Challenges of Conflicting School Reforms

Challenges of Conflicting School Reforms: Effects of New American Schools in a High-Poverty District

Mark Berends
JoAn Chun
Gina Schuyler
Sue Stockly
R. J. Briggs
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 195
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mr1483edu
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Challenges of Conflicting School Reforms
    Book Description:

    A decade ago, New American Schools (NAS) launched an ambitious effort forwhole-school reform to address the perceived lagging achievement of Americanstudents and the lackluster school reform attempts that have produced so fewmeaningful changes. As a private nonprofit organization, NAS set out tohelp schools and districts significantly raise the achievement of largenumbers of students by offering whole-school designs and design-basedassistance during the implementation process. NAS is currently in thescale-up phase of its effort, and its designs are being widely diffused toschools across the nation. During the 1997_1998 and 1998_1999 school years,RAND assessed the effects of NAS designs on classroom practice and studentachievement in a sample of schools in a high-poverty district. RAND foundthat high-poverty schools often have fragmented and conflicting environmentswith difficult and changing political currents and entrenched unions.Teachers in high-poverty schools tend to face new accountability systems andfluctuating reform agendas. These teachers generally lack sufficient timefor implementing reform efforts, often becoming demoralized and losing theirenthusiasm for the difficult task of improving student performance underdifficult conditions. RAND concluded that high-stakes tests may motivateschools to increase performance and to seek out new curricula andinstructional strategies associated with comprehensive school reforms.However, those same tests may provide disincentives to adopt richer, morein-depth curricula that can succeed in improving the learning opportunitiesof all students, particularly those in high-poverty settings.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-3225-6
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. iii-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. FIGURES
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. TABLES
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. SUMMARY
    (pp. xvii-xxviii)
  7. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxix-xxx)
  8. ACRONYMS
    (pp. xxxi-xxxii)
  9. Chapter One NEW AMERICAN SCHOOLS’ AMBITIONS FOR CHANGING HIGH-POVERTY CLASSROOMS
    (pp. 1-16)

    New American Schools (NAS), a private non-profit organization, launched its efforts for whole-school reform in 1991 to address the common perception that our schools were failing students, particularly those in high-poverty settings, and that the piecemeal reform efforts had done little to improve the nation’s educational system.

    Based on the premise that high-quality schools can be established with external providers (design teams) supplying assistance to schools as they implement whole-school models of reform, NAS set out to help schools and districts significantly raise the achievement of large numbers of students.

    As defined by NAS, adesign teamis an organization...

  10. Chapter Two SOURCES OF DATA
    (pp. 17-28)

    Fifteen public school districts serve more than 200,000 students living in the city of San Antonio and surrounding communities. The San Antonio district that we studied is the second largest district in the county and the seventh largest in the state. Most of the approximately 60,000 students who attend schools in San Antonio live within the city limits, and the district has the highest proportion of students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch in the county.¹ Most students in the district are Hispanic (85 percent); the second largest group (10 percent) is African American. Approximately 16 percent...

  11. Chapter Three THE DISTRICT CONTEXT FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW AMERICAN SCHOOLS’ DESIGNS IN SAN ANTONIO
    (pp. 29-48)

    While NAS was busy starting up in July of 1991, the San Antonio school district struggled to raise its students’ achievement levels and meet the challenges it faced. Given its size of 94 schools, 58,000 students, and 3,800 teachers at the time, productive communication proved problematic as did the effective utilization of district staff. Much energy was expended on the management of day-to-day organizational affairs. According to several central office administrators, instructional practice was too often last addressed. In the words of one, “The school district was perceived as backwater, low performing, not doing anything, in decay.”

    In November of...

  12. Chapter Four IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW AMERICAN SCHOOLS WITHIN A SYSTEM OF HIGH-STAKES ACCOUNTABILITY
    (pp. 49-76)

    In the spring of 1998, a look inside San Antonio schools and classrooms implementing New American Schools designs would have led one to believe that the transition from design selection to implementation had been successful to date. In MRSH schools, for example, one saw standards posted ubiquitously on classroom walls and in hallways next to abundant displays of student work. In SFA/RW schools, posters of hand signals for classroom management purposes were taped to the hallway walls. Classrooms and bulletin boards alike were print-rich. All students engaged in 90 minutes of reading instruction at the same time every day and...

  13. Chapter Five CLASSROOMS IMPLEMENTING NAS DESIGNS IN A REFORM-MINDED DISTRICT
    (pp. 77-112)

    As discussed in a previous chapter, the district introduced NAS designs as an overarching initiative for improving student achievement. Weary of the piecemeal practice of reform that had dominated the previous administration’s efforts at school improvement, the superintendent partnered with New American Schools to push schools to comprehensively examine change from within. The central office also introduced NAS designs to its schools with hopes that each would sustain the reform effort. Simultaneously, the district began to critically examine the curriculum and instructional strategies its schools employed.

    As late as the 1998–1999 school year, three years since most of our...

  14. Chapter Six EFFECTS OF INSTRUCTIONAL CONDITIONS ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
    (pp. 113-134)

    The ultimate aim of school reform efforts and implementation of NAS designs is to substantially improve student performance. In this chapter we turn to a quantitative analysis of test scores and examine the relative impact of factors influencing student performance. The empirical models constructed allow for an exploratory analysis of classroom effects of reform in a low-performing school district. Moreover, at the height of design implementation in San Antonio, curricular differences between NAS and non-NAS schools were evident. Here we explore the possibility of differences in student achievement through a comparison of conditions within NAS and non-NAS classrooms, taking into...

  15. Chapter Seven IMPLICATIONS FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT IN HIGH-POVERTY SETTINGS
    (pp. 135-144)

    Rather than reiterate the summary of findings that occur within each chapter, we focus here on the implications of school improvement efforts such as NAS in high-poverty settings.

    Currently, many schools throughout the country are attempting NAS-like reforms using the federal funding provided by such programs as Title I and the CSRD program. Our study in conjunction with the other RAND studies on NAS has clear implications. Schools attempting comprehensive school reforms face many obstacles during implementation, and because of this, whole-school designs face continuing challenges in significantly raising the achievement of all students. This is important to remember when...

  16. Appendix A MULTILEVEL MODELS USED TO EXAMINE RELATIONSHIPS AMONG CLASSROOM CONDITIONS AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
    (pp. 145-150)
  17. Appendix B MULTILEVEL RESULTS FOR THE RELATIONSHIPS OF 1998 TEST SCORES TO STUDENT, CLASSROOM, AND SCHOOL FACTORS IN FOURTH GRADE SAMPLE
    (pp. 151-154)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 155-164)