on and highlight the positive behavior of students. Therefore, in addition to the continued emphasis on the social emotional and behavioral initiatives, Harrison must focus on building teacher capacity to improve learning outcomes for all students As administrators support and invest in building teacher capacity, tea cher efficacy will improve, impacting student outcomes. In enacting school reform, it is also important for administrators to consistently provide job embedded professional development (JEPD) opportunities for teachers. JEPD is based on day to day teachin instructional practices with the intent of improving student learning (Darling Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Hirsh, 2009). Teachers can benefit from this ongoing and
91 collaborative learning since it requires the consistency and reevaluation necessary to increase capacity. If professional development focuses on the daily workings of educators, pushing them to recognize their role in establishing the change needed in their practice will help them understand the pur pose for this learning. A s a result of this study I also came to understand that the number of school change initiatives enacted at any one time must be small enough so they can be managed well through the implementation process. As Harrison began the sc hool change process with a new administration team in place, the data showed that 30 initiatives were enact ed implement ed, and monitor ed, which was a valiant effort in beginning this process but nearly impossible to effectively manage. As we move into 201 7 2018, it will be important to redefine roles on the administrative team so that each administrator is responsible for monitoring different aspects of school change happening at Harrison. In this way, each is holding themselves accountable for their piece of the collective reforms while being aware of what is working or not working so adjustments may be made. Administrators also need to build collegial relationships with teaching staff. The data showed that teachers did not feel connected to administratio n and in fact felt hostility toward administration. It is important that administrators attend closely their relationships with teachers. If teachers do not feel valued or respected by administration, they will continue to feel alienated from the school institution and the culture will continue to suffer as a result. To build relationships with teachers administrators need to employ what Fullan (2011) calls the change leader framework. This f ramework indicates six attributes that
92 are needed t o be a su ccessful change leader: (1) It is necessary to know that you are doing this work for the long haul pp. 153 154), wor king patiently and persistently even when things are not going well; (2) Creating conditions for others to develop ownership through doing create s opportunities for shared commitment (pp. 153 154). (3) Using pressure and support to strengthen s collective commitment and the push f or greater performance (p p. 153 154); (4) Being a confident learner and always knowing that you will not be successful every time means you will l earn c onfidently even through challenges (p p 153 154); You must k now y our i mpact by g et ting sp ecific in t he use of data and not allow ing yourself to be misled by the massive amount of information available (p p. 153 154); and (6) The best way to change leadership is to learn in your context and improve upon it. It is much more effective to improve what we prac tice rather than improve a theoretical principle. Successful change is both simple and Practice d rives t heory and s ustain s s implexity which means change can be simple to describe and difficult to execute (pp. 1 53 154) Knowing that the change process is difficult but rewarding work, it will be important for the principal and the administrative team to keep this framework in mind to successfully accomplish school reform at Harrison. Finally, it is incumbent upon administration to facilitate the turnaround of Har rison Elementary School through improved student achievement. It was clear from the data in this study that Harrison students suffer from a myriad of trauma due to the ir social emotional needs which was hi ghlighted by the participants. Through the continued
93 effort of educating the whole child, meeting both their academic and social emotional need s will impro ve the learning outcomes for students E ngaging students in their education will allow them to thrive and improve their educational opportunities, allowing them to become agents of their future. Implications for Classroom Teachers The findings show that better communication, collegiality and teacher leadership are all aspects that need to be infused in to the teaching corps. In order for school reform to be impactful, teachers need to know the purpose of school reform initiatives and consistently implement and be accountable for enacting these initiatives. Throughout this study, it was apparent that teac hers felt disconnected from the improvement initiatives that did not affect their teaching practice or their students. This can be attributed to ineffective communication on the part of administration and on the part of teachers. Although administration ci ted that teachers were aware of initiatives, the data say otherwise. Collegiality also must play an important part in the working conditions at Harrison. According to Fullan (1991) collegiality and collaboration among teachers is indeed part and parcel of sustained continuous improvement is a focus for teachers and for students. The data from this study emphasizes the need for a collegial environment where individuals are professional but also kind. The relationships described by the participants denote a toxic for themselves eate a positive environment where all feel respected. This will help combat the toxicity that was present during the study.
