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What Effective Schools Do: Re-Envisioning the Correlates

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This guide helps educators implement a continuous school improvement system through application of the seven correlates of effective schools. The authors discuss each correlate, update the knowledge base, and incorporate practical ideas from practitioners in the field. A comprehensive description of practices enables educators to build and sustain a school culture that accommodates the learning expectations and needs of all students.

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Part I The Correlates of Effective Schools in Context

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The effective school is characterized by high overall student achievement with no significant gaps in that achievement across the major subgroups in the student population. The effective school is built on a foundation of high expectations, strong leadership, unwavering commitment to learning for all, collaboration, differentiated instruction, and frequent monitoring of student progress.

Understanding the historical sociocultural context of public education provides insight into issues schools have faced in the past—and continue to encounter today—even though profound changes have occurred in society. Why? If we ignore the path that public education has taken to get to where we are today, we’d be left with an incomplete view of today’s schools and the issues they face.

The effective schools concept has evolved since initial research efforts began in the late 1960s, but its underlying philosophy and core values date back to the beginning of the public education system in the United States. In the late 1700s, education throughout the world was primarily a privilege of the wealthy. The founding fathers of the United States believed that the survival of the new democracy depended upon an educated citizenry. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson put it best: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power” (Jefferson, 1899, p. 161). From the earliest days, the debate focused on how best to ensure that all citizens would have access and opportunity to an education that would prepare them for the world in which they would live, work, and vote. This debate continues today, in a changing world with changing needs for students and educators alike.

 

Part II The Correlates of Effective Schools Defined

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In the effective school, staff members believe that all students can and will obtain mastery of the intended curriculum and in their professional capacity to enable all students to achieve mastery.

It has been said that, in life, you may not get all that you want but, more often than not, you get what you expect. The power of expectations is equally true in schools when it comes to student learning and success. Students’ beliefs about their own abilities to succeed influence what they expect will occur during their learning experiences in school. Likewise, teachers’ and administrators’ beliefs, relative to the educability of their students, influence what they expect will occur during the students’ encounters with teaching and profoundly impact their behavior toward students. In turn, adult expectations have a profound influence on how the students come to see themselves as learners and their likely success in school.

The effects of teacher expectations are captured in this observation from The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher (2009):

 

Part III Putting the Correlates to Work in an Effective Learning System

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The correlates of effective schools represent the knowledge educators need to successfully teach all students. By applying that knowledge, educators have the ability to create a continuous school improvement system.

Part I of this book focused on the social, political, and historical context for public education in the United States over the last century or so. With this foundation as the backdrop, we presented and discussed in part II the seven correlates of effective schools as the interdependent subsystems that must be strong and present if a school is going to ensure that the learning-for-all mission is realized.

In part III, the focus shifts from simply knowing about the effective schools concept, philosophy, and research, to actually using that knowledge as the basis for planned change in a school. In this section, we emphasize a systems approach to deploying the knowledge. Over the years, effective schools research has provided many invaluable lessons for district and school administrators, teachers, and policymakers. Based on this research and our own experience, we claim that schools and districts that heed these lessons and implement the suggested action steps with fidelity and commitment will find themselves achieving levels of success that many have thought impossible. Without question, the personal and professional satisfaction that the teachers and administrators realize when they see such success makes the journey worthwhile. After all, isn’t that why we chose education as our career path?

 

Appendix A Suggested Foundational Research Readings on the Correlates of Effective Schools

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Many individuals were involved in the early research that helped establish the correlates of effective schools, many of whom have been referenced earlier in this text. While it would be impossible to cite them all within the confines of these pages, we have listed a few more for those who are interested in the early research.

Anderson, L. W. (1983). Policy implications of research on school time. School Administrator, 40(11), 25–28.

Austin, G. R. (1979). Exemplary schools and the search for effectiveness. Educational Leadership, 37(1), 10–14.

Averich, H. A., Carroll, S. J., Donaldson, T. S., Kiesling, H. J., & Pincus, J. (1972). How effective is schooling? A critical review and synthesis of research findings. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

Brookover, W. B., & Schneider, J. M. (1975). Academic environments and elementary school achievement. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 9(1), 82–91.

Brookover, W. B., Schweitzer, J. H., Schneider, J. M., Beady, C. H., Flood, P. K., & Wisenbaker, J. M. (1978). Elementary school social climate and school achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 15(2), 301–318.

 

Appendix B Effective Schools Online Tools

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Because we reference these tools throughout the book, we thought it’d be appropriate to describe them in detail here.

Reality Check is an online surveying tool offered by Effective Schools Products. Reality Check contains a database of over 1,800 survey questions specifically designed around the correlates of effective schools. Users can modify any of the questions, as well as create completely new ones, so each survey can be tailored to a school or district’s specific needs. Surveys can be created in English or Spanish, and can be conducted online or in paper-and-pencil format. Online responses are tabulated as they are received, and responses from hard copy surveys can be easily entered. Data are automatically tabulated and users can disaggregate the data in a variety of ways. If a school or district conducts the same survey for two or more years, Reality Check enables the user to do a trend analysis—a very useful feature for determining progress on the correlates.

This tool is an economical and efficient way to solicit perceptual data from your stakeholders. For more information on Reality Check, visit www.effectiveschools.com.

 

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