With the ever-increasing pressure placed upon schools to demonstrate student achievement through scores on standardized tests, the need for standards-based instruction is greater than ever. Smaller learning communities can use a variety of strategies for addressing this challenge. Teachers can team-teach, use differentiated instructional techniques, and integrate content across the discipline areas to increase student achievement (Callahan 1999). The integration of math and humanities for example, can help teachers to transform their practice to provide more meaningful and productive experiences for students (Worsley 2002). Enhancing students' literacy skills is another powerful means of improving their academic achievement. Research has shown that the explicit teaching, modeling, and practicing of certain reading and writing strategies improves students' ability to learn across the content areas (e.g. Alvermann & More, 1991; Rosenshine & Meister, 1994; Rosenshine et al, 1996; Rosenshine, 1997; Schoenbach, et al, 1999). Teachers who use a variety of techniques to assess their students' literacy skills and then adapt their instruction accordingly can further support their students' learning (Langer, 1999a). Ultimately, more students can achieve at high levels when instruction is shaped not only by standards but also by their specific needs and interests. (For more information about effective adolescent literacy instruction, visit the Adolescent Literacy in the Content Areas spotlight at http://www.knowledgeloom.org/adlit/index.jsp ).
The research on redesigning high schools is about both size and quality. The discussion about size focuses on the various ways to reorganize large schools into smaller learning communities and the persuasive findings that smaller can be better in terms of student performance and engagement in learning. The discussion about quality refers to improving the teaching and learning environments so that they are also more student-centered, more individually relevant and rigorous in content, and more versatile/effective with respect to teaching strategies.
Most studies of high school redesign look at "best practices" in concert and as elements of unified and systemic change. In a 1999 New American High Schools publication, Key High School Reform Strategies: An Overview of Research Findings, authors Visher, Emanuel, and Teitelbaum listed ten reform strategies with two warnings:
First,...none of the strategies by themselves should be expected to make a significant difference in any one school. That is, the available evidence suggests that it is the gathering of several strategies under one roof, especially certain combinations of strategies, that matters . . . Second, schools should adapt strategies to fit their own unique circumstances. Unfortunately, there is no single, correct way to implement reforms . . . (p. 2).
Having identified the essential elements of reform, researchers have since turned to focusing on the barriers to improvement that schools have encountered. All Over the Map addresses what states can do to help. New Small Learning Communities: Findings from recent literature looks at numerous barriers and their roots.
Researchers also continue to probe the interplay of reform elements with other factors such as individual school cultures, teacher and administrator capacity, and racial and economic inequities. Research About School Size and School Performance in Impoverished Communities by Craig Howley, Marty Strange, and Robert Bickel (ERIC Digest, 2000) reviews the findings of the Matthew Project, a multi-state study that replicated findings showing that small schools significantly reduce the achievement gap for low-income students. All else equal, larger school size benefits achievement in affluent communities, but it is detrimental in impoverished communities (Howley & Bickel, 1999). Even in affluent communities, however, schools serving 1,500 or more students might have diseconomies of scale and bureaucratic operating modes that are not educationally hospitable. Indeed, a wide consensus seems to have emerged (cf. Fulton, 1996) that schools larger than 1,000 are unwise choices for any community. The consensus clearly suggests that schools in impoverished communities should be much, much smaller.
Brualdi, A. (1998, August). Implementing performance assessment in the classroom. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED423312).
The purpose of this digest is to outline the basic steps that you can take to plan and execute effective performance-based assessments.
Buckner, K. & McDowelle, J.O. (2000, May). Developing teacher leaders: Providing encouragement, opportunities and support. NASSP Bulletin, 84(616), 35-41.
Teachers' daily contact with students, other teachers, and the instructional program places them in a unique position to influence school reform efforts. Principals who are comfortable with teacher leaders can provide the encouragement, opportunities, and support teachers need to become leaders.
Childs-Bowen, D., Moller, G. & Scrivner, J. (2000, May). Principals: Leaders of leaders. NASSP Bulletin, 84(616), 27-34.