94 In addition, teachers should seek out teacher leadership roles at Harrison. These roles may be formal, such as working as a new teacher leader as provided for in the Harrison turnaround plan or as a member of the Instructional Leadership Team. These roles also may be informal : a team member who assists and mentors new staff, who voluntarily provides professional development fo r sta ff, or who advocates for students or staff to administration. The inclusion of teacher leadership at Harrison will help in the improvement efforts since more teachers will have a voice in the decision making process as they move into these roles. As an ad ministrator, it will be important to encourage and support teachers to assume active leadership roles at Harrison. By providing mentorship to the teacher leaders, this will bolster their ability to carry out their new role in supporting teachers. Implicat ions for District Leadership As Harrison moves into year one of the turnaround process, it is important for district leadership to provide ongoing support for the school. My study points to three actions for district leaders who intend to support school im provement. to improve instruction and student achievement. This can be done through providing district professional development opportunities for staff as well as securing additional grant money for the purpose of building the capacity of Harrison staff. Second, district leadership should support the distributed leadership model at Harrison. Through flattening the administrative structure, teacher leaders can be an integral part in the turnaroun reform efforts will not only create buy in among all teaching staff but it will also show teachers that the district is investing in them as instructional leaders.
95 Finally, district leaders must through utilizing regular check ins and meetings between Harrison staff and members of the district leadership team. It is important to note that district leadership will also be held accountable by the M assachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for this purpose. Implications for School Improvement When participants were asked how they were feeling going into the 2017 2018 school year, overwhelmingly, participants were full of hope. Wh ile some evidence pointed to improvement in student conduct as the 2016 2017 school year came to a participants except for one. This can be attributed to the sense of optimism along with the belief that it was important for school reform to happen at Harrison. Some of the n student behavior as a result of the initiative. As stated previously, the non academic initiatives were considered most impactful. Moving forward, there will be more accountability data that will indicate if school improvements are indeed moving the need le toward increasing student achievement. Next Steps As a practitioner researcher who at the time of this study was an administrative intern at Harrison, the results of this study have encouraged me to take on an active administrative role to assist all staff in the turnaround effort at Harrison. As such, I have taken on a new position at Harrison as Redesign Coach. In this role, I can support all staff members as they embark on school improvement including monitoring the turnaround plan to ensure that i t is carried out with fidelity and that all staff are
96 accountable to its goals. In this role, I will work toward being the type of administrator who communicates effectively and supports every level of staff in the challenging but rewarding work ahead. As an educator, I have always given my whole self to my work c ollaborating with others, both formally and informally, mentoring other teachers, being open to new ideas and enacting them for improvement in my own classroom and across my department, and advocat ing for what is best for students. This will not change but I expect that in this new role, my sphere of influence expands. It is clear from the findings in this study that the school culture needs to be revamped. Although this will take time, the first s teps in doing so have already begun. Celebrations of successes, team building and focusing on student achievement have already started but need to be consistently applied. Professional development was delivered for two weeks over the summer of 2017 to hel p all staff build connections to one another and prepare for the first year of turnaround work. The feeling of wanting to be part of a staff who care for and support one another, come what may, must be the goal if the culture is going to shift. This cultur e shift must occur for the school reform process to be successful. It is my intention to work with both administration and staff to ensure that this happens. To improve the culture at Harrison, we need to instill open and honest communication between and a mong administration and teachers as well as consistently cultivating a culture of acceptance so all staff feel that there is not a division between staff or between administration and teachers. While I recognize that I am an administrator at Harrison, I w ish also to remain close to what happens daily in the classroom. I intend to support teachers through instructional coaching as well as strengthen professional learning communities (PLC) at
97 Harrison. This will be realized through coaching cycles and helpin g teachers to be reflective in order to establish goals for their practice. In addition, I will deliver professional development through PLC meetings, helping teachers craft purposeful curricula that is engaging and that will meet the needs of our students to improve their academic and social emotional achievement. In doing this, it is my objective to build teacher capacity and also impart a willingness for teacher leadership to ensue. Since this study only focused on the perceptions of the beginning of sc hool improvement initiatives at Harrison, further studies should focus on the entire cycle of school reform in turnaround schools and what can be learned throughout the process. This will be important as we continue through a time of increasing accountabil ity measures where schools will continue to seek ways to improve. Further, there are implications from this study that point to future research in establishing an analytical approach to school reform and possibly developing a metric for schools in the beg inning stages of school improvement. This may be helpful as a framework to determine what is working, what is not working and ways to ensure the beginning stages of school reform improve. Conclusion This study revealed that to effectively enact school re form, the school environment must be one where strong relationships are promoted among all staff so a healthy school culture is in place where school reform can be successful. Administration must not only work to build these relationships but also communic ate clearly so that all staff know the purpose of school reform, support school reform, consistently implement it, and be accountable for enacting school reform initiatives. Further, instructional leaders must encourage and implement effective professional development and
98 collaboration focused on building teacher capacity, implementing school change consistently and monitoring both closely. Finally, effective teacher leadership where teachers are empowered to use their voices in making a successful reform process materialize must be realized at Harrison. Working in unison, this will help the impending school turnaround to be successful at Harrison. While this study centered mainly on the beginning of school improvement initiatives at Harrison, it is impera tive we remember that effective school change is a long process. We must stay the course toward continued progress, persisting to improve the school culture while building the capacity of all staff to best meet the needs of our children In the end, our primary job as educators is to reach students where they are and help them to best learn all they can to become their best selves. We will turn this school around because our children deserve the best school environment in which to learn.
