Friday, April 1, 2011

Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

Bryk, A.S., Sebring, P.B., Allensworth, E., Luppescu S., & Easton, J.Q. (2010). Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

[Excerpt from a book review written by Nathan Meyer in the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 15: 329–331, 2010]

Bryk et al. (2010) examined a total of 390 neighborhood elementary schools in Chicago for gains in math, reading, and attendance in grades 2–8. The authors used seven years of data from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as their platform in identifying student improvement. Bryk and colleagues identified schools with similar demographics that remained academically stagnant in the lower quartile against schools that moved in the top quartile of performance. The authors found five intertwining essential supports for all schools:
  1. school leadership
  2. parent-community ties
  3. professional capacity
  4. student-centered learning climate
  5. instructional guidance
A school having strong support on any of the five supports was four to five times more likely to demonstrate substantial improvement in reading and math than those in the bottom quartile of the same indicator (p. 84). The authors use the metaphor that missing an essential support is comparable to baking a cake: "if one of the ingredients is absent, it is just not a cake’’ (p. 66). Bryk and colleagues found that if any one of the five essential supports were lacking, schools did not improve.

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