School improvement planning and the development of professional community
Rigorous, standards-based accountability systems have strengthened the call for educators to pay more attention to the nature of change in schools and to invest in developing a culture of ongoing improvement. Curricula designed to assist schools in learning how to engage in self-reflective improvement are increasingly common. In contrast to packaged reform models, these programs are founded on the belief that, when trained in a structured process of inquiry, school communities can learn to identify their own challenges in addressing student achievement and create, implement, monitor, and adjust powerful solutions over time.This study employed a mixed methods design to investigate the effects of a structured improvement planning process on schools' professional learning culture. Structured surveys were administered to teachers and administrators of four elementary schools that had participated in the Northwest Educational Service District's School Improvement Technical Assistance Project (SIPTAP) during the 2002-03 school year. Two of the four schools were selected for on site interviews with teachers, administrators, and SIPTAP coaches.Findings suggest that these schools showed evidence of significant improvements in their professional learning culture following their participation in the SIPTAP project. These improvements were most noticeable in the areas of (1) peer collaboration focused on instructional improvement; (2) reflective dialogue pertaining to teaching and learning; (3) focus on student learning in school decisions; and (4) overall focus on improvement. Evidence of sustained growth in school-wide collaboration, focus on student achievement, and databased decision-making was apparent in those two schools in the interview sample. There was evidence that some teachers were beginning to take place in teachers' classroom practice. Schools' levels of readiness for change did not predict gains in characteristics of their professional learning culture post-SIPTAP, though time to plan and principal support were clearly important factors. Findings suggest a structured, school wide improvement planning process can build readiness for improvement, even in those schools that lack capacity initially.Results point to the need for longitudinal research on the effect of school improvement planning on student achievement and the differences in how elementary secondary schools experience school improvement planning.
- Education - Seattle