Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

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In 1988, the Chicago public school system decentralized, granting parents and communities significant resources and authority to reform their schools in dramatic ways. To track the effects of this bold experiment, the authors of Organizing Schools for Improvement collected a wealth of data on elementary schools in Chicago. Over a seven-year period they identified one hundred elementary schools that had substantially improved—and one hundred that had not. What did the successful schools do to accelerate student learning?

The authors of this illuminating book identify a comprehensive set of practices and conditions that were key factors for improvement, including school leadership, the professional capacity of the faculty and staff, and a student-centered learning climate. In addition, they analyze the impact of social dynamics, including crime, critically examining the inextricable link between schools and their communities. Putting their data onto a more human scale, they also chronicle the stories of two neighboring schools with very different trajectories. The lessons gleaned from this groundbreaking study will be invaluable for anyone involved with urban education.

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About the author

Anthony S. Bryk is president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and was founding senior director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), University of Chicago. Penny Bender Sebring is founding codirector of CCSR, the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago. Elaine Allensworth is director for statistical analysis at CCSR. Stuart Luppescu is chief psychometrician at CCSR. John Q. Easton is Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Spencer Foundation and former executive director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Mar 15, 2010
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Pages
328
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ISBN
9780226078014
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Administration / General
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Education / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A passionate plea to preserve and renew public education, The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a radical change of heart from one of America's best-known education experts.

Diane Ravitch-former assistant secretary of education and a leader in the drive to create a national curriculum-examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated. Drawing on over forty years of research and experience, Ravitch critiques today's most popular ideas for restructuring schools, including privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and the feckless multiplication of charter schools. She shows conclusively why the business model is not an appropriate way to improve schools. Using examples from major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego, Ravitch makes the case that public education today is in peril.

Ravitch includes clear prescriptions for improving America's schools:
leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmendevise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learningexpect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schoolspay teachers a fair wage for their work, not "merit pay" based on deeply flawed and unreliable test scoresencourage family involvement in education from an early age
The Death and Life of the Great American School System is more than just an analysis of the state of play of the American education system. It is a must-read for any stakeholder in the future of American schooling.
Most Americans agree on the necessity of education reform, but there is little consensus about how this goal might be achieved. The rhetoric of standards and vouchers has occupied center stage, polarizing public opinion and affording little room for reflection on the intangible conditions that make for good schools. Trust in Schools engages this debate with a compelling examination of the importance of social relationships in the successful implementation of school reform.

Over the course of three years, Bryk and Schneider, together with a diverse team of other researchers and school practitioners, studied reform in twelve Chicago elementary schools. Each school was undergoing extensive reorganization in response to the Chicago School Reform Act of 1988, which called for greater involvement of parents and local community leaders in their neighborhood schools. Drawing on years longitudinal survey and achievement data, as well as in-depth interviews with principals, teachers, parents, and local community leaders, the authors develop a thorough account of how effective social relationships—which they term relational trust—can serve as a prime resource for school improvement. Using case studies of the network of relationships that make up the school community, Bryk and Schneider examine how the myriad social exchanges that make up daily life in a school community generate, or fail to generate, a successful educational environment. The personal dynamics among teachers, students, and their parents, for example, influence whether students regularly attend school and sustain their efforts in the difficult task of learning. In schools characterized by high relational trust, educators were more likely to experiment with new practices and work together with parents to advance improvements. As a result, these schools were also more likely to demonstrate marked gains in student learning. In contrast, schools with weak trust relations saw virtually no improvement in their reading or mathematics scores.

Trust in Schools demonstrates convincingly that the quality of social relationships operating in and around schools is central to their functioning, and strongly predicts positive student outcomes. This book offer insights into how trust can be built and sustained in school communities, and identifies some features of public school systems that can impede such development. Bryk and Schneider show how a broad base of trust across a school community can provide a critical resource as education professional and parents embark on major school reforms.

A Volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology

When we think about school principals, most of us imagine a figure of vague, yet intimidating authority—for an elementary school student, being sent to the principal’s office is roughly on par with a trip to Orwell’s Room 101. But with School Principal, Dan C. Lortie aims to change that. Much as he did for teachers with his groundbreaking book Schoolteacher, Lortie offers here an intensive and detailed look at principals, painting a compelling portrait of what they do, how they do it, and why.

Lortie begins with a brief history of the job before turning to the daily work of a principal. These men and women, he finds, stand at the center of a constellation of competing interests around and within the school. School district officials, teachers, parents, and students all have needs and demands that frequently clash, and it is the principal’s job to manage these conflicting expectations to best serve the public. Unsurprisingly then, Lortie records his subjects’ professional dissatisfactions, but he also vividly depicts the pleasures of their work and the pride they take in their accomplishments. Finally, School Principal offers a glimpse of the future with an analysis of current issues and trends in education, including the increasing presence of women in the role and the effects of widespread testing mandated by the government.

Lortie’s scope is both broad and deep, offering an eminently useful range of perspectives on his subject. From the day-to-day toil to the long-term course of an entire career, from finding out just what goes on inside that office to mapping out the larger social and organizational context of the job, School Principal is a truly comprehensive account of a little-understood profession.

In her award-winning book, Linda Darling-Hammond-renowned researcher, policy advisor, and educational leader-contends that improving America's performance in the global economy is closely tied to closing the minority-majority achievement gap at home. Today in the United States only 1 in 10 low-income kindergarteners goes on to graduate from college. At a time when education matters more than ever, the U.S. high school graduation rate has dropped from first in the world to the bottom half of rankings for comparable nations. While such sobering facts inform her new book, the author focuses on the successes of effective school systems in the U.S. and abroad in order to develop a clear and coherent set of policies that can be used to create high-quality and equitable schools. Drawing on her broad experience, Darling-Hammond examines the roots of our modern education system and shows how the skills required for our 21st-century global economy cannot be learned in traditional education systems, which have been in place since the early 1900s. She identifies an "opportunity gap" that has evolved as new kinds of learning have become necessary - a gap where low-income students, students of color, and English language learners often do not have the same access as others to qualified teachers, high-quality curriculum, and well-resourced classrooms. After setting the stage on current conditions in the United States, Darling-Hammond offers a coherent approach for effective reform that focuses on creating successful systems, inducting and supporting quality teachers, designing effective schools, establishing strong professional practice, and providing equitable and sufficient resources. The Flat World and Education lays out what the United States needs to do in order to build a system of high-achieving and equitable schools that ensures every child the right to learn.

Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, a chief education advisor to President Obama, Co-Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and Founding Director of the School Redesign Network at Stanford.

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