99 APPENDIX A INITIATIVES ENACTED AT HARRISON ELEMENTARY 2016 2017 SCHOOL YEAR Academic (10) Math Coach Now pushing into classrooms rather than used for behavioral calls New ELA Coach started 9/16 Added one new ELL teacher Close Reading/Annotation/Racer Graphic Organizer Math 4W Chart using CUBES Differentiation within math groups ESL Model Push in with small group instruction Teachers participate in learning walks in other buildings (specifically the ELL/SPED teachers) ELA/ELL Coach trained and can train Lively Letters and the Six Key Components of SEI Instruction Math DH trained in ADDVantage and can train others Social Emotional (11) Counseling Groups Monthly Award Ceremony Recess Using the field as well as playground so al l students can be outside After School programming 21st CCLC Science Program (ELL) Basketball included a girls team this year Outside Counseling Services More this year than in previous years Family Services and Child and Family Services Doing more in dividual counseling SMILES Mentoring expanded Attendance Closely monitored and tied to readiness Youth Leaders highlights positives of children Golden Eagle Ticket Monthly Raffle Used as a school wide PBIS rather than only individual class. United Neighbors Helping parents with hardships Physical location of the SEL Team Spread out among the building in closer proximity to the children they serve. Behavioral (6) Youth Court expanded to reach more students Classroom Discipline System K 2 Cli p up/Clip down 3 5 Infraction Sign In/Consequence Sheet Detention process at end of week based on classroom discipline system Detention Process Started on Fridays/now every day OSS ISS Saturday School began 3/25/17 Other (3) Community Partnerships S AVERS for spirit wear Walking School Bus Dismissal Procedures Late pick up is no longer in the main office.
100 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Interview Protocol: Research Question s : What is the participants of the new initiatives enacted during the 2016 2017 academic year at Harrison Elementary School? How do the participants interpret the impact of these new initiatives? How do the participants view the future of school improvement at Harrison Elementary Schoo l? Interview Questions: 1. Tell me about your professional background/history. What is your educational background? Where else have you worked and in what role? What prompted you to become an educator/counselor/administrator? How long have you worked at Har rison Elementary School? 2. Suppose that it is my first day at your school. What would I observe about Harrison Elementary and the school culture and climate (define if needed)? 3. Tell me about the community your school serves. 4. Tell me about the students in your school. How would you describe them? What do the students need from you/their teachers? Are there things that inhibit their learning? Tell me about this. What do you learn from the students? 5. Tell me about the faculty/administration/staff at your schoo l. How would you describe them? What do you think the faculty/administration/staff need? How do colleagues interact here?
101 here? Tell me about this. 6. What was it like for you when Harri son was declared Level 4 in September, 2016? 7. What are some of the changes that have been implemented at Harrison during this school year? Are there particular programs and procedures that have been implemented? Tell me about this. 8. Administration has list ed various changes as part of the regular business at Harrison, but I am curious as to what your perspective is about the changes that have been implemented. (Hand them the compiled list.) Tell me about these initiatives. What do you know about them? Why h perceive that they have been implemented!)? How have they been introduced and implemented? Were particular steps taken to facilitate the implementation of changes? 9. How have the initiatives bee n received by the school community? Please comment on specific initiatives. (Probe for comments about individual 10. How do YOU feel about these initiatives? (Ask only if the question has no t yet been answered.) 11. Are there additional changes that you think should have been implemented? If so, please tell me about them. 12. Do you see that these initiatives have had an impact at Harrison this year? Are there particular changes that you perceive ha ve had an impact? If so, which ones? Tell me why you think this/these particular changes have had an impact? 13. Are you aware of any outcomes of these changes? Tell me about this. Can you provide specific examples of outcomes? 14. How are you feeling at this time as a (n) (administrator/teacher/counselor etc.) at this school? 15. At this point, what would you like to see change at your school? Are there other changes that you feel need to be implemented? Please explain.
