Monday, September 3, 2012

Implementing Science-based Instruction to Promote Learning for All

Effective Schools Research identifies the following correlates are present in all cases of an effective school:
1.      Clear and focused mission
2.      Climate of high expectations
3.      Instructional leadership
4.      Opportunity to learn/student time on task
5.      Frequently monitoring student progress
6.      Safe and orderly environment
7.    Home-school relations (Lezotte, 1991)
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), reauthorized as No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001), requires instructional leaders utilize strategies, approaches, and program initiatives that are scientific or research based and frequent monitoring to close identified achievement gaps.  Prospective teachers and in-service teachers both benefit from understanding the seven correlates of Effective Schools Research, which includes these two variables within an inter-connected system.  Given any system is a "network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the aim of the system" (Deming (1993), institutes of higher education (IHE) and other teacher preparation programs should increase expectations for knowledge of systems and the ability to think systemically. 
Given the interdependency of the seven correlates of Effective Schools, school leaders must approach them with the view of implementing them all at once.  Thus, a clear and focused mission as well as strong instructional leadership is required to move the other interdependent correlates from being an ideal to effective practice.  Since Effective Schools Research demonstrates that a result of schools ignoring the interdependence among the seven correlates is slow progress, then without strong, respected instructional leadership that can help bring consensus for a clear and focused mission, confusion about how to incorporate all the correlates simultaneously would prevail.
An Effective School’s mission, grounded in the seven correlates for reform, would expect success regardless of socioeconomic status (SES) of its students.  Stakeholders would therefore need to make the interconnected seven correlates more powerful within its mission than the power of the low SES to deny opportunity.  “Effective indicates that a school, teacher, or district is doing the right job.  Based on our definition of an effective school, this term specifies that the school must attend to the twin policy pillars of quality and equity.  Effective schools research has shown that the practices among effective schools have consistently been found to be more alike than different” (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011, p 17).
Frequent monitoring for success is more than testing (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011).  States utilizing large-scale testing to make high-stakes educational decisions must ensure alignment between such tests and the state’s curricula or learning standards.  Alignment provides a fairer measure of student learning.  As states became increasingly reliant on large-scale educational assessments, experts began to explicate scientific–based guidelines for developing and implementing assessment and accountability programs (Baker, 2001).  “Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing" (1999) was jointly published by APA, the American Educational Research Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education.  Guidelines.  Forthcoming is a 2012 revision.  State test developers have since found the following standards useful:
·         Utilize tests only for their validated purpose.
·         Avoid making high-stakes decisions based on the results of only one test.
·         Align tests to the states' curriculum standards, so that teachers can prepare students to succeed.
·         Ensure tests only measure the academic domain of interest, without unwittingly emphasizing extraneous factors.
·         Adjust test sensitivity based on school quality differences.
Educational psychology links the science of psychology with educational practice and provides teachers with evidence-based knowledge to support their day-to-day decision-making in the classroom.  (Bohlin, Durwin, & Reese-Weber, 2009).  The science element of educational psychology involves formulating theories and conducting research on those theories.  All teachers should practice action research.  As both consumers of research and practitioners of research, it becomes important for pre-service and in-service teachers to understand guidelines for what constitutes reputable research.
·      Avoid using newspaper and magazine articles, as they are not research articles.
·       Avoid Internet searches using search engines, because they may not yield credible sources.
·     Find and utilize peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals at a local university library.
·      Find and utilize peer-reviewed articles in databases such as ERIC and PSYINFO.
·      Bookmark websites of professional associations and monitor them for links to new education research.
·         American Psychological Association (APA)
·         Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) (Bohlin, Durwin, & Reese-Weber, 2009)
Since 2006, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has been actively advocating for educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education.  The whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement has been grounded in the belief that “each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged” (ASCD, 2010).  These fundamental tenets have long been seen as essential for ensuring students become college-, career-, and citizenship-ready, a desired outcome of the Effective Schools Movement.
In order to effectively lead a school using a whole child approach to education, a principal needs to be “visionary; effective instructional leaders; active learners; and influencers within their staff and the community” (ASCD, 2010).  As can be expected, the Whole Child Approach to education promotes policies and practices aligned to support the whole child.  This requires a change in how adults currently work together to educate children.  Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have emerged as perhaps the best, most agreed upon means of continual improvement in instruction and student performance.  PLCs are evidenced in a single school or online.  Models include study groups, action research teams, communities of practice, or conversation circles.  The essential focus of any PLC is for educators to work together, with a shared focus on learning and accountability to help all students learn at high levels.
Just as public schools needed to establish metrics for accountability of their teaching and learning mission, so too would institutes of higher education (IHE) and teacher preparation programs need to establish better metrics for measuring the competencies of their graduates, including knowledge of systems and ability to think systemically.  To address this, IHE and other teacher preparation programs must recognize the aim for graduating “instruments of systems change” rather than merely preparing individuals to administer curriculum.  Basile and Nathenson-Mej√≠a (2003) suggests the process for problem-based learning creates a healthy environment for reflection, discussion, and problem solving.  Their study illustrates how teacher candidates move from micro-reflection to self-reflection to macro-reflection resulting from a year-long engagement in a teacher education program within a professional development school.  Implications from their study suggest that problem-based learning is a valid process for the enculturation of teacher candidates to schools and to the profession of teaching.

Bohlin, L., Durwin, C., & Reese-Weber, M. (2009). Ed Psych: Modules. NY: McGraw-Hill.
Lezotte, L. W. (1991) Correlates of Effective Schools: The First and Second Generation.
Lezotte, L. W., & Snyder, K. M. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the correlates. 
            Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Schmoker, J, (1999) The Key to Continuous School Improvement (2nd edition) ASCD