Volume 24, Issue 2

Changing Approaches to Address Student Academic Achievement Gap:  Recommendations for School Reform and Reformers

By: Nayyaf R. Aljabri and Abdourahmane Barry

The Trend in International Mathematics and Science Study reveals how the math and science achievement of students in participating countries compares with that of their international peers. Since 1995, the results have been surprising and disappointing for some countries. Astonished and disappointed by such outcomes, scholars and educational leaders are turning to top-achieving countries for approaches to close the achievement gap. To reverse the achievement gap, it is imperative to consider whether approaches used in top-achieving countries deserve primacy over approaches used within-country. Using TIMSS data, findings from this study show that every country in the sample has schools from which reformers could draw approaches to close the achievement gap. Additionally, this study revealed existence of schools serving disadvantaged students achieving at the top and schools serving advantaged students achieving at the bottom. Based on these findings, we highlight the importance of considering approaches used within-country by proposing a framework for education reformers as to where and how to initiate reform to close the achievement gap.

Assessing and Promoting Student-Centered Teaching and Learning Practices Using a Quantitative Educational Planning Tool:  Results of 2016 Indiana Case Study

By:  Terrell M. Peace, Walter S. Polka, and Rosina E. Mete

This article provides information about an Indiana regional quantitative research study conducted in 2016 as part of a comprehensive national study designed to promote reflections about contemporary teaching-learning practices using a discrepancy survey instrument. This Indiana case study contained data about the differences between the desired instructional practices of 111 contemporary classroom teachers and their actual practices related to differentiating instruction. The objective of the national research project is to promote educators’ recognition and appreciation of the fact that many differentiation strategies, techniques, and activities are implemented on a frequent basis in several different teaching-learning contexts. The survey instrument used in this study serves as a valuable tool to measure the specific level of implementation and to assist educators in their respective planning activities for instructional improvement in diverse contexts. This Indiana case study provides valuable quantitative reference information to facilitate the promotion of greater differentiation in micro-local contexts as well as in regional and global settings.

Understanding the Effect of an Intervention Program on High School Graduation Rates:  The Access and Opportunity Program in St. Cloud Minnesota

By:  Monica Garcia-Perez and Robert C. Johnson

Facing a continuing racial high school graduation gap, the state of Minnesota is emphasizing the importance of offering resources and opportunities to close this gap to prepare young adults to be adequately ready for success at the post-secondary level, that is, college and career. With this in mind, it is important to evaluate educational programs that offer resources such as targeted mentoring and a supportive learning environment and to estimate their impact on high school retention and graduation rates. We extend our analysis to a longitudinal study of 4-year-cohort graduation and retention rates across years using student-level administrative data from a school district in Central Minnesota on Access and Opportunity Program participants from 2008 to 2013. The combination of different cohorts allows us to disentangle cohort specific characteristics that could be correlated to rapid demographic changes that could impact students’ success rates but are not related to the program itself. For instance, the entrance of new English learners in the system may bias educational outcome rates, underscoring the short-run effect of educational programs in the district. On the other hand, educational programs evolve across time and looking across the years would allow us to identify the intensity of the program and its evolution. We correct for selectivity and attrition issues based on observable characteristics and design a quasi-experimental analysis with information before and after the program started. We use as a control group most similar non-participant students. Furthermore, students who have been identified as eligible participants, but who elected not to participate, serve as another form of control. Our results show that compared to eligible non-participants, students of color participating in the program have higher odds to graduate from high school and, across cohorts, there is an increase in retention rates.

The Disconnect Between Heralded Business Concepts and Effective School Leadership

By: Jack Rice

Education and business, as professional disciplines, seem, at first glance, to be linked. Both are social enterprises involving relationships and processes derived to accomplish a particular set of tasks. However the track record of injecting business methodology into school communities has been poor. Historically the introduction of management practices borrowed from parallel industries and inserted into school systems has been a matter of routine. Any lack of success in implementing new management techniques in educational operations is always explained as a good idea poorly executed. The suitability of the tool is never questioned. This paper examines the operational and strategic issues that separate business ideology and school management in an attempt to describe why the marriage has been unsuccessful. In particular, the reductionist methodology of business management is compared to the systemic nature of educational enterprises. The contrast in the fundamental characteristics of the two disciplines may serve as a cautionary tale for school leaders who are encouraged to use modern business management tools to improve the efficiency of their operations. Given the lack of convergence as described in the paper, it is interesting to contemplate how we train educational leaders and consider what tools are provided for school-level administrators to help them lead their communities.