102 16. Are there ways that these initiatives could have been implemented to make them more impactful? Tell me about this. 17. Do some of these initiatives impact you more than others? Tell me about this. 18. Are there factors that you think might inhibit the school from moving forward? Tell me about this. 19. What mi ght help the school move forward?
103 APPENDIX C HARRISON ELEMENTARY SCH OOL LEARNING WALK OBSERVATION PROTOCOL Observer: Date: Grade: Subject: Time In: Time Out: Total Time: Part of lesson: Beg Mid End #Teachers: #Assistants: #Total Students: #Girls: #Boys: If applicable: SPED ELL Organization of the Classroom None 1 Mixed 2 Partial 3 Solid 4 Indicator Comments 1. Classroom climate is characterized by respectful behaviors, routines, tone and discourse. 2. A learning objective (not simply an agenda or an activity description) for the objectives are evident and aligned to CCSS. 3. Available class time is maximized for learning Instructional Design and Delivery 4. Instruction links academic concepts to prior knowledge and experience. 5. Supplemental materials are aligned with developmental level and level of English proficiency. 6. Presentation of content is within the developmental level. 7. Depth of content knowledge is evident throughout the presentation of the lesson. 8. Instruction includes a range of techniques such as direct instruction, facilitating, and modeling
104 None 1 Mixed 2 Partial 3 Solid 4 Indicator Comments 9. Questions require students to engage in a process of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. 10. The teacher paces the lesson to ensure that all students are actively engaged. 11. Students articulate their thinking and reasoning 12. Students are inquiring, exploring, or problem solving together, in pairs, or in small groups. 13. Opportunities for students to apply new knowledge and content are embedded in the lesson. 14. On the spot formative assessments check for understanding to inform instruction. 15. Formative written feedback to students is frequent, timely, and informs revision. Classroom Instructional Inventory Not Observed Observed Instructional Technique Comments Direct, Whole Group Instruction Guided Practice Small Group/Pairing Independent Practice Other (Please specify)
105 APPENDIX D INFORMED CONSENT FORM, INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW I NFORMED C ONSENT F ORM to Participate in Research Title of this study: Perceptions of Improvement Initiatives in a Persistently Low Performing Elementary School Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study. Purpose of the research study The purpose of this instrumental case study is to tell the story of beginning school improvement initiatives at Harrison Elementary, currently designated as a failing school. imperative that school personnel seek to implement effective reform. In order to do that, school leaders need insight into the school change process. In particular, school leaders must understand how educators at Harrison Elementary make sense of and ena ct specific school reform initiatives and how school personnel assessed the impact of changes they implemented. Further, as a new member of the newly installed administrative team, it is important to deepen my understanding of how changes can be implemente d in order for effective school reform to be attained What you will be asked to do in the study Participants will be interviewed about their perceptions about school improvement initiatives enacted at their place of employment, Harrison Elementary School. Time required One hour or until interview is completed. Risks and Benefits There are no known risks or benefits from participation in this study.