Teacher leaders can help guide fellow teachers and the school at large toward higher standards of achievement and recognition of individual responsibility for school reform. Until this responsibility for teacher leadership is realized in every teacher, the field of teaching will not change.
D'Amico, J.J. (2001, Spring). A closer look at the minority achievement gap. ERS Spectrum, 19(2), 4-10.
Research shows that the minority/white achievement gap is real and is having devastating effects on youth and society. However, school leaders can influence certain educational causes and correlates (like teacher qualifications and expectations). Programs must be individualized, and narrowing the achievement gap should become a national priority.
Education Trust (1998, Summer). Good teaching matters: How well-qualified teachers can close the gap. Thinking K-16, 3(2), 1-14. Copyright 1998 The Education Trust.
Focuses on what all of the studies conclude is the most significant factor in student achievement: The teacher. Evidence suggests that the achievement gap would close if the best teachers were assigned to students that need them most.
McMillan, J.H. (2000, November). Basic assessment concepts for teachers and school administrators. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED447201).
In light of current assessment demands and contemporary theories of learning and motivation, this digest presents eleven basic principles to guide the assessment training and professional development of teachers and administrators.
Popham, W.J. (2001). Building test to support instruction and accountability: A guide for policymakers. Washington, DC: Commission on Instructionally Supportive Assessment.
Presents nine requirements for a new generation of statewide achievement tests to create responsible state assessment systems. Tests written to these requirements will benefit students by providing educators with information they can use to improve the quality of instruction. At the same time, the tests will provide states with information to hold educators, schools, and school districts accountable for student performance.
Popham, W.J. (2001, February). Uses and misuses of standardized tests. NASSP Bulletin, 85(622), 24-31.
Examines five tests by three publishers currently used in high schools today, and discusses four appropriate and inappropriate uses of these tests. Asserts that assessment literacy on behalf of educators is essential in order to avoid the misuse of standardized tests.
Reeves, D.B. (2001, January). Standards make a difference: The influence of standards on classroom assessment. NASSP Bulletin, 85(621), 5-12.
The focus on academic standards should be on rigorous classroom assessment, and the influence of that assessment process is overwhelmingly positive for the thinking, reasoning, and communications skills of students and their performance on high-stakes tests. School leaders are encouraged to promote the effectiveness and fairness of standards-based assessment in their schools.
Sadowski, M. (2001, May/June). Closing the gap one school at a time. Harvard Education Letter, 17(1), 1-7. Copyright 2001 Harvard Education Letter.
Teachers and administrators are becoming researchers as they work to narrow the black/white achievement gap in schools.
Schwartz, W. (2001, December). Closing the achievement gap: Principles for improving the educational success of all students. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED460191).
Reviews the educational policies and practices whose effectiveness in closing the achievement gap has been shown, and provides a list of resources offering detailed information about them.
Taylor, J. (2001, Fall). Under construction: Closing the achievement gaps. NCREL's Learning Point, 3(1), 1-9.
Looks at closing the gaps that exist among diverse student groups including academic achievement, curricular experiences, and access to resources. Includes an interview with superintendent Allan Alson, Ed.D. and sheds new light on solutions to a familiar problem.
Usdan, M., McCloud, B. & Podomostko, M. (2001). Leadership for student learning: Redefining the teacher as leader. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership. Copyright 2001 Institute for Educational Leadership.
This report presents information from discussions by the Institute for Educational Leadership Task Force on Teacher leadership, highlighting dilemmas surrounding teacher leadership and suggesting that education's policymakers should exploit the experience and capacity to lead today's schoolteachers.
Wanzare, Z. & da Costa, J.L. (2000, October). Supervision and staff development: Overview of the literature. NASSP Bulletin, 84(618), 47-54.
Instructional supervision should be an important component of a successful staff development program. This article examines the literature and research on instructional supervision and addresses the importance of supervision for fostering professional growth.
Weller, L. D. (2001, May). Department heads: The most underutilized leadership position. NASSP Bulletin, 85(625), 73-81.