106 Compensation There will be no compensation to you for participating in the study. Confidentiality Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Only the PI will have access to records on a secure computer which is password protected. All interview data will be recorded and the audio recording will be destroyed once transcribed. Transcribed data will be stored securely on PI computer. When the study is completed and the data have been analyzed, the information will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any report Voluntary participation Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study You have the right to withdraw from the study at any time without consequence. Who to contact if you have questions about the study Elizabeth Dunn, Doctoral S tudent, College of Education (774) 526 3881 Elizabeth Bondy, PhD, College of Education (352) 273 4242 Who to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study IRB02 Office Box 112250 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611 2250 Phone 352 392 0433. Agreement I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: ___________________________________________ Date: _________________ Principal Investigator: ___________________________________ Date: _______________
107 APPENDIX E INFORMED CONSTENT FORM, FOCUS GROUP INTERVIEW I NFORMED C ONSENT F ORM to Participate in Research Title of this study: Perceptions of Improvement Initiatives in a Persistently Low Performing Elementary School Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study. Purpose of the research study The purpose of this instrumental case study is to tell the story of beginning school improvement initiatives at Harrison Elementary, currently designated as a failing school. imperative that school personnel seek to implement effective reform. In order to do that, school leaders need insight into the school change process. In particular, school leaders must understand how educators at Harrison Elementary make sense of and ena ct specific school reform initiatives and how school personnel assessed the impact of changes they implemented. Further, as a new member of the newly installed administrative team, it is important to deepen my understanding of how changes can be implemente d in order for effective school reform to be attained What you will be asked to do in the study Participants will be interviewed about their perceptions about school improvement initiatives enacted at their place of employment, Harrison Elementary School. In this fo cus group interview, you along with two others will be taking part in the discussion. It is my intention to treat the discussion as confidential, but I cannot guarantee that all focus group participants will do the same. Time required One hour o r until interview is completed. Risks and Benefits There are no known risks or benefits from participation in this study.
108 Compensation There will be no compensation to you for participating in the study. Confidentiality Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Only the PI will have access to records on a secure computer which is password protected. All interview data will be recorded and the audio recording will be destroyed once transcribed. Transcribed data will be stored securely on PI computer. When the study is completed and the data have been analyzed, the information will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any report Voluntary participation Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study You have the right to withdraw from the study at any time without consequence. Who to contact if you have questions about the study Elizabeth Dunn, Doctoral S tudent, College of Education (774) 526 3881 Elizabeth Bondy, PhD, College of Education (352) 273 4242 Who to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study IRB02 Office Box 112250 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611 2250 Phone 352 392 0433. Agreement I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: ___________________________________________ Date: _________________ Principal Investigator: ___________________________________ Date: _______________
109 APPENDIX F DATA ANALYSIS TABLE SAMPLE Question/ Description Participant 7 Participant 8 Participant 9 Question 8 changes for 2016 There have only been a couple of years that we have had a math coach (central admin kicked us to the curb) (31) always used for behavior calls never saw them interventionists months (33) ELA Coach I go to him because (ELL) is new to me. (340 Annotation /CUBES/4W we put in one whole day a week (Thursday)(35) I think it has helped now when we ask, why are we reading these 6 stories, what do they all have in common now it clicks (36) Math groups helped to have kids grasp 5s and 10 s(37) ESL model choppy and noise level high Learning walks I went and when they( other teachers) are good at it, tell us what they did (share across schools) like a hidden secret (38) Teaching from the test (Letourneau teachers) (39) SEL counseling heard students in groups (40) Awesome Math coach should do that (pushing into classrooms) ELA coach agree w/ that ELL teacher suppose it was needed because of the population CUBES we helped redesign that one RACER is good saying that we need something implemented k 5 so happy we went through with that Differentiate math groups ESL Model know because of other teacher; she loves it I think great Walkthroughs done that previously; does help getting different ideas(13) SEL know groups were mentioned but none of my kiddos taken and could probably use it a wards ceremony not new but done differently 4 (now)instead of 2 awards(past) in past it happened during sch ool not after (now)(14) Recess on field that is great afterschool programming Science program no kids participate except ELL kids that; 21st CCLC use my room I see chaos; kno w what happens after they leave classroom; not because I am seeing only one portion.(15) I agree w/ academic knows about all of them ELL teacher comes in and pushes in and takes small groups that has helped; helpful (8) RACER/GO/ 4W/ been helpful need those visuals used all year long CUBES not new but Learning walks have come in but I have never been part of one (not in previous years either at Harrison) SEL counsel ing groups, award ceremonies (3 students/month); YL kids get excited about that been positive; field for recess has definitely been a positive 21st CCLC several kids go ELL Science several students participate Basketball had one student all are definitely positive(9) Afterschool programs had kids participate in all outside counseling none participate but need it smiles one student attendance my (class) attendance is not great chronic absences
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113 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Elizabeth A. Dunn graduated in 1988 from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with a Bachelor o f Science in b usiness m anagement. She is a career changer, beginning her career as an educator in 2006. She completed a Master of Arts in T eaching at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2011. Elizabeth taught secondary English for ten years befor e switching roles after beginning her doctoral studies. She has worked as an elementary administrator while completing her doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction She earned her Doctor of Education from the University of Florida in 2017.