Literature and practice have shown that ambiguity in the roles and responsibilities of department heads, yet it is a position that is vital to efficient school operations. This article describes a survey conducted of 200 department heads to determine job performance. Results show that the role is poorly defined and multifaceted, and most department heads lack adequate preparation. Suggestions for improvements are offered.
Alvermann, D.E & Moore, D. (1991) Secondary school reading. In R. Barr, M.L Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P.D Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Research, Volume II (pp. 951-983). White Plains, NY: Longman.
Bryk, A. S., and Driscoll, M. E. (1988). The high school as community: Contextual influences and consequences for students and teachers. Madison: National Center on Effective Secondary Schools.
Callahan, C.M. (1999, September) Classrooms for Learners, not winners and losers. High School Magazine, 7 (1), 22-26.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1999). Teacher quality and student achievement. Seattle, WA: Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, University of Washington.
Langer, J.A (1999). Excellence in English in middle and high school: how teachers? professional lives support student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 397-439.
Little, J.W. and McLaughlin, M.W. (eds.) (1993). Teachers' work: Individuals, colleagues, and contexts. NY: Teachers College Press.
Little, J.W. (1999). Organizing schools for teacher learning. In L. Darling-Hammond and G. Sykes (eds.) Teaching as the learning profession, pp. 233-262. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Miles, K. H. and Darling-Hammond, L. (1998, Spring). Rethinking the allocation of teaching resources: Some lessons from high-performing schools. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 20: 9-29.
National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. (1996). What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future. New York: Author.
Newmann, F.M., Marks, H.M., & Gamoran, A. (1995). Authentic pedagogy: Standards that boost student performance. Issues in restructuring schools, 8, pp. 1-10. Madison, WI: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.
Newmann, F. M., Secada, W. G., & Wehlage, G. G. (1995). A guide to authentic instruction and assessment: Vision standards and scoring. Madison, WI: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.
Rosenshine, B. & Meister (1994, Winter). Reciprocal Teaching: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 64 (4), 479-530.
Rosenshine et al, (1996, summer). Teaching Students to Generate Questions: A review of the intervention studies. Review of Educational Research, 66(2), 181-221.
Rosenshine, B. (1997, March). The case for explicit, teacher-led, cognitive strategy instruction. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association. Chicago. Retrieved November 14, 2001, from http://olam.ed.asu.edu/barak/barak1.html
Shoenbach, et al (1999). Reading for understanding: A guide to improving reading in middle and high school classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Stigler, J. and Stevenson, H. (1991, Spring). How Asian teachers polish each lesson to perfection. American Educator 15: 12-20, 43-47.
Waxman, H.C. (1991). Productive teaching and instruction: Assessing the knowledge base. In H. C. Waxman & H. J. Walberg, Effective teaching: current research (pp. 33-61). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing Company.
Worsley, D. (2002) Teaching for Depth: Where Math Meets the Humanities. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.
Breaking Ranks in Action
New Report Tracks Progress of Groundbreaking Research
School Redesign Network at Stanford University
Internet Resources on Starting Small Schools
Top 5 websites with links to research on small schools
The Research in Brief:
New Small Learning Communities: Findings From Recent Literature
Small Schools: The Numbers Tell a Story
Current Literature on Small Schools
Affective and Social Benefits of Small-Scale Schooling
Research About School Size and School Performance in Impoverished Communities
Curriculum Adequacy and Quality in High Schools Enrolling Fewer Than 400 Pupils (9-12)
ASK ERIC Internet Sites:
Youth at the Crossroads: Facing High School and Beyond (Winter 2001)
Transforming the American High School: New Directions for State and Local Policy (2001)
High Schools That Work
The New American High Schools Initiative
High Schools of the Millenium
State Graduation Requirements
Initiation Rites in American High Schools: A National Survey (August 2000)
1994 Bibliography on School Restructuring
I. General References on School Restructuring
These topics reflect specific research projects conducted at the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.
